Posts Tagged With: Networks

Drinking with Cucumae

In my recent trip to the Vesuvian cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii, one thing that struck me anew is the distinct lack of dipinti, that is, painted inscriptions, on the walls of Herculaneum in comparison to Pompeii. This is not down to the smaller scale of the excavated city or a difference in the writing tendencies in the population, but rather seems to be simply a matter of surviving plaster surfaces. Unlike graffiti, which can be scratched into any hard surface, painting legible dipinti, most often used as a means of advertisement, required a flat smooth surface such as that provided by the painted plaster walls. In Pompeii, though these are now much damaged and faded, there are still large stretches of publicly accessible wall, such as that on the Via dell’Abbondanza, that preserve these texts. In Herculaneum, in contrast, there is a distinct lack of plastered exteriors.


There are four dipinti that I am aware of in the scavi of Herculaneum today. Three of them are located on a single wall at Insula VI 14, at the entrance to the Bottega ad Cucumas. Two of these seem related, whilst the lowest on the pilaster is not.

Bottega_ad_Cucumas (1).jpg

The most prominent, in the middle, is a painted advertisement listing the cost of various types of wine, and is the origin of the name of the bar.

AE 1989: 182a
Ad cucumas.
‘To the vessels.’

This is written above a painting of four wine jugs, each labelled with a different price ranging from two to four and a half asses per sextarius (a unit equal to just over half a litre). This indicates that it wasn’t quantity so much as quality of wine that predicated cost. Above this, there is a painting of the god Sancus, a figure associated with trust and honesty, and may have been an attempt by the innkeeper to indicate to his patrons the wine was not overly watered down. Like the wine jugs, his painting is accompanied by a brief inscription:

AE 1989: 182c
Ad Sancum.
‘To Sancus.’

Unrelated to these two dipinti, in the lowest register of the wall is an advertisement for a gladiatorial game.

AE 1989: 182b
Nola // scr(iptor) / Aprilis a / Capua.
‘Nola. Aprilis from Capua wrote this.’

This is a wonderful little text, primarily because it is useful for demonstrating the regional network of gladiatorial games that operated in Campania (this is a subject I presented on at the 2nd North American Congress of Greek & Latin Epigraphy which will be published at some point in the future). This relatively straightforward dipinto ties three of the local communities together by attesting the work of a man from Capua in Herculaneum promoting an event in Nola.

Despite the relative paucity of dipinti in the city of Herculaneum, the three texts (and accompanying images) on this one wall provides a glimpse into the kind of thing one might have expected to find on every plastered surface of the town, had it survived antiquity. The richness of colour and design suggests that walking down the street in Herculaneum two thousand years ago would have been an overwhelming experience of sight. If this is the example, it is nothing less than travesty that more of the dipinti did not survive. I suppose the bright side is that at least this wall is preserved, both in situ, and (I’m slightly ashamed to admit) in the virtual world of Pokémon Go:


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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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Seminar Series: Networks in the Ancient World

I am pleased to present, in conjunction with the Corpus Christi College Centre for the Study of Greek and Roman Antiquity as part of my Leverhulme Trust ECF, a seminar series on networks in antiquity. Seminars are held on Wednesday at 5 pm. All are welcome to attend. Please contact me for further information. networks

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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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Alma Tadema’s Imagined Connections


An exhibit at the Leighton House Museum, ‘A Victorian Obsession,’ prompted some discussion on Twitter* a few months ago about the content of one of Laurence Alma Tadema’s Pompeian paintings, An Exedra (1869). I have finally had the chance to see the exhibit myself, and for the first time, see in person a work of art that I have long had an affection for due to its subject matter. What suddenly struck me anew about this painting is the way in which Alma Tadema included not just the two families whose funerary texts are depicted in the tableau, but that he also added a third, thus creating a connection between three important figures (families) in Pompeian history, Marcus Porcius, Mammia, and a Marcus Holconius. (For the point of clarification, another tomb is visible in the background, that of the Istacidii, but there is no text included in the painting that identifies it as such).

