Posts Tagged With: Alphabet

F is for Festius

Whilst finishing corrections to the manuscript that became my book, I discovered that one of the funerary inscriptions carved into the city wall in an area of poor burials between the Porta di Nola and the Porta di Sarno had been misread. CIL X 8351 was read as Aulus Fistius, but is in fact, Aulus Festius. The ‘i’ is actually an ‘e’.

Photo 1.JPG

The name ‘Fistius’ doesn’t actually occur anywhere else in the Roman world, whereas Festius does – including in Pompeii. There are a series of dipinti (CIL IV 1182-1184) that record a man named Numerius Festius Ampliatus, who was a lanista, organising gladiatorial games. The most famous of the texts naming Ampliatus was written in charcoal on a tomb at the Porta di Ercolano. As this dipinto was recorded alongside an elaborate stucco decoration of games, gladiators, and wild animals, his games are believed to have been quite the spectacle.


The article that discusses my findings and the evidence for the mis-reading of the name of Festius has been published in the latest volume of Epigraphica. If anyone would like a PDF of the article, please email me here.

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E is for Epidius

The letter E has been a bit of a dilemma for me – there aren’t many gentilicium that begin with this letter – but there are two that are considered to be families of distinction. What is somewhat remarkable about both of them – the Epidii and the Eumachii  – is that they have a reputation for importance in Pompeian scholarship, yet the evidence is actually somewhat scarce, but in different ways. The Eumachii are known almost entirely because of one person, whereas the Epidii are known primarily from a single place – the family burial plot. The idiosyncratic nature of the evidence for the evidence thus made me decide to derive from form and write about both.

The Epidii are one of the families of what are typically termed ‘indigenous’ Pompeians – that is – their presence in Pompeii pre-dates the time of Roman colonisation in 80 BC. There is some connection between the family name and a god of the river Sarnus. Members of the family are attested in the Sabellian period in some Oscan inscriptions. Castrén claims, somewhat dubiously, twenty-nine individuals that belong to the gens Epidia. (A number of these names are only partially recorded in the witness lists of the tablets of Iucundus, and thus there could be some duplication in Castrén’s prosopography). The most well known member of the family is Marcus Epidius Sabinus, who was a magistrate in the Flavian period. There are numerous dipinti supporting his campaigns for both aedile (which he won) and later for duovir. What is noteworthy about his electoral programmata is the inclusion of an endorsement of an agent of the emperor Vespasian in six of his notices.

CIL IV 768 = ILS 6438d
M(arcum) Epidium Sabinum d(uumvirum) i(ure) dic(undo) o(ro) v(os) f(aciatis) dig(nus) est / defensorem coloniae ex sententia Suedi Clementis sancti iudicis / consensu ordinis ob merita eius et probitatem dignum rei publicae faciat / Sabinus dissignator cum Plausu facit.
‘I beg you to elect Marcus Epidius Sabinus duovir with judicial powers, he is worthy. May you elect one who is a protector of the colony according to the opinion of Suedius Clemens, the worshipful judge, and by agreement of the council on account of his merits and his honesty, worthy of public office. Sabinus, the theatre official, elects him with applause.’

There are at least ten different freedmen whose names appear in the wax tablets of Iucundus that belong to the gens Epidia. This in itself is a testament to the apparent size of the family: the tablets are dated to a decade from the 50s to 60s AD, so document a fairly short period of time in which there were ten or more male freedmen of sufficient status to serve as witnesses to financial transactions. None of these men are attested anywhere else in the epigraphic record except Marcus Epidius Hymenaeus, who also appears in electoral notices as a rogator (CIL IV 7509, 7692) and has recorded his name on the walls of the city (CIL IV 9517, 9518.1-5).

What is particularly striking about this family, however, is their funerary evidence. In the early twentieth century, an area was found approximately five hundred meters from the Porta di Stabia, which upon excavation, revealed the burials of more than one hundred and sixty individuals, believed to all be members of the Epidii family. Known as Fondo Azzolini, this four hundred square meter area features two types of burial: inhumation and cremation. Forty-four of the burials are relatively simple interments of corpses in stone lined graves, following the tradition of pre-Roman burial typical of the Samnite period. The remainder consist of burial of urns containing cremated remains, the use of terracotta libations tubes, and grave markers in the form of columellae. Made primarily of tufa and limestone, they are fairly rough in design in comparison to the marble variants found in the city, and many of them are inscribed. In his publication on the original excavation, Matteo Della Corte (NSA 1916: 287-309) recorded funerary epitaphs on thirty-two of the Roman era burials.


