A is for Alleius

The obvious place to start when building up a data set of names found in Pompeii is with known family groups. More than four hundred gens found in the epigraphy of the city were identified by Castrén, and though this is not a complete record of all individuals, it is an excellent beginning.  This is the first of what I intend to be many posts attempting to sort through some of the known families, proceeding alphabetically as I progress through the previously published material.

Early in the index of families, Castrén identified eighteen members of the Alleii family, one he claims is a gentilicium of Campanian origins with commercial interests also attested in Capua and Delos. Schulze also records epigraphic attestations in Firmum Picenum and Mevania. A quick survey of the Epigraphik Datenbank reveals a further three members sharing the family name of Alleius in the record.  But how these twenty-one people are connected, and if they are linked by anything more than name, is a bit difficult to figure out.

Using the repetition of praenomen by multiple generations, filiation, and some known dates, it seems likely there are at least two distinct groups of the gens. Earliest attestation of the gens comes from the Augustan period, with two inscriptions naming Marci Alleii. The first is Marcus Alleius Ferox (AE 2008: 330), named in a dedicatory inscription to Fortunae Augusta in AD 8, as indicated by the inclusion of the consul Lucius Apronius. The tomb of Marcus Alleius Minius, a schola found outside the Porta di Stabia, gives a second Augustan man of this family, perhaps the brother of Ferox:

EE 8.318 = AE (1891) 166
M(arco) Alleio Q(uinti) f(ilio) Men(enia tribu) Minio II v(iro) i(ure) d(icundo) locus sepulturae publice datus ex d(ecreto) d(ecurionum).
‘To Marcus Alleius Minius, son of Quintus, member of the Menenian tribe, duovir with judicial powers, the place for burial was given publicly by decree of the decurions.’

There is no epigraphic record for his father, Quintus, but it is clear from his tribal affiliation and election as a magistrate that he was a freeborn Roman citizen, likely of local origin.  Another tomb, located beyond the Porta di Ercolano, does inform us that he had a daughter:

CIL X 1036
M(arco) Alleio Luccio Libellae patri aedili / IIvir(o) praefecto quinq(uennali) et M(arco) Alleio Libellae f(ilio) / decurioni. Vixit annis XVII. Locus monumenti / publice datus est. Alleia M(arci) f(ilia) Decimilla sacerdos / publica Cereris faciundum curavit viro et filio.
‘To Marcus Alleius Luccius Libella senior, aedile, duovir, prefect, quinquennial, and to Marcus Alleius Libella  junior, decurion. He lived 17 years. The place for the monument was given publicly. Alleia Decimilla, daughter of Marcus, public priestess of Ceres, oversaw the building on behalf of her husband and son.’

Marcus Alleius Luccius Libella actually provides links to two separate families – the one into which he was born, the Luccii, and the one into which he was adopted and married, the Alleii.  His term as quinquennalis took place in AD 25-26, which is used to date the tomb approximately to the reign of Tiberius. From the offices he held, the priesthood of his wife, and his young son’s admittance to the town council, it is clear they were a fairly prominent family, undoubtedly carrying on from the legacy of her father. Because their son, Marcus Alleius Libella died at a relatively young age, it is most probable that this particular branch of the family ended with him.

There are two further Marci Alleii, appearing on the wax tablets of Iucundus in AD 56. Marcus Alleius Carpus (CIL IV 3340.02 and 3340.21) serves as a witness, and Marcus Alleius Hyginus (CIL IV 3340.46) as a seller. Although it is not a certainty, in considering nomenclature and the date of their appearance, I would suggest these men were freedmen of the family of Marcus Alleius Luccius Libella and his wife.

Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius is by far the best attested member of the Alleii gens, appearing in nearly twenty inscriptions, including advertisements for games, the wax tablets of Iucundus, electoral dipinti, and by filiation, a number of funerary texts. He was a magistrate, serving as quinqennalis in AD 55-56, and was likely still alive close to the time of Vesuvius’ eruption, when the advertisement for a property he owned, the Insula Arriana Polliana (CIL IV 138) was painted. He, like other Alleii before him, was adopted. Born into the family of the Nigidii, he was adopted by a man named Alleius Nobilis. This is known from a columella found in the tomb of Eumachia:

D’Ambrosio and De Caro (1983) 11OS: 13.
Pomponia Dech- / arcis Allei Nobilis / Allei Mai mater.
‘Pomponia Decharcis, (wife) of Alleius Nobilis, mother of Alleius Maius.’

