Posts Tagged With: Epigraphy

Touring the Temple of Isis

The Temple of Isis in Pompeii has always been an intriguing structure for those who work in the ancient city. Not only is it a clear representation of the influx (and acceptance) of foreign gods in Rome, it also has had a distinct place in the conversation regarding euergetism, the political advancement of the sons of freedmen, and the rebuilding of the city after the earthquake in AD 62. The temple, seemingly demolished in its entirety in the earthquake, was rebuilt quickly due to the generosity of a six year old boy named Numerius Popidius Celsinus. It was among the first structures to be excavated in Pompeii, discovered in 1764.

I was recently in Pompeii doing a bit of work on graffiti, and much to my surprise, found a few in the Temple of Isis that I had somehow never noticed before. This, much like last week’s post, isn’t ancient graffiti, but instead is something more akin to early modern graffiti. The small building just to the south of the cella identified as a purgatorium (you can see the plan of the temple complex here) is still fairly well covered with the original ancient stucco work.

DSCF7740

The plaster has been used to record names of tourists and visitors, going back to the time the building was first excavated.

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The earliest I found was the above, J. Broom, who carved his name in 1789. The majority seem to date to the last few decades of the 1700s and the 1800s. The latest specific date I saw was 1900. Whilst the majority of the names were Anglophone (hardly a surprise considering the popularity of the Grand Tour amongst the British at that time), I was pleased to see at least one Italian had also left his mark. A man named Giuseppe (I can’t quite make out the surname), was there in 1790.

DSCF7736

I’ve already written about the seemingly inherent human desire to leave behind a mark (here and here), but there were a couple of other things that struck me about these particular graffiti. One is the handwriting. It is very obvious that most of these texts were written in a different era simply by the penmanship. This is particularly stunning in view of carving a name in stucco – few blocky large letters – but almost exclusively the fine cursive fonts of another century. It has the appearance of names having been signed with pen and ink rather than carved with a sharp object into a hard surface. Also, the specificity. A few people didn’t just record their names and the year, but also the month, and even the day.

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These visitors to the temple in May of 1797 (specifically on the 24th for the one on the left), used the column as their writing surface, thus limiting themselves considerably on space.

I admittedly rather like this little collection of names and dates in the Temple of Isis, despite the fact that usually I am disgusted by the addition of graffiti by modern tourists to sites like Pompeii and Herculaneum. Normally, I consider this defacement, and the destruction of irreplaceable ancient surfaces. This strikes me as particularly egregious when someone has written across a wall painting (what kind of tourist even brings a marker into the site?). Yet these texts, despite being defacement of an ancient monument, also tell a story about the site, about the history of the excavations and access, and about how Pompeii became a recognizable place in the world’s collective cultural mind. So whilst I am somewhat conflicted about their existence, finding them, searching for different years, looking at handwriting styles and names, was a few minutes of absolute joy, and a reminder of why I love doing what I do.

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Scribblers and Scholars

Last weekend I finally got around to doing one of those Oxford things that one living here should do: despite my slight tendency to vertigo I climbed the very narrow, steep and winding stairs to the top of the tower of University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. Although it is believed that there has been a church in this location since Anglo-Saxon times, the current building is an assemblage of components built between the thirteenth and eighteenth century. The oldest part of the structure is the Tower, dated to 1280. Tourists (okay, and residents) climb the tower for the stunning views over the skyline of Oxford. Narrow walkways are on all four sides of the Tower, linked by small arched passageways. Within two of these corner passages, I discovered a wealth of inscribed names, initials, and dates. DSCF7643

The earliest date I found inscribed is in the above photo, 1612, carved deeply beneath a less visible 1791. An individual with the initials AR, in the upper right corner, carved his (I’m assuming) initials in 1676. The overlap of names and the wearing over time has rendered most of the scratchings fairly illegible. Whilst I have seen other churches (Gloucester Cathedral comes to mind) with graffiti inscribed by builders and craftsmen, the dates and use of the building suggest to me that the majority of these names belong to students or visitors to the university. The Tower, a few floors below this vantage point, contains the Old Library. Built in 1320, it was the first central university office and library (i.e. not college affiliated), and was used for meetings and research prior to the construction of the Bodlian Library and Divinity School, built in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It should be no surprise, therefore, that the latest dated inscriptions I found were from 1811, when Messrs. Stone and Godfrey carved their names, well past the time when the Tower rooms would have still been used as originally intended.