Like so many of those whose name appear as witnesses on the wax tablets, those recorded in the funerary inscriptions are unattested elsewhere in Pompeii. However, based on the nomenclature, the majority appear to belong to slaves, women, and freedmen, so it probably is little surprise that these individuals are otherwise unknown. What this does, though, is clearly illustrate the extended nature of the Roman family. Many also record their ages, which is not unusual in practice, particularly for those who die young, but is nevertheless disproportionately high in occurrence in comparison to other burial areas in Pompeii. Some examples:

NSA 1916: 302.4
M(arcus) Epidius / Monimus / vix(it) ann(is) XXX.
‘Marcus Epidius Monimus lived thirty years.’

NSA 1916: 302.7b
Livia Calliope / v(ixit) ann(is) XXX.
‘Livia Calliope lived thirty years.’

NSA 1916: 303.23
Liberalis / vixit XVII / annis.
‘Liberalis lived seventeen years.’

NSA 1916: 303.66
M(arcus) Epidius / Dioscorus.
‘Marcus Epidius Dioscourus.’

NSA 1916: 303.110
Epidiae / Veneriae.
‘To Epidia Veneria.’

Ultimately, what I find fascinating about the Epidii, is that unlike many of the other prominent families of Pompeii, far more epigraphic evidence survives for the freedmen and slaves of the family than for the men who would have served as owners and patrons. Because so many are to be found in the family’s burial area, it begs the question whether the more elite members of the family were also interred therein, or have the monumental tomb that would be expected of those of their status elsewhere. The fact that Marcus Epidius Sabinus, when running for office, is the sole evidence of support coming from an external magistrate, much less one in the employ of the emperor, suggests that this was a family to be reckoned with. That they had power and prestige is clear, as is the wealth they must have possessed as demonstrated by the number of slaves and freedmen attested. That they are so unobtrusive in the epigraphic record is an anomaly in comparison to other magisterial families.  I, of course, want to know why. Short of finding another tomb or burial area (hang on, I’ll get my trowel!) I’m afraid we’ll never know.



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E is for Eumachius


The letter E has been a bit of a dilemma for me – there aren’t many gentilicium that begin with this letter – but there are two that are considered to be families of distinction. What is somewhat remarkable about both of them – the Epidii and the Eumachii – is that they have a reputation for importance in Pompian scholarship, yet the evidence is actually somewhat scarce, but in different ways. The idiosyncratic nature of the evidence thus made me decide to derive from form and write about both.

In the case of the Eumachii, it is an issue of quality over quantity. There are only four members of the family who are actually known from thirty inscriptions. Twenty-one of these texts are found on stamps on tiles, bricks, and amphorae. Robert Étienne once suggested the family was involved with viticulture, which, if true, would naturally lead to involvement with the amphorae industry as well. These stamps potentially name two different members of the family. The majority are attributed to Lucius Eumachius (CIL X 8042.47a-b, 47d-f, 47h-i, 47k-s). Nothing further is known of this man, although he is typically thought to be the father of Eumachia. Inscriptions relating to her (see below) name her father as Lucius, and his use of two names rather than than full tria nomina suggests a Republican date, which would fit chronologically with his daughter’s rise to prominence in the Augustan period. The remaining stamps (CIL X 8042.48c-g) belong to Lucius Eumachius Erotis. The cognomen Erotis is typically associated with slaves, which makes it plausible that this man was a freedman of the family who came to operate the tile manufacturing business. He is named in one further text, a graffito found in the House of Fabius Rufus (VII.16.22). What I find remarkable about this is that if the drawing is correctly rendered, the graffito closely resembles the style of a stamp as found on a clay object:


$IFabioRufo_00005 (1)

Fabio Rufo 77.