The setting for the painting is the schola, or bench tomb, of a woman named Mammia, a public priestess and benefactor of the town who is known from two inscriptions. Her family is attested from pre-colonial Pompeii (VE 32) and other areas of Campania.  The first text is her epitaph, carved directly into the rear of the bench  depicted in this painting, which sits on the southern side of the Via dei Sepolcri just outside of the Porta di Ercolano:

CIL X 998 = ILS 6369
Mam(m)iae P(ubli) f(iliae) sacerdoti publicae locus sepultur(ae) datus decurionum decreto.
‘To Mammia, daughter of Publius, public priestess, the place of this tomb was given by decree of the decurions.’

The second, found in an unfortunate fragmentary state in the Forum  has garnered much debate as a result of missing bits of text, but is related to a temple complex Mammia constructed in the Augustan period:

CIL X 816 = AE 1992: 271 = 1995: 298 = 2001: 793 = 2002: 333 = 2003: 276 = 2003: 315
M[a]m[m]ia P(ubli) f(ilia) sacerdos public(a) Geni[o Aug(usti?) et Laribus Augustis s]olo et pec[unia sua fecit eademque dedicavit].
‘Mamia, daughter of Publius, public priestess, (built this) to the genius (of the colony? / of Augustus?) on her own land at her own expense.

The only other member of the family known in Pompeii is a Republican ancestor of Mammia, Gaius Mammius. He appears in two similar inscriptions from the Temple of Apollo, in which the name order is reversed from the first to second, which record him as a duovir. Castrén claims that he is one of the first indigenous Pompeians to be elected to a magisterial position after colonization in 80 BC.

CIL X 803 – ILS 6357
Q(uintus) Tullius Q(uinti) f(ilius) / M(arcus) Cinnius M(arci) f(ilius) / d(uum)v(iri) i(ure) d(icundo) / C(aius) Mammius L(uci) f(ilius) C(aius) Naevius M(arci) f(ilius) / d(uum)v(iri) v(iis) a(edibus) s(acris) p(ublicis) p(rocurandis) ex d(ecreto) d(ecurionum) / constat HS DCLXXII s(emis).

CIL X 804
M(arcus) Cin[nius M(arci) f(ilius)] / Q(uintus) Tullius [Q(uinti) f(ilius)] / d(uum)v(iri) i(ure) d(icundo) / C(aius) Naevius M(arci) f(ilius) C(aius) Mam[mius L(uci) f(ilius)] / d(uum)v(iri) v(iis) a(edibus) s(acris) p(ublicis) p(rocurandis) ex d(ecreto) d(ecurionum) / [cons]tat HS DCL[XXII s(emis)].
‘Quintus Tullius, son of Quintus, Marcus Cinnius, son of Marcus, duoviri with judicial powers (and) Gaius Mammius, son of Lucius, Gaius Naevius, son of Marcus, duoviri, by decree of the decurions saw to the [maintenance of?] public sacred ways with 672 sesterces each.’

The second burial monument that Alma Tadema includes is just out of frame on the left side of the painting, but he does include one of the boundary marking cippi that demarcated the extent of the plot owned by Marcus Porcius. The inscription on the cippus records the dimensions of the area:

CIL X 997 = I² 1637
M(arci) Porci / M(arci) f(ilii) ex dec(urionum) / decret(o) in / frontem / ped(es) XXV / in agrum / ped(es) XXV.
‘Of Marcus Porcius, son of Marcus, by decree of the decurions. Twenty five feet in front, twenty five feet in depth.’

Marcus Porcius was an important man in the early years of the Pompeian colony, who served in multiple elected offices, and oversaw a number of public works and dedications, roughly between 75 and 70 BC. Along with three other men, in one of the few remaining texts that name the early colonial office of the quattroviri, he dedicated an altar in the Temple of Apollo:

CIL X 800 = I² 1631 = ILS 635
M(arcus) Porcius M(arci) f(ilius) L(ucius) Sextilius L(uci) f(ilius) Cn(aeus) Cornelius Cn(aei) f(ilius) / A(ulus) Cornelius A(uli) f(ilius) IIIIvir(i) d(e) d(ecurionum) s(ententia) f(aciundum) locar(unt).
‘Marcus Porcius, son of Marcus, Lucius Sextilius, son of Lucius, Gnaeus Cornelius, son of Gnaeus, Aulus Cornelius, son of Aulus, quattuorvirs, awarded the contract for its construction by the decree of the decurions.’