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One other aspect I found quite interesting is the obvious time and care that was taken in carving these names. Many have the letters blackened, a practice similar to using red paint as was common in Roman monumental inscriptions. In addition, a close look at the lettering indicates that on many occasions there were attempts made at style – adding serifs to the letters, creating the appearance of distinct fonts and handwritings. Compare, for example, the photo below, where both the ‘R’ and initial ‘W’ of the surname have distinct serifs, difference in thickness of the lines of the lettering, and show a replication of a monumental style of inscription. This is at odds with the penciled text beneath, clearly by a more modern hand, which lacks the same level of artistry all together.

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I have written before about that overwhelming desire people have to record their name, or leave a mark. It would appear that on some level, the students of Oxford in centuries past were no different. What is remarkable, at least to me, is that such effort went into carving the letters and attempting to make them visible and lasting. This suggests a desire for permanence that isn’t all that surprising – it is exactly the thing that has led people to write on walls – whether in Pompeii two thousand years ago, in a church tower in Oxford four hundred years ago, or on an underpass over the motorway today.

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For Women, By Women

One thing that I have always had some issue with in dealing with the epigraphy in the Roman world, particularly the graffiti, is the somewhat antiquated view that very few women could read or write. Literacy in general for the ancient world is normally restricted to the upper classes, and even more so for women. I have never exactly agreed with this approach to literacy, as I have discussed here previously. As Kristina Milnor discussed in her book on literary graffiti in Pompeii (see especially Chapter 4), even when texts are seemingly written by a woman for a woman, male scholars have attempted to change the sex of the writer to fit their preconceived notions of literacy, gender, and sexuality.  There are, however, some graffiti that simply cannot be explained away by mistakes of grammar or as a joke. This is one of my favourites:

CIL IV 10231
Gravido me tene(t) / At(i)me[tus].
‘Atimetus got me pregnant.’

It is simple, it is straightforward, and there really can be no doubt it was written by a woman. I have always seen this as part warning to other women – look what he did to me, best to stay away from Atimetus – and part admonishment for the man who, by virtue of the graffito’s existence, clearly is not taking responsibility for his actions.  Pregnancy is mentioned in other inscriptions – see for example CIL IV 7024 Gravid(o) (te)net – but this is the only I am aware of that names the man who caused such a state. That factor, in and of itself, suggests to me that not only did a woman write this graffito, but in doing so she must have expected a significant number of other women to be able to read it. Thus, in four words, our anonymous writer has provided evidence for literacy amongst the female population in Pompeii.

 

 

 

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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’.

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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.

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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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Graffiti Fridays

I have been somewhat derelict in my blogging the last few months. This is admittedly because I have been working on a number of projects that haven’t necessarily lent themselves to writing posts, and I equally haven’t had the time to delve into the various bits and pieces I’ve been saving to write about. That said, I did recently have an idea for writing a short weekly piece to get myself back into the habit of posting regularly, and to further explore my love of graffiti.

With that in mind… Welcome to the first Graffiti Friday. This will be a brief weekly post on graffiti. It may be ancient or it may be modern, my only requirement for inclusion is something that caught my eye or intrigued me in someway. Here goes:

 

CIL IV 8031

 

 

Found in the vestibule of the House of Casca Longus (I.vi.11) in Pompeii, this graffito is part text and part figural:

CIL IV 8031
Munus te ub(i)q(ue)
“Games, you are everywhere.”

What is remarkable about this is that the letter ‘Q’ of the inscription is drawn in such way that it resembles the elliptical shape of an arena, the location where the ubiquitous games were held. This is a fabulous example of an image that illustrates the exact meaning of the text.

 

 

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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.