There are six texts that name the gens Eumachia  found in two locations: the eponymous Building of Eumachia (VII.9.1) in the Forum, and her tomb, in the necropolis outside the city at the Porta di Nocera. Eumachia lived during the Augustan period, was a public priestess, and built one of the largest buildings in the Forum during a period of redevelopment that also saw the erection of a temple by her fellow priestess, Mammia. The dedicatory inscription for the building repeats in two locations:

CIL X 810
Eumachia L(uci) f(ilia) sacerd(os) publ(ica) nomine suo et / M(arci) Numistri Frontonis fili(i) chalcidicum cryptam porticus Concordiae / Augustae pietati sua pe<c>unia fecit eademque dedicavit.
CIL X 811
[Eumachia] L(uci) f(ilia) sacerd(os) pub[l(ica)] // [nomine su]o et M(arci) Numistri Front[onis] // [fili(i) c]halcidicum cr[yptam] // por[ticus] // [Con]cordiae Augusta[e pietati] // [sua pec]unia fec[it] // [ea]demque dedicavit.
‘Eumachia, daughter of Lucius, public priestess, in her own name and that of her son, Marcus Numistrius Fronto, built  the chalcidicum, crypt and portico at her own expensein honour of Augustan Concord and Piety and also dedicated them.’

Other inscriptions from the building include a further dedication with priestesses of Ceres (CIL X 812), and the honourific text found on the base of her statue (pictured above):

CIL X 813
Eumachiae L(uci) f(iliae) / sacerd(oti) publ(icae) / fullones.
‘Eumachia, daughter of Lucius, public priestess, the fullers (set this up).’

The tomb itself is sparse, epigraphically speaking. The primary dedication is split across two limestone tablets embedded in the façade of the tomb:

D’Ambrosio & De Caro 11OS
Eumachia / L(uci) f(ilia) // sibi et suis.
‘Eumachia, daughter of Lucius, for herself and hers.’

There are a number of columella associated with this tomb, but only one that names a member of this family.

D’Ambrosio & De Caro 11OS
L(ucius) Eumachius / Aprilis / vix(it) ann(is) XX.
‘Lucius Eumachius Aprilis, lived twenty years.’

Again, the cognomen suggests a freedman rather than a freeborn member of the family. Only one other family member is attested in the epigraphic record. Lucius Eumachius Fuscus is recorded in two texts put up by a number of Augustales, dedicated to the cult of Mercury, Maia, and Augustus (CIL X 899, 900). He is listed in the inscriptions as part of the fasti, which names the consuls in Rome and the men serving Pompeii as duoviri and aedilis in the year AD 32. He was an aedile. Castrén speculates that he is the brother of Eumachia, but it is not at all clear from the evidence. He could just as easily be the son of a freedmen, such as Lucius Eumachius Erotis, the tile maker. There is no record of the family later than AD 32.

What is interesting here, is that for all intents and purposes, the epigraphic record for the Eumachii family is relatively small. The majority of it comes from stamps on tiles and amphorae – not texts that usually garner much attention when scholars discuss the prominent families of the ancient city. The high status awarded this family is, in reality, down to the prominence of a single building. That Eumachia was able to not only fund such a large scale building project, but also able to obtain the central location it holds in the Forum, is the sole factor contributing to the reputation given to the family for their power, influence, and wealth. Her tomb, being the largest in the city, may contribute to this some as well. But what both of these projects indicate is an extreme amount of disposable wealth, not political power, nor influence of a tangible nature. It is entirely possible that the Eumachii themselves were of little significance in the social and political landscape of Pompeii. Eumachia’s euergetism may be the result of nothing more than a lucky marriage. Her husband, Marcus Numistrius Fronto, served as duovir in AD 1/2 and then died, likely leaving her incredibly wealthy. It has long been speculated that her building programme was thus intended to pave the way for their son’s entry into local politics. If she was successful in this endeavour, there is no record of it. In reviewing the epigraphic material left by her family, I can’t help but wonder if the name Eumachia would be known at all, much less be one that is so central to Pompeian studies, were it not for that one inscription that names her as the sponsor of a building.



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D is for Decidius

Unlike some letters, there are not many examples of family names found in Pompeii that begin with a D. There is one, however, the Decidii, that though small in terms of the epigraphic material, is rather interesting for the fact that one member appears to be the subject of adoption. Generally speaking, in the Roman world, adoption was not something that concerned young children, but was an act carried out in adulthood in order to create a male heir when there was none. This could be for financial or political reasons, but was, in most cases, an attempt to create a legacy, perpetuating a family name when no male issue existed. Typically, this was done when one had something besides just a name to leave behind – wealth, power, or influence. This appears to be the case for a Decidius, who through adoption becomes the first (epigraphically) known member of another gens, one that eventually is one of the most powerful in Pompeii.