He was also responsible, along with Gaius Quinctius Valgus, with the construction of the covered theatre, and later, when the men were serving in in the more exulted position of quinquennales, the amphitheatre.

CIL X 844 = I 1633 = ILS 5636 = AE 2000: 243
C(aius) Quinctius C(ai) f(ilius) Valg(us) / M(arcus) Porcius M(arci) f(ilius) / duovir(i) dec(urionum) decr(eto) / theatrum tectum / fac(iundum) locar(unt) eidemq(ue) prob(arunt).
‘Gaius Quinctius Valgus, son of Gaius, Marcus Porcius, son of Marcus, duovirs, awarded the contract for the construction of the covered theatre and approved it, by decree of the decurions.’

CIL X 852 = I² 1632 = ILS 5627
C(aius) Quinctius C(ai) f(ilius) Valgus / M(arcus) Porcius M(arci) f(ilius) duovir(i) / quinq(uennales) colonia<e> honoris / caus{s}a spectacula de sua / pe<c>(unia) fac(iunda) coer(averunt) et colon{e}is / locum in perpetu<u>m deder(unt).
‘Gaius Quinctius Valgus, son of Gaius, Marcus Porcius, son of Marcus, duovirs, quinquennales, for the honour of the colony, saw to the construction of the amphitheatre at their own expense and gave the place to the colonists in perpetuity.’

There are additionally two amphorae that bear the name of Marcus Porcius (CIL X 8049.10a-b), but these shed no light on anything further regarding this man or anyone else in his family.

The only error that occurs in Alma Tadema’s re-creation of these tombs and inscriptions is in the line divisions of the cippus of Marcus Porcius, which he divides differently than it exists in reality, but this is undoubtedly based on the slightly more squat depiction of the stone.



His invention, however, comes in with the words inscribed on the tunic of the slave, which is a text purely of his own devising:

M(arci) Holconi(i) / LXVIII.
‘Of Marcus Holconius, 68.’

The gens Holconia was not only an important one in Pompeii, but one who boasted a far larger family than either Marcus Porcius or Mammia (at least in terms of the epigraphic evidence). Castrén lists sixteen known members of the family, ranging from the Augustan period until the time of the city’s demise. The most prominent member of the family in terms of offices held was Marcus Holconius Rufus, who served as duovir, quinquennalis, military tribune of the people, a priest of Augustus, and patron of the colony. He was responsible, with his brother, Marcus Holconius Celer, for renovations to the large theatre in the Augustan period, often likened to emulating the construction of the Theatre of Marcellus in Rome:

CIL X 833-834 = ILS 5638
MM(arci) Holconii Rufus et Celer cryptam tribunalia thea[trum] s(ua) p(ecunia).
MM(arci) Holco[nii] Rufus et Celer [cryp]tam tribunalia theatrum s(ua) p(ecunia).

‘Marcus Holconius Rufus and Marcus Holconius Celer (built) the crypt, boxes, and theatre seating at their own expense.’

Both men were subsequently honoured for this work, but whilst Celer only has a dedicatory inscription, Rufus received a special seat in the cavea:

CIL X 840 = ILS 6362
M(arco) Holconio Celeri / d(uum)v(iro) i(ure) d(icundo) quinq(uennali) designato / Augusti sacerdoti.
‘To Marcus Holconius Celer, duovir with judicial power, quinquenalis designate, priest of Augustus.’

CIL X 838 = ILS 6361a
M(arco) Holconio M(arci) f(ilio) Rufo / IIv(iro) i(ure) d(icundo) quinquiens / iter(um) quinq(uennali) trib(uno) mil(itum) a p(opulo) / flamini Aug(usti) patr(ono) colo(niae) d(ecreto) d(ecurionum).
‘To Marcus Holconius Rufus, son of Marcus, duovir with judicial power five times, quinquennalis twice, military tribune of the people, priest of Augustus, patron of the colony, (by) decree of the decurions.’

The theatre was not the only public work in which Rufus was involved. Sometime before 2 BC he, along with another duovir, made improvements to the precinct around the Temple of Apollo.