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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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Book Review: Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii

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The review I wrote of Kristina Milnor‘s latest book has just been made available online by The Classical Review, a publication of the Classical Association. Her book, Graffiti & the Literary Landscape of Pompeii, addresses Pompeian graffiti that is thought to derive from or otherwise copy known ancient authors or literary styles. For the purposes of her study, Milnor focuses entirely on metrical graffiti. In addition, she discusses potential influences on some other types of graffiti, mainly greetings as a reflection of epistolary style. I admittedly have some issue with her methods and overall conclusions, but for that you’ll just have to read the review. It is available online here.

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Black Friday

In the U.S., today, the Friday after Thanksgiving, is commonly known as Black Friday – a retailers dream (or nightmare) – as it is the day that traditionally kicks of the Christmas shopping season. It has become so ubiquitous a term, it began to appear in advertisements for sales here in the U.K. last year, and this year, has begun more than a week in advance of the day itself (and let’s not even discuss the number of emails I’ve had today from various shops). Whilst the last decade or so has shown a dramatic shift to shopping online rather than actually leaving the house, in the past, both recent and distant, shopping, for foodstuffs at the very least, was virtually a daily activity.

Shopping for various goods – pots, clothing, shoes, food items – is part of a lively scene depicted in a wall painting that shows the Forum. Found in the Praedia of Julia Felix (II.iv), this is often used as an illustration of the activities of daily life in Pompeii.

Fresco_from_the_House_of_Julia_Felix,_Pompeii_depicting_scenes_from_the_Forum_market

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It is not clear if this painting represents a nundina (market day) or just an average day. It is believed that the large regional market days would have been held in or around the amphitheatre, which is a significantly bigger space. There are a series of painted inscriptions that seem to demarcate areas for particular stall holders in arcades of the amphitheatre, such as this example:

CIL IV 1096
Permissu / aedilium Cn(aeus) / Aninius Fortu/natus occ(u)p(avit).
‘By permission of the aediles Gnaeus Aninius Fortunatus occupies (this space).’

The market was a regional one, moving from town to town on set days. A text from a shop (III.iv.1) provides the calendar:

CIL IV 8863
Dies / Sat(urni) / Sol(is) / Lun(ae) / Mar(tis) / Merc(urii) / Iov(is) / Ven(eris) // Nundinae / Pompeis / Nuceria / Atilla / Nola / Cumis / Put<e>olis / Roma / Capua // X[VIIII] / X[VIII] / X[VII] / XV[I] / XV / XIV / XIII / X[II] / XI / X / VIIII // VIII / VII / VI / [V] / [I]V / [I]II / II / pr(idie) / K(alendae) / Non(ae) / VII / VI // Non(ae) / VIIII // VIII / VII / VI / V / IV / III / pri(die) / Idus // I / II / III / IV / V / VI / VII / VIII / VIIII / X / XI / XII / XIII / XIV / XV / XVI / XVII / XVIII / XVIIII / XX / XXI / XXII / XXIII / XXIIII / XXV / XXVI / XXVII / XXVIII // XXVIIII / XXX.
Day                 Markets
Saturn             Pompeii, Nuceria
Sun                 Atella, Cumae, Nola
Moon               Cumae
Mars                Puteoli
Mercury           Rome
Jove                Capua
Venus

Whether the person who scratched this into the wall was using this as a personal or commercial reminder is unclear. Information about the purchase and sale of goods, including slightly fluctuating prices depending on the day, is detailed in an inscription (IX.vii.24–5). Found in the atrium of a inn, attached to a bar next door, this graffito was clearly the inventory list of the owner/operator.