According to Castrén, the gens Decidia was of Sabellian (i.e. Samnite) origin, indigenous to the region. There are attestations of at least seven members of the family. These are dated in the Augustan and Neronian periods – so presumably represent at least two generations of the family, possibly three.

The earliest attestation of a Decidius comes from a dedicatory inscription dated to AD 3 which names Marcus Decidius Faustus, the freedmen of two men named Marcus – likely a father and son.

CIL X 892 = ILS 6393 = AE 2000: 293
Messius Arrius / Silenus / M(arcus) Decidius MM(arcorum) l(ibertus) / [- – – F]austus VNG / min(istri) Augusti / M(arco) Numistrio Frontone / Q(uinto) Cotrio Q(uinti) f(ilio) d(uum)v(iris) i(ure) d(icundo) / M(arco) Servilio L(ucio) Aelio / Lamia co(n)s(ulibus).
Messius Arrius Silenus, Marcus Decidius Faustus, freedman of Marcuses, perfumer, ministers of Augustus. To Marcus Numistrius Fronto, Quintus Cotrius, son of Quintus, duovirs with judicial power, to Marcus Servilius and Lucius Aelius Lamia, consuls.

A child of this family is found in one of the city’s necropoleis. Inscribed on a columella associated with a large group burial area to the east of Porta di Nocera, it is difficult to date firmly, but is most certainly from the Augustan period or later.

AE 1990: 186d
M(arcus) Decidius / M(arci) f(ilius) / Macer v(ixit) a(nnos) VIII.
‘Marcus Decidius Macer, son of Marcus, lived 8 years.’

In the Neronian period, Marcus Decidius Pauper (CIL IV 3340.107) is the first witness on one of the tablets of Iucundus. He is only known from this single text, so little can be said about him, except that the first witness on one of these documents is generally considered to be of high esteem. There is further evidence of members of the gens in a series of graffiti. These cannot, unfortunately, be dated clearly at all. One (CIL IV 10329) names a man called Decidius Successus, who is otherwise unattested. The other, found amongst the hundreds of texts scribbled on the columns of the palaestra, says:

CIL IV 8740
L(ucius) Dec[i]d[i]us / XXX.
‘Lucius Decidius 30.’

This is the first mention of a Decidius who does not have the praenomen Marcus, but it is not the only one. Though it is a bit of a leap to suppose it is the same Lucius, two texts, found in the Forum, dedicated to the most prominent member of the gens names a Lucius as his father.

CIL X 952
M(arcus) Lucretius L(uci) f(ilius) Dec[i]d(ianus) Rufus dec(reto) dec(urionum).
‘Marcus Lucretius Decidianus Rufus, son of Lucius, by decree of the decurions.’

ILS 6363a = AE 1898: 143
M(arcus) Lucretius L(uci) f(ilius) Dec(idianus) Rufus / IIvir iter(um) quinq(uennalis) / trib(unus) milit(um) a populo / praefect(us) fabr(um).
‘Marcus Lucretius Decidianus Rufus, son of Lucius, duovir, quinquennalis, military tribune of the people, praefectus fabrum.’

The relationship between Marcus Lucretius Decidianus Rufus and the Marci Lucretii named above is unclear, but he also dates to the Augustan / early Julio-Claudian years. What is clear is that whilst he began his life, and presumably came of age, as a member of the gens Decidia, he was at some point, adopted into the gens Lucretia. This is evident from his name. The suffix -ianus was typically added to the original nomen of the adoptee, and it would shift to follow the nomen of the new family into which he was adopted. Usually, this meant also incorporating the cognomina of the adoptive man, unless he had none. In this case, Rufus is likely the cognomon of the Lucretius who adopted Marcus Decidius. This man, unfortunately, is otherwise unattested.

The adoption seems to be one that allowed a man from a seemingly small and relatively obscure family to gain the connections (and likely finances) that allowed him to raise to the upper echelons of Pompeian politics. Marcus Lucretius Decidianus Rufus served in numerous offices, was honoured with multiple statues and dedications in the Forum, including some that were granted posthumously, and is only one of two men known to have served as pontifex in Pompeii (the other being Gaius Cuspius Pansa II).

CIL X 789 = ILS 6363c
M(arco) Lucretio Decidian(o) / Rufo IIvir(o) III quinq(uennali) / pontif(ici) trib(uno) mil(itum) a populo / praef(ecto) fabr(um) ex d(ecreto) d(ecurionum) / post mortem.
‘To Marcus Lucretius Decidianus Rufus, duovir three times, quinquennalis, pontifex, military tribune of the people, praefectus fabrum, by decree of the decurions after his death.’