CIL X 787 = ILS 5915
M(arcus) Holconius Rufus d(uum)v(ir) i(ure) d(icundo) tert(ium) / C(aius) Egnatius Postumus d(uum)v(ir) i(ure) d(icundo) iter(um) / ex d(ecreto) d(ecurionum) ius luminum / opstruendorum HS |(mille) |(mille) |(mille) / redemerunt parietemque / privatum col(onia) Ven(eria) Cor(nelia) / usque a<d> tegulas / faciundum coera(ve)runt.
‘Marcus Holconius Rufus, duovir with judicial power for the third time, Gaius Egnatius Postumus, duovir with judicial power for the second time, by decree of the decurions paid 3,000 sesterces for the right to block the light, saw to the building of a private wall as far as the roof for the Colony of Venus Cornelia.’

At some point, probably in the later years of his career, Marcus Holconius Rufus was honoured with a statue depicting him in full military dress, now housed in the Museo Archeologica Nazionale di Napoli, that likely once stood in the Forum, and was later removed to the crossroads of the Via dell’Abbondanza and the Via Stabiana.

CIL X 830 = ILS 6361b
M(arco) Holconio M(arci) f(ilio) Rufo / trib(uno) mil(itum) a popul(o) IIvir(o) i(ure) d(icundo) V / quinq(uennali) iter(um) / Augusti Caesaris sacerd(oti) / patrono coloniae.
‘To Marcus Holconius Rufus, son of Marcus, military tribune of the people, duovir with judicial power five times, quinquennalis twice, priest of Augustus Caesar, patron of the colony.’

This location, besides being a heavily trafficked area, is not that far from the house that is attributed to Rufus, just a bit further up the Via dell’Abbondanza at VIII.4.4. (The house of Marcus Holconius features in another of Alma Tadema’s paintings, the 1870 work The Vintage Festival, which purports to be in his atrium. According to Barrow, this dimensions of the house actually make this impossible.) His brother Celer also had an honourific statue, the base of which was reused as building material in the Forum (CIL X 944). Additional inscriptions naming Rufus demonstrate him carrying out his duties as a priest of Augustus (CIL X 890 = ILS 6391), and campaigning for magisterial positions (CIL IV 1886, 1918 and likely 2927).

Other magisterial members of the family include Marcus Holconius Gellius (CIL X 895 = ILS 6394), duovir in AD 22-23, Marcus Holconius Macer, who served as praefectus with judicial power in AD 40-41 (CIL X 904 = ILS 6397), and Gaius Holconius, who has surviving dipinti for an unidentified campaign (CIL IV 786a, 5628). Additionally, there are freedmen such as Marcus Holconius Iucundus (CIL IV 3340.73), Marcus Holconius Proculus (CIL IV 3340.79, 3340.93), and Marcus Holconius Quintio (CIL X 947), and a number of family slaves attested in the epigraphy (CIL IV 1917, 8171, 8732, X 899). The only female member of the family recorded is Holconia, probably the daughter of Rufus, who served as a public priestess (CIL X 950-951).

The latest known member of the family is Marcus Holconius Priscus, who was a candidate for office in the Flavian period. He must have been successfully elected as aedile at some point in the AD 70s, as there are numerous surviving dipiniti calling for his election both as aedile and duovir (AE 1903: 168, 1913: 96, 1951: 157d, 1988: 334, CIL IV 96, 103 = ILS 6410, 127, 140, 157, 161, 199, 202 = ILS 6411a, 206 = 6411c, 216, 280, 297, 300, 304, 309, 321, 341, 570, 623, 633, 648, 649, 657, 681, 718, 745, 767a = 1029, 828, 831, 860, 863, 876, 890, 904a, 927, 943, 981, 1010, 1065, 2939, 3277 = 3637, 3428 = ILS 6411b, 3429, 3466, 3486, 3491, 3502, 3723, 3837, 6685, 7612, 7614, 7202, 7235, 7242, 7544) and further collection that do not name the office he is seeking (CIL IV 994, 1007, 1099, 1166, 1848a, 1924, 2980, 3084, 3430, 7459, 7481, 7548). It seems that his candidacy for duovir took place in AD 79, so whether or not he was elected to that office or indeed, survived the eruption of Vesuvius, is entirely unknown. What is clear from the plethora of epigraphic evidence left by the Holconii is that the family was not only one of influence in Pompeian politics, but was also of unusually long standing within the city.