CIL IV 5380
VIII Idus casium I / pane(m) VIII / oleum III / vinum III / VII Idus / pane(m) VIII / oleum V / cepas V / pultarium I / pane(m) puero II / vinum II / VI Idus pane(m) VIII / puero pane(m) IV / halica III / V Idus / vinum domatori |(denarius) / pane(m) VIII vinum II casium II / IV Idus / Hxeres |(denarius) pane(m) II / femininum VIII / tri<t>icum |(denarius) I / bubella(m) I palmas I / thus I casium II / botellum I / casium molle(m) IV / oleum VII / Servato / montana |(denarius) I / oleum |(denarius) I VIIII / pane(m) IV casium IV / porrum I / pro patella I / sittule(m) VIIII / inltynium I / III Idus pane(m) II / pane(m) puero II / pri(die) Idus / puero pane(m) II / pane(m) cibar(em) II / oleum V / halica(m) III / domato[ri] pisciculum II.
‘7 days before the Ides cheese 1, bread 8,oil 3, wine 3.
6 days before the Ides bread 8, olive 5,  onion 5, cooking pot 1,  bread for slaves 2, wine 2.
5 days before the Ides, bread 8, bread for slaves 4, porridge 3.
4 days before the Ides, (unknown type of wine) 1 denarius, bread 8, wine 2, cheese 2.
3 days before the Ides [?] bread 2, female? 8, wheat 1 denarius, beef? 1, dates 1, incense 1, cheese 2, small sausage 1, soft cheese 4, oil 7.
For Servatus [unknown item], oil 1 denarius, 8 bread 4, cheese 4.
Leek 1, for a small plate 1, [two unknown items].
2 days before the Ides, bread 2,  bread for slaves 2.
1 day before the Ides, bread for slaves 2, plain bread 2, leek 1.
On the Ides plain bread 2, oil 5, porridge 3, whitebait 2.’

Besides functioning as accommodation for the night, the various taberna and thermopolium found in abundance in Pompeii such as this one served both hot and cold food. The counter tops, such as the one located in this building, are more often than not the identifying feature of such services.

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Their prevalence in Pompeii, as established by Steven Ellis, and still part of ongoing fieldwork by the Pompeii Food & Drink Project, has led to the conclusion that many of the city’s residents may have been getting their hot meals from such facilities, and did little cooking at home. That bread was a daily purchase has long been established: the large number of mills and bakeries in the city is well documented (thirty-three is the current tally). Selling bread is, in fact, commemorated in another wall painting, this one found in the (understandably named) House of the Baker (VI.iii.3).

breadshop

There is additional evidence bread was sold from temporary stalls around the city, and not just for personal consumption. Two graffiti from the Temple of Apollo inform us that man named Pudens and Verecunnus were selling libarius, bread used in sacrifice (CIL IV 1768, 2769). The sale of other food items, particularly wine and garum, the fermented fish sauce so popular in Roman cooking, can be found on the amphorae recovered in excavation. These were typically marked with abbreviated texts indicating the name of the producer or owner, the origin, and contents of the jar.

CIL IV 9406
G(ari) f(los) scombr(i) / Scauri / ex officina Scauri / ab Martiale Aug(usti) l(iberto).
Scaurus’ finest mackerel sauce from Scaurus’ workshop by Martial, imperial freedman.

Garum manufactured by the Umbricius family was a particularly popular item both locally and elsewhere: approximately 23% of the jars containing fish sauce that have survived antiquity come from the Pompeian factory. The tituli picti are even commemorated in a mosaic in the Umbricii house (VII.vi.16).

Evidence for the buying and selling of other items that don’t necessarily survive as objects, such as textiles and luxury items like jewellery, can be found in some of the tablets of Iucundus as well as other graffiti. Items were either auctioned off or, occasionally, used as surety for borrowing funds. One example of this is recorded in a graffito in which a woman, who seems to be acting  much like a modern pawnbroker, offers a loan in exchange for a pair of earrings:

CIL IV 8203
Idibus Iuli(i)s / inaures pos(i)tas ad Faustilla(m) / pro |(denariis) II usura(e) deduxit aeris a(ssem) / ex sum(ma?) XXX.
’15 July. Earrings deposited with Faustilla. Per two denarii she took as usury one copper as. From a total (?) 30.

Fortunately for the Pompeians, it seems they didn’t go in for the insanity of modern special sales, but went about their shopping, whether daily necessities or luxury items, with little fuss. Like most pre-industrial societies, for the majority of people, shopping was based on current necessity, and was done in moderation. Perhaps this changed in times of crisis, particularly when there were shortages of grain, when riots and fighting are recorded in Rome. Last I checked, however, there was no shortage of giant tellies or iPads. Maybe we should follow the ancient example and make this Friday a little less black.