What perhaps is particularly interesting about this man is that he is the first epigraphically known member of the gens Lucretia in Pompeii. The Lucretii will come to dominate political and civic life in the Neronian and Flavian periods, when Decimus Lucretius Satrius Valens and his son Decimus Lucretius Valens were holding both magisterial and religious offices and providing lavish gladiatorial games.

The importance of Marcus Lucretius Decidianus Rufus as an ancestor is evident. One member of the family, the last attested belonging to the gens Decidia, Marcus Decidius Pilonius Rufus, is responsible for restoring monuments to his predecessor both in the Forum and the Temple of Isis after the earthquake in AD 62.

image004 (1)

CIL X 788 = ILS 6363b
M(arco) Lucretio Decidian(o) / Rufo d(uum)v(iro) III quinq(uennali) / pontif(ici) trib(uno) militum / a populo praef(ecto) fabr(um) / M(arcus) Pilonius Rufus.
‘To Marcus Lucretius Decidianus Rufus, duovir three times, quinquennalis, pontifex, military tribune of the people, praefectus fabrum. Marcus Pilonius Rufus (set this up).’

CIL X 851 = ILS 6363d = AE 2000: 296
M(arcus) Lucretius Decid(ianus) / Rufus IIvir III quinq(uennalis) / pontif(ex) trib(unus) mil(itum) / a populo praef(ectus) fab(rum) / M(arcus) Decidius Pilonius / Rufus reposuit.
‘Marcus Lucretius Decidianus Rufus, duovir three times, quinquennalis, pontifex, military tribune of the people, praefectus fabrum. Restored by Marcus Decidius Pilonius Rufus.’

What I find interesting is the fact that these two monuments were restored by relative of his birth family and not of the adoptive family. Considering the importance of the Lucretii in the period when this restoration occurred, the likely scenario is that the Decidii, who never gained the same prominence as their ancestor’s adoptive family, took it upon themselves to elevate their  social standing by re-establishing the familial link between the two gens by reminding their fellow Pompeians that one man was responsible for the origin of the current generations of both families.




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Duos Annos


It is now two years since I began my Leverhulme Trust funded project looking at social networks in Pompeii. Over the past year, my research has taken me off into a slightly different direction, particularly looking at some very specific aspects of political life in the ancient city, for which the way names are used is a fundamental component. Looking back at what I wrote to commemorate the first anniversary, I am pleasantly surprised by the increase in traffic, comments, and followers for this blog. To date, the site has been visited more than 18,000 times (more than twice the number of the first year), which is, frankly, astounding. I am sure this is in no small part due to the support of Blogging Pompeii and Napoli Unplugged, amongst others, who have frequently shared my posts, for which I am most grateful. I hope that the many people who come here continue to find my work interesting, as I certainly enjoy writing these posts.

And as such, as before, the five most popular posts published in the last year:

5. Losing my Religion (249)

4. Fools & Fakes (275)

3. Samnites in Pompeii (290)

2. Alma Tadema’s Imagined Connections (425)

1. Pompeii & Rome (441)

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C is (also) for Calventius

One of the first families that really piqued my interest in regards to the existence of networks in Pompeii and how they work is the gens Calventia. Part of the reason for this is confusion over how many separate individuals might have bore the name Gaius Calventius Quietus. Unlike the multi-generational occurrences of Gaius Cuspius Pansa, the evidence for the Calventii is considerably more confusing, and fragmentary. There is one example of a monumental inscription for the family, found on a tomb outside the Porta di Ercolano. The remainder of the epigraphic evidence is found in dipinti – electoral programmata for what could be the tomb occupant’s son, grandson, and / or adopted son. The fact that the man had an adopted heir actually creates more problems, as that man, known as Gaius Calventius Sittius Magnus, was born into the gens Sittia, which had other members also run for election at roughly the same time. Whose dipiniti is whose is, in some cases, impossible to determine, as is the actual number of people the dipiniti represents. I have made some attempt to tease apart this evidence, and provide some insight into the difficulty one can encounter in dealing with this material in an article that was just published in the Italian journal Athenaeum. If anyone would like a pdf of this article, please email me for a copy:

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C is for Cuspius

One Pompeian family that has always intrigued me is the gens Cuspia. Besides generally being prolific in civic and political affairs, the family has been memoralised in one of the grand houses of the city, and more creatively, as one of the characters in Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Last Days of Pompeii. Bulwer-Lytton always identifies him, a close friend of the protagonist Glaucus, as the aedile, often running off to deal with organising the next round of contests in the amphitheatre or sorting out the aerarium which he claims is in disrepair, typically with a large number of clients in tow. Della Corte identified one of the large houses in Region VI as the House of Pansa (VI.6.i), although according to Bulwer-Lytton, Pansa’s taste in decor left something to be desired:

“‘Well, I must own,’ said the aedile Pansa, ‘that your house, though scarcely larger than a case for one’s fibulae, is a gem of its kind. How beautifully painted is that parting of Achilles and Briseis!–what a style!–what heads!–what a-hem!’

‘Praise from Pansa is indeed valuable on such subjects,’ said Clodius, gravely. ‘Why, the paintings on his walls!–Ah! there is, indeed, the hand of a Zeuxis!’

‘You flatter me, my Clodius; indeed you do,’ quoth the aedile, who was celebrated through Pompeii for having the worst paintings in the world; for he was patriotic, and patronized none but Pompeians.”

However, since Della Corte’s attribution seems to be based on a single dipinto (CIL IV 251) supporting Pansa’s election as aedile found near the entrance of the house, this is somewhat dubious. The house is also believed to have been owned by Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius, and bears a dipinto naming Marcus Cerrinius Vatia (CIL IV 253), so like many of Della Corte’s suggestions, occupancy cannot be determined with any certainty.

What is known from the evidence is that a Gaius Cuspius Pansa did run for the office of aedile in the last years of Pompeii, appearing in at least fifty dipinti (AE 1951: 157d, CIL IV 97, 117, 275 = ILS 6419e, 385, 438, 509, 542, 559, 562, 566, 572, 579, 610, 619, 622, 702 = ILS 6419a, 708, 710, 785, 855, 869, 871, 960, 1006, 1011 = ILS 6419f, 1046 = 7181, 1068 = ILS 6437, 1153, 1172, 2972, 7129a, 7179, 7201 = CLE 2053, 7220, 7242, 7257, 7289, 7320, 7404, 7435, 7445, 7518, 7601, 7630, 7686a, 7742, 7743, 7777 = AE 1937: 127, 7850, 7875, 7919 = AE 1913: 15, 7955, 7963). This man, since he is running for the lowest magisterial position in the local cursus honorum, is not only the last member of the family, but is also likely not the reason the name of Gaius Cuspius Pansa is so ubiquitous in the epigraphic evidence of the city.

The family of the Cuspii is of some importance in Pompeii, and likely first came to the city as colonists as part of the Sullan settlement. There are ten members of the family listed in Castrén’s prosopography, a number of which appear to be freedmen, albeit important ones. Both Gaius Cuspius Cyrus and Gaius Cuspius Salvius (buried in the tomb 17ES at the Porta di Nocera) are magisters in the Pagus Augustus Felix Suburbanus. Gaius Cuspius Secundus, whose legal status is unknown, appears as the first witness on one of the tablets of Iucundus, dated to AD 55 (CIL IV 3340.12). Some members of the family are only attested in a single graffito: Gaius Cuspius Musicus (CIL IV 4166), Gaius Cuspius Crescens Euphiletus and Gaius Cuspius Similis (CIL IV 4165), and the only known female, Cuspia (CIL IV 8850). However, all of these individuals date from the mid-first century AD. The earliest attestation of a Cuspia dates to the Republican period, where a Cuspius, whose full name is unknown, ran for and served as duovir. There is one graffito supporting his election:

CIL IV 23 = I² 1667
[— Cu]spi(um) / [——] // L(ucium) Septum(ium) / d(uum)v(irum).
‘? Cuspius ? and Lucius Septumius for duovir.

However, as there are further inscriptions attesting his public works as a magistrate, it is clear he was successfully elected:

CIL X 937 = ILS 5335
[—?] Cuspius T(iti) f(ilius) M(arcus) Loreiu[s] M(arci) f(ilius) / duovir(i) [d(e)] d(ecurionum) s(ententia) murum [e]t / plumam fac(iundum) coer(averunt) eidemq(ue) pro(baverunt).
‘[—] Cuspius, son of Titus, Marcus Loreius, son of Marcus, duovirs (by decree) of the decurions, approved and saw to the construction of the wall and tower.’