The point of all of this is to demonstrate how incredibly clever Alma Tadema was to incorporate the gens Holconia in his painting of this Pompeian scene. In the first instance, it makes the ancient date of the painting almost impossible to date. The Tomb of Marcus Porcius dates to the late Republic (70-50 BC), the Tomb of Mammia to the Augustan period (27 BC – AD 14), and the Tomb of the Istacidii to the early Julio-Claudian era (AD 25-50). This provides a clear terminus post quem of the mid first century AD, but since the Holconii are present and active until AD 79, the painting could represent an imagined scene at any point between AD 25 and 79. That Alma Tadema chose to make a Marcus Holconius the owner of the slave depicted is not necessarily that surprising considering the preponderance of the epigraphic evidence naming various members of the family, especially if one recalls that the statue of Rufus was excavated less than ten years before this artwork was completed. Secondly, and what I find the most intriguing about Alma Tadema’s use of the Holconii, is that the inclusion of this family, along with Marcus Porcius, Mammia, and to a lesser extent the (nameless in the painting) Istacidii, is that he has managed to depict prominent individuals and families covering the entireity of the Roman colonial period of Pompeii – from 80 BC until the eruption in AD 79 – in a single image.  This may be entirely an accident on his part, but would like to think he did this with intent. He did, after all, spend a considerable amount of time in Pompeii, studying the ruins and artefacts for his art, and the intensity and thoroughness of his research is clear to anyone who has ever stood in front of one of his paintings. I would lament the loss of such wonderous depictions of the ancient world, but I cannot help but think he missed his calling as a Classicist.

* I owe much gratitude to Caroline Lawrence, whose questions about the inscription of Marcus Porcius got me thinking about the texts in this painting.

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Can I Get a Witness?


The wax tablets of Lucius Caecilius Iucundus are one of the best records for financial activity that survive antiquity. The tablets, triptychs of wooden leaves covered with wax and tied together to make six pages, were used as receipts, closed, wrapped with string, and sealed by witnesses. Carbonised by the Vesuvian eruption in AD 79, these 153 tablets were found in the House of Caecilius Iucundus at V.1.26 during its excavation in 1875. The tablets record a number of transactions, including auctions, money lending, and payment of civic rents. What makes these records so important for network analysis is that each one of these exchanges made use of a number of signatories – typically six in addition to those directly involved in the transaction – who acted as witnesses to the transaction taking place.

The use of so many witnesses, is, of course, what makes the tablets so valuable for the purposes of building a network for Pompeii. Not only do they provide information about the workings of the local economy, but more importantly, they contain so many names. Whether or not these witnesses were friends, business associates, or simple happened to be passing by at a particular time when signatories were needed is difficult to determine without looking for corroborative evidence amongst other bits of Pompeian epigraphy. Regardless, the tablets can be used to trace both individuals and events (if one views the signing as an event), which actually allows for the analysis of both one and two mode networks.

I can hardly cover all of the tablets of Iucundus in a single post, but this instead serves as a brief example of how the tablets can be used, starting with just one individual. I selected the six wax tablets on which Aulus Veius Atticus appears as a witness. If we look at the individual texts, some of which are more complete than others, you can see that, typically, the witnesses are appearing in the third or fourth section.

CIL IV 3340.22           05. November AD 56
Perscriptio Histriae Ichmadi || HS n(ummum) VI(milia)CCCCLVIs(emis?) / quae pecunia in / stipulatum L(uci) Caecili / Iucundi venit ob / auctionem Histriae / Ichimadis mercede / minus persoluta || habere se dixsit / Histria Ichimas ab / L(ucio) Caecilio Iucundo. / Act(um) Pomp(eis) Non(is) Nove(mbribus) / L(ucio) Duvio P(ublio) Clodio co(n)s(ulibus). / C(ai) Numitori Bassi / L(uci) Numisi Rari / A(uli) Vei Attici / D(ecimi) Caprasi Gobi[onis] / L(uci) Valeri Peregr(ini) / [—] Cestili Philod(emi) / [C(ai)] Novelli Fortun(ati) / [A(uli)] Alfi Abasca[nti] / [L(ei)] Cei Felic[ionis] || [L(ucio) Duvio P(ublio) Clo]dio co(n)s(ulibus) / [Non(is) Nove]mbr(ibus) / [— sc]ripsi rogatu / [Histriae Ichimadis ipsi] persoluta / [esse ab L(ucio) Iuc]undo HS n(ummum) / [sex milia quadr]i(n)gentos quinqua / [ginta sex semi]s ob auctionem /q[uam servus] eius fecit [act(um) Pom]peis.