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E is for Eumachius

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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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The Oscan Epigraphic Habit

Last week’s announcement of the discovery of a Samnite tomb in Pompeii was a good indication of how much material (both pre- and post- Roman) there is still to find in the ancient city. Whilst many of us eagerly await further excavation and the scientific analysis of what has been unearthed thus far, there is one thing that will never be known about this woman: her name. The Samnites rarely, if ever, marked their graves, and certainly not with the kind of durable stone inscriptions that are found all over the Greek and Roman worlds. But this is not to say that the Samnites (or other Italic peoples) didn’t have written language, or an epigraphic habit. The survival of Oscan texts in Pompeii is actually quite significant considering that the last of the language and the people who used it were subsumed under the Roman umbrella in the first century BC.

Oscan was one of many Italic languages used in the Italian peninsula prior to the dominance of Latin. It first appears in written form on coins dated to the fifth century BC. An Indo-European language, it borrowed elements of both the Etruscan and Greek alphabets, forming a text that was written from right to left. The Pompeian inscriptions in Oscan were first published in Emil Vetter’s Handbuch der Italischen Dialekte (1953). More recently, a three volume collection edited by Michael Crawford et al, Imagines Italicae, comprehensively compiles the evidence for Italic languages from across the ancient world. Volume II contains the material from Pompeii; 147 texts in all. Some are too fragmentary to transcribe enough to translate or identify, but those that are complete include names on pots, terracotta moulds, tiles, stamps, amphora, and dolia, graffiti on exterior walls of houses, and monumental lapidary inscriptions, most often recording building works. Traditionally, these texts have been primarily used for two purposes: to understand the administration of the city in the periods before the Social War and between the fall of Pompeii and its official colonization nine years later, or to trace the involvement (or lack thereof) of indigenous families in politics through the Roman period. There have also been some attempts to use the Oscan inscriptions as evidence for a resurgence Italic nationalism in the first century AD, but this has largely been discredited by Crawford and McDonald.

There are, however, a series of texts that do seem to relate to the Sullan siege of Pompeii. Collectively known as ‘eituns’, they appear to be notices, usually painted on or near corners of insulae, that designate assembly points for members of the neighbourhood. The exact purpose of the assembly points is unknown, but the generally accepted speculation was that these were in use when the city was besieged, serving as emergency rallying points should the city walls be breached. Most of these were found under later layers of plaster, discovered only when the plaster began to flake and peel. A fairly clear example can be seen on a pilaster between the doorways of VI.6.3 and VI.6.4. This text (Pompei 3 = Ve 24) is nearly identical to one found on a pilaster between VI.2.1 and VI.2.2 near the House of Sallust, covered in antiquity with plaster:

Pompei 2 = Ve 23
Eksuk amvíanud eítuns / anter tiurrí XII íní(m) ver(u) / sarínu puf faamat / m(a)r(as) aadíriis v(ibieís)
‘The eítuns from this quarter, between the 12th tower and the Salt Gate [Porta di Ercolano], where Maras Adirius, son of Vibius, commands.’

Other mustering points and commanders named in these notices include a meeting point between the building of Ma. Castricius and Maras Spurius, where V. Sextembrius commands (Pompei 4 = Ve 25, found between VII.6.23 and VII.6.24), between tower 10 and 11 where T. Fisanius, commands (Pompei 5 = Ve 26, located between VI.12.8 and VI.12.1), and by the domus publica near the Temple of Minerva (Pompei 6 = Ve 27, on a doorpost between VIII.5.19 and VIII.5.20).

The majority of the Oscan texts that survive are dedications and commissionings of building works. The majority can be attributed to local magistrates, but one is, perhaps surprisingly, the result of the actions of one of the consuls of Rome. Despite being sixty some years prior to Roman colonisation, the consul Lucius Mummius, who presented gifts of looted booty to various cities after the sacking of Corinth in 146 BC, chose Pompeii as the recipients of one such award. A statue base in the Temple of Apollo, covered with plaster in antiquity, records the gift.