There are two further columellae in the same funerary monument linked to Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius, both of which belong to his freedmen:

D’Ambrosio and De Caro (1983) 11OS: 10.
Cn(eio) Alleio Mai lib(erto) / Eroti Augustali  / gratis creato, cui / Augustales et Pa[gani] / in funeris honor(ibus) / HS singula milia / decreverunt, vixit /  annis XXII.
‘To Gnaeus Alleius Eros, freedman of Maius, who was made an Augustalis for free, and was given one thousand sesterces in honour of his funeral by the Augustales and paganus. He lived twenty-two years.’

D’Ambrosio and De Caro (1983) 11OS: 12.
Cn(eius) Alleius Logus / omnium collegioru(m) / benemeritus.
‘Gnaeus Alleius Logus rendered outstanding services to all the colleges.’

Logus is also known as a witness on a wax tablet dated to AD 55 (CIL IV 3340.83), and another likely freedman, Gnaeus Alleius Chryseros, who signed tablet 35 in AD 57. In addition to the numerous freedmen, there is also a daughter, Alleia:

EE 8.315
Alleia Mai f(ilia) / [sacerd(os) Veneris / et Cereis sibi / ex dec(urionum) decr(eto) pe[c(unia) pub(lica)]
‘Alleia, daughter of Maius, priestess of Venus and Ceres, to herself, in accor- dance with a decree of the town councillors, with [public] money.’

The family line of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius has been further confused by the placement of his family’s columellae within the tomb of Eumachia. This has led numerous scholars to suggest that he was somehow linked to the Eumachii family, who seemingly died out in the Tiberian/Claudian period, despite the fact that there is no onomastic or epigraphic link between the two families whatsoever. Rather, I have always believed that the family simply took advantage of a very grand but abandoned tomb to re-purpose as their own.

What is lacking from the epigraphic record, however, is how the Marci Alleii and the extended family of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius were linked, if indeed they were at all. There are other attestations of Alleii that do not help shed any light on this.  Gaius Alleius Astragalus is named as curator in CIL IV 2437, a text that could be dated to sometime between 28 and 26 BC. (The consular dating is rather muddled here, as Marcus Agrippa was consul in 28 and 27, and Titus Statilius Taurus in 26). Gaius Alleius Terentius ran for aedile according to CIL IV 7980, but this cannot be firmly dated, and is the only record of a man of this name. A small, relatively poor enclosure tomb broadly dated to the Julio-Claudian period at the Porta di Nocera names Numerius Alleius Auctus on the single inscribed columella, and lacks the filiation that would provide further clues. Two women, Alleia Calaes and Alleia Numphe, are named in CIL IV 2495, but this is again their only attestation, and the text contains nothing but their names.  Onomastically, Numerius Alleius Nigidius Verus (CIL IV 3453) must be connected to Alleius Maius, but following the use of four names as outlined in Salomies that is typical of Pompeii, he was also adopted, and we have no information as to when he lived – whether before, after, or in the same period as the other man.

The Alleii are a good illustration of one of the biggest challenges for tracing family lines and connecting members of specific gentilicium through the epigraphic record of Pompeii – one of chronology. There are numerous instances in which a family line disappears from the record for a generation or more, reappearing later, often in a somewhat different form. For the Alleii, there is roughly a twenty-five year gap in the evidence between the Marci Alleii and the various members of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius’ family. The fact that the group in the AD 50s comes into prominence after an adoption, in conjunction with the known early death of a son in the AD 20s-30s, suggests that the family may have lost some of its prominence as a result of untimely death, and needed those intervening years to rebuild, perhaps financially as well as in terms of heirs eligible for seeking political office. For that reason, it becomes understandable that there is no epigraphic evidence that details the transition from the earlier to the later branch, and that some of the history of the Alleii, thus forever remains a mystery.

One thought on “A is for Alleius

  1. (((Nate))) (@natroniks) 30 May 2019 / 18:30

    Hi Dr. Campbell, thanks for the highly informative and well researched post. There is an issue of denarii from around the time of the Social War with the name C Allius Bala. Do you (or anyone else) have any notion that this gens Allia (otherwise unattested) could be the same as the Alleia? Does this equivalence of Allei and Alli make any sense linguistically/orthographically? Thank you.

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