One of his posts, as a quattroviri, is significant as it is one of the only extant inscriptions which name this office, which is often believed to be one of the earliest magistracies in the colonial period of Pompeii.

CIL X 938 = I² 1630 = ILS 06355
[—] Cuspius T(iti) f(ilius) M(arcus) Loreius M(arci) f(ilius) / IIIIvir(i) L(ucius) Sept<u>mius L(uci) f(ilius) / D(ecimus) Claudius D(ecimi) f(ilius) IIIIvir(i) ex / pe<c>unia publica d(e) d(ecurionum) / s(ententia) f(aciundum) curaverunt.
‘? Cuspius, son of Titus, and Marcus Loreius, son of Marcus, quattroviri; Lucius Septimius, son of Lucius, and Decimus Claudius, son of Decimus, quattroviri, oversaw the construction of this work from public money (by decree) of the decurions.’

The remainder of the epigraphic evidence for the family actually reveals that there were (at least) three men in the family named Gaius Cuspius Pansa – the aedile of The Last Days of Pompeii – and two others, all of whom were politically active in the city. There are two electoral dipinti (CIL IV 3605 and 7913) which name a Cuspius Pansa running for duovir, which likely belong the second of these eponymous men. There are a set of four monumental inscriptions – two from the amphitheatre and two from the Forum – which inform us of the success of these men.

CIL X 858 = ILS 6359
C(aius) Cuspius C(ai) f(ilius) Pansa pater d(uum)v(ir) i(ure) d(icundo) / IIII quinq(uennalis) praef(ectus) i(ure) d(icundo) ex d(ecreto) d(ecurionum) lege Petron(ia).
‘Gaius Cuspius Pansa, son of Gaius, the father, duovir with judicial power four times, quinquennalis, prefect with judicial power, by decree of the decurions under the Petronian law.’

CIL X 859 = ILS 6359a
C(aius) Cuspius C(ai) f(ilii) f(ilius) Pansa pontif(ex) / d(uum)vir i(ure) d(icundo).
‘Gaius Cuspius Pansa, son of Gaius, the son, pontifex, duovir with judicial power.’

These inscriptions were found at the base of two niches, opposite each other, in the east and west walls of the northern entrance to the amphitheatre. The most likely scenario is that father and son paid for restoration work to the arena after the earthquake of AD 62, and whilst there is no specific evidence tying these men to such activities, there is archaeological evidence for structural reinforcement of the spectacula in the post-earthquake period.

Both men were also honoured with statues in the Forum. The statue bases, still in situ (although the statues themselves are not) sit on the west side in front of the Capitolium. The inscriptions read thusly:

CIL X 790 = ILS 6360
C(aio) Cuspio C(ai) f(ilio) Pansae / IIvir(o) i(ure) d(icundo) quart(um) quinq(uennali) / ex d(ecreto) d(ecurionum) pec(unia) pub(lica).
‘To Gaius Cuspius Pansa, son of Gaius, duovir with judicial power four times, quinqennalis, with public money by decree of the decurions.’

CIL X 791
C(aio) Cuspio C(ai) f(ilii) f(ilio) Pansae / pontifici IIvir(o) i(ure) d(icundo) / ex d(ecreto) d(ecurionum) pec(unia) pub(lica).
‘To Gaius Cuspius Pansa, son of Gaius, son, pontifex, duovir with judicial power, with public money by decree of the decurions.’


Based on the offices held by father and son, their apparent involvement in post-earthquake reconstruction, and the campaign for aedile being waged by the third iteration of the family name in the late 70s, the political careers of three men have been dated approximately as AD 20-40 for Gaius Cuspius Pansa I, 50-60 for II, and 79 for III. This dominance of Pompeian politics by one family for fifty years or more is, despite the general belief that a small number of families were continuously controlling small town politics, actually surprisingly rare in the epigraphic evidence. The fact that all three men bore the same name may have contributed both to their success in office as well as to the preservation of so many texts recording their activities.