20150926_143632

Imagines Italicae Vol. 2, p. 265. Pompei 1 = Ve 61
L(úvkis) mummis l(úvkeís) kúsúl.
‘Lucius Mummius, son of Lucius, consul.’

Another text was recovered from the Temple of Apollo, dated to circa 140 BC, which records the construction of flooring leading into the cella of the temple. This inscription is slightly unusual, as it is formed from the use of small stones laid directly into the flooring at the threshold.

Pompei 23 = Ve 18
Ú(vis) kamp[aniís 1-2 kva]ísstur kúmvbenni[e]í[s] [tanginud] appelluneís eítiuv[ad pavmentú(m) úps]annú(m) aaman[aff]ed
‘Ovius Campanius, [son of?], quaestor, [by decision] of the assembly, from the money of Apollo, had [the pavement] made.’

20150926_161608A similar medium, a pebble mosaic with text, was found on the ramp leading to the Temple of Dionysus.

Pompei 14
Ú(vis) epidiis ú(vieís) tr(ebis) meziis tr(ebieís) aídilis.
‘Ovius Epidius, son of Ovius, and Trebius Messius, son of Trebius, aediles.’

Located about one kilometer from the amphitheatre, the Doric temple at Sain’ Abbondio, dated to approximately 250-200 BC, also houses an inscribed altar with an identical Oscan text on both sides.

Pompei 16
M(a)r(as) atiniís m(a)r(aheís) aídíl suvad eítiuvad.
‘Maras Atinius, son of Maras, aedile, at his own expense.’

Other building works recorded epigraphically include road works beyond the Porta di Stabia  (Pompei 13 = Ve 8), a sundial in the Stabian Baths (Pompei 21 = Ve 12), a small tholos above a well in the Triangular Forum (Pompei 11 = Ve 15), a portico (Pompei 9 = Ve 13), honorific dedications of one sort or another (Pompei 18 = Ve 20, Pompei 24 = Ve 11 et al.) and a variety of building projects that cannot be identified. The biggest problem with the Oscan inscriptions is that many of them were re-used as building material in antiquity. Thus, the original location or structure indicated in the text is lost. An excellent example of this comes from the Porta di Nola.

20150926_150413This limetone slab, now housed in the British Museum, was used in the construction of the gate, and appears to have already been broken / damaged when it was inserted into the archway of the gate, near the keystone, and was covered with plaster. Its location renders it highly improbable that the inscription was still meant to be read, much less was actually legible in situ.

Pompei 8 = Ve 14
V(ibis) púpidiis v(ibieís) / med(dís) túv(tíks) / aamanaffed / ísídu / prúfatted
‘Vibius Popidius, son of Vibius, chief magistrate (meddix tuticus) had this built, the same person passed (it) as completed.’

The re-use of Oscan inscriptions demonstrates the fundamental fact that the language was more or less obliterated with the influx of Latin. That the Romans cared little to preserve the earlier texts is incredibly frustrating for someone like me, but understandable in the context of the ever-expanding empire of the first centuries BC and AD. Even when structures, such as the mensa ponderaria (Pompei 27 = Ve 22) which originated in the Oscan period, were maintained, alterations were made: both the measurement cavities and the text were re-formed to Latin standards in the Roman period. Regardless, the Oscan inscriptions that remain demonstrate that the epigraphic habit was hardly just a Roman one, or one that was introduced to Pompeii with colonisation. Despite the initial non-urbanised culture of the Samnite people, the evidence shows that city life, and recording its civic activities, was not limited to any one Italic population. Perhaps the best example of that comes in a final series of texts, graffiti, found around Pompeii. There are at least eight abecedaria (Pompei 74-81), which, if we view them as the Latin versions are interpreted, demonstrate children (or adults) busy learning their language. 

Pompei 78 = Ve 69, a

Pompei 78 = Ve 69, a

To my mind, there is little else that can illustrate the importance of Oscan in pre-Roman Pompeii so well.

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