IV 3340.35           05. August AD 57
Per[s]c[ript]io Cn(aeo) Alleio / C(h)ryser[oti] || [HS n(ummum)] / III(milia)DXI / quae pecunia in / stipulatum L(uci) Caecili / Iucundi venit ob / auctionem Cn(aei) Allei C(h)ryserotis / mercede [m]inus / persolu[ta h]abere / se dixsit [C]n(aeus) Alleius / C(h)ryseros [ab] L(ucio) Caecilio / Iucundo. / Act(um) Pomp(eis) Non(is) Aug(ustis) / Nerone Caes(are) II L(ucio) Calpurn(io) c(onsulibus) || [—] Postumi Primi / A(uli) Appulei Severi / [A(uli)] Vei Attici / [— Au]rel(i) Vitalis / T(iti) [Sorni] E[u]t[y]ch[i] / L(uci) Corneli Maxsi(mi) / P(ubli) Terenti [—] / N(umeri) Popidi Am[—].

IV 3340.49
Perscriptio [L(ucio) Cornel]io Ma[xs(imo)] [—] || L(ucio) Caecilio [—] / act[um || HS n(ummum) V(milia)CCC quae pecunia in stipulatum. / L(uci) Caecili Iucundi venit ob manc[i]pia / duo veterana vendita r(atione) hereditaria / L(uci) Corneli [Tert]i soluta habere se / [dixi]t L(ucius) Cornelius Maxsimus / ab L(ucio) Caecilio Iucundo. || [—] Postumi Primi / A(uli) Appulei Severi / [A(uli)] Vei Attici / [— Au]rel(i) Vitalis / T(iti) [Sorni] E[u]t[y]ch[i] / L(uci) Corneli Maxsi(mi) / P(ubli) Terenti [—] / N(umeri) Popidi Am[—].

IV 3340.67
Perscriptio N(umeri) Popidi [—]Y[—] || [HS] n(ummum) V(milia)[—] / quae pecunia in / stipulatum L(uci) Caec[ili] / Iucundi venit o[b] / auctionem N(umeri) [P]op[idi] || [Pop]idi[us(?) —] / [ab Caecilio] Iucundo || Q(uinti) Appueli Severi / A(uli) Vei Attici / P(ubli) Terenti Primi / L(uci) Cei Decidiani / [—] Corneli Adiutoris / L(uci) Lucili Fusci / C(ai) Corneli Tagetis / [—]O[—].

IV 3340.99
[Persc]riptio P(ublio) Terentio Prosod(o?) || Q[—]C[—] || Ti(beri) Claudi Nedymi / Q(uinti) Appulei Severi / A(uli) Vei Attici / M(arci) Aureli Vitalis / [N(umeri) Popid]i Sodalion[is] / [—]pi Fortunati / [P(ubli) Si]tti Zosimi / [P(ubli) Tere]nti Prosodi.

IV 3340.115
[—] / A(uli) Vei Attici / M(arci) Uboni Cogitati / C(ai) Cas[si] Secundi /[L(uci) Va]leri Peregrini / [P(ubli) Corne]li Tagetis / [—].

There are 35 names all together on these 6 tablets (excluding consuls used solely for dating purposes), but including Lucius Caecilius Iucundus, who was presumably present for most (if not all) of the transactions:

1. Lucius Caecilius Iucundus (22, 35, 49, 67, 99, 115)
2. Aulus Veius Atticus (22, 35, 49, 67, 99, 115)
3. Histria Ichimas (22)
4. Gaius Numitorius Bassus (22)
5. Lucius Numisius Rarus (22)
6. Decimus Caprasius Gobio (22)
7. Lucius Valerius Peregrinus (22)
8. [—] Cestilius Philodemus (22)
9. Gaius Novellius Fortunatus (22)
10. Aulus Alfius Abascantus (22)
11. Lucius Ceius Felicio (22)
12. Lucius Laelius Fuscus (35)
13. Marcus Fabius [—] (35)
14. Publius Terentius Primus (35, 49, 67, 99)
15. Lucius Vettius Valens (35)
16. Gaius Poppaeus Fortis (35)
17. Tiberius Caudius Secundus (35)
18. Aulus [—] Fuscus (35)
19. Gnaeus Alleius Chryseros (35)
20. Lucius Cornelius Tertius (49)
21. Lucius Cornelius Maxsimus (49)
22. [—] Postumius Primus (49)
23. Aulus Appuleius Severus (49)
24. [— Au]relius Vitalis (49)
25. Titus Sornius Eutychus (49)
26. Numerius Popidius Am[—] (49)
27. Quintus Appuleius Severus (67, 99)
28. Lucius Ceius Decidianus (67, 99)
29. [—] Cornelius Adiutor (67, 99)
30. Lucius Lucilius Fuscus (67, 99)
31. Gaius Cornelius Tages (67, 99)
32. Marcus Ubonius Cogitatus (115)
33. Gaius Cassius Secundus (115)
34. Lucius Valerius Peregrinus
35. Publius Cornelius Tages (115)

Of these, there are six men in addition to Atticus who appear more than once. More to the point, all nine of the witnesses who appear on tablet 67 also appear on 99, which suggests that these two transactions might have actually been carried out at the same time, with the same witnesses present to sign off on both sales. We can see a wide range of known Pompeian gentilicium present in the witnesses – Cornellii, Ceii, Poppidi – but if we look closer at the cognomen in particular, these are not the men of these families known from electoral campaigns, and are more likely to be freedmen. The cognomina do include a number of Greek names as well as those favoured for the servile classes, and although this certainly warrants further investigation, it does seem more likely than not that there are a number of freedmen serving as witnesses.

In terms of finding the ancient network, it is (seemingly) a simple process to take this much further using solely the wax tablets. To demonstrate this I picked two men from this list who appear more than once. Publius Terentius Primus seems the most obvious choice because he appears on four tablets with Atticus, thus suggesting a possible strong tie between the two men. He actually appears on sixteen additional tablets, connecting him with 97 others witnesses or sellers, so in all, well over a hundred people when you include the tablets he is on with Atticus. Whether this actually indicates a strong tie with Atticus or a strong tie with Iucundus remains to be seen.

The other selection is Quintius Appuleius Severus, because I found him on Tablet 25, on which Primus also appears. So in addition to two tablets with Atticus, and one with Primus, Severus appears on another 14 tablets with a further 100 individuals.

Just by looking at the appearances of these men as witnesses on the wax tablets, there is already a network of more than 200 individuals that can be connected through three nodes. This does not yet even take into account further epigraphic information. If we include the epitaph of Aulus Veius Atticus, for example, we can add in the 8 other members of the gens Veia, the 7 other Augustales, and the family of Gaius Munatius Faustus and Naevoleia Tyche, with whom Atticus built a tomb, which adds another 12 people from their funerary inscriptions alone. Add in the extended family groups of the Munatii and the Naevoleii, and we now have a network with close to 300 actors, all of whom can be connected through one line, and many of whom can be connected along multiple edges to different actors within the network. This demonstrates a fruitful network analysis, especially when incorporating multiple forms of epigraphic (and to some extent) archaeological material. Eventually, I hope the network I can map will thus link most of the men and women found in the epigraphic material of Pompeii, thus providing us with a clear view of how the society in this ancient city actually functioned.

I think I’m going to need a bigger piece of paper.

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Research Seminar: Cicero and Networks


Next week, on the 8th of October, I will be returning to my alma mater, the Department of Classics at the University of Reading, to kick off their Autumn Term seminar series. I am leaving Pompeii behind for the moment, and instead focusing on networks that are evident in the epistolary works of antiquity, specifically Cicero’s letters. He often wrote letters of recommendation for those seeking a position, and these letters can be used, in conjunction with Mark Granovetter’s landmark essay ‘The Strength of Weak Ties’, to examine the types of networks in play in ancient Italian politics and how strongly connected these networks were.

Anyone interested in attending can find more information here. Otherwise, look for some version of my paper to be posted on this blog in a few weeks.

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