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.
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.
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.
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.
CIL 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[—].
CIL 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[—].
CIL 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[—].
CIL 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.
CIL 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.
One of the pivotal studies in developing network theory is Mark Granovetter’s 1973 essay ‘The Strength of Weak Ties’, which posits the hypothesis that weak ties are more beneficial to an individual seeking employment than strong ties. This is in part because ‘those to whom we are weakly tied are more likely to move in circles different from our own and thus will have access to information different from that which we receive.’ The weak tie acts as a bridge, connecting two individuals previously unknown to each other through a mutual friend or acquaintance. Using Granovetter’s example, if you select any two people at random, call them A and B, from a set of all the people who have ties to either or both of them, the stronger the tie between A and B, the larger the proportion of people in the set who will have ties to both of them. If the tie between A and B is weak, then they are less likely to have a significant amount of mutual links. If you add a third person to this example, C, who has a tie to A but not to B, the common ties between A and B and A and C will eventually bring B and C into contact, and a relationship will be generated. A acts as the bridge, and thus a weak tie is established between B and C.
In reading a series of letter’s written by Cicero for another purpose, it suddenly occurred to me that this concept might be applicable to the ancient world. Of the roughly thousand or so letters (plus fragments) written by Cicero that survive antiquity, about ten percent (of what I have surveyed thus far – I’m only about half way through the entire corpus of evidence) are litterae commendaticiae. These letters are written on behalf of a number of individuals (and on a few occasions, a municipium or