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B is for Barcha

One difficulty in piecing together the names of Pompeians is that names can, and do, take many different forms. The Imperial Roman system of the tria nomina, consisting of a praenomen, nomen and cognomen was not in use during the earliest years of the Roman colony, and even when it was the standard form later, the practice of only using one or two names was not uncommon. Numerous scholars have attempted to discern the patterns of name construction and frequency of use, largely using letters and speeches of Cicero, and to a lesser extent, Pliny the Younger. What this has revealed is that the number of names used depends on the level of formality and esteem one had for the individual, but at the same time, different practices came in and out of fashion. According to Adams, in Cicero’s time it was common to address someone using praenomen + nomen or praenomen + cognomen, but that by the end of the Republic there was a shift to nomen + cognomen. The aristocracy apparently favoured the use of praenomen + cognomen, which is apparent in one particularly interesting example found in Pompeii.

There are three dipinti that record the candidacy of Numerius Barcha for the office of duovir:

CIL IV 26 = CIL I2 1664a
N(umerium) Barcha(m) IIv(irum) v(irum) b(onum) o(ro) v(os) f(aciatis) ita v[o]beis Venus Pomp(eiana) sacra [sancta propitia sit].
‘I ask you to elect Numerius Barcha, a good man, as duovir. May Venus Pompeiana (be favourable) to your offerings.

N(umerium) Bar(cam) IIv(irum) [oro vos] col(oni).
‘Numerius Barcha. Colonists, I ask you to elect him duovir.’

CIL IV 72 = CIL I2 1644b
N(umerium) Barc(ham) II/v(irum) v(irum) b(onum) o(ro) v(os) col(onei).
‘Numerius Barcha, a good man. Colonists, I ask you to elect him duovir.’

There is a surprising amount of information contained in these texts despite the fact that we cannot identify the man’s family. Like all inscriptions recorded in volume I2 of the CIL, these dipinti are Republican in date. This is also evident in the fact that two of the notices beseech the colonists to ensure Barcha’s election. The Roman colony of Pompeii was established by Sulla in 80 BC, so for any of the colonists to still be around and voting, this election must have taken place between approximately 80 and 50 BC. Further, as Barcha is running for duovir, the second office in the local cursus honorum, he must have previously served as an aedile, and at the youngest, would be in his late twenties at the time of this second campaign, assuming he wasn’t himself a colonist, and thus considerably older.

There is one additional electoral programmata that is also attested to this candidate. Here, finally, we get his gentilicium:

CIL IV 45 = I2 1672a
N(umerium) Vei(u)m I[I] /v(irum) v(irum) b(onum) o(ro) v(os) co(lonei).
‘Numerius Veius, a good man. Colonists, I ask you to elect him duovir.’

This may, at first glance, seem as if it belongs to an entirely different man. The name Numerius was common enough, and identifying any specific individual by praenomen alone would be a highly dubious endeavour. The use of the nomen Veius with the praenomen of Numerius increases the probability of a match, but is still shaky as a concrete attribution. Luckily, especially considering the age of these inscriptions, there is one further graffito, found in the amphitheatre, that allows Numerius Barcha and Numerius Veius to be viewed as one and the same:

CIL IV 75 = CIL I2 1644c
[- – -] Vei Barc(h)a tabes[cas].
‘Numerius Veius Barcha, may you rot!’

Clearly, not everyone was a fan.

Finally, a monumental inscription from a tomb found outside of the Porta di Nocera provides more absolute confirmation that the names of Veius and Barcha should indeed be linked:

D’Ambrosio & De Caro (1983) 3ES
Veia N(umeri) f(ilia) Barchilla / sibi et / N(umerio) Agrestino Equitio / Pulchro viro suo.
‘Veia Barchilla, daughter of Numerius, (built this) for herself and to Numerius Agrestinus Equitius Pulcher, her husband.’


This inscription, still in situ on a large tumulus tomb dated to the late Republican / early Augustan period, attests the final resting place of Numerius Veius Barcha’s daughter. Although female naming conventions can often be more tricky than male, this is a very clear case of adopting the nomen in feminine form for a first name, with the addition of a diminutive version of her father’s cognomen as a second name. With the filiation naming her father Numerius, this becomes conclusive evidence that the man who sought election using his praenomen and cognomen only, is in fact a member of the Veii family. This is a family of some importance who will be present throughout the Roman period of Pompeii, who I will undoubtedly discuss further as I move through the alphabet.

What is most striking, however, in the case of Barcha, is how difficult it can be to rely on one or two texts to accurately identify individual people or their relationship to other family members. In this instance, the survival of just a few texts provides the evidence needed to piece together this father, daughter, and the gens they belong to. For many of the names recorded in the Pompeian epigraphy, the puzzle remains unsolved.

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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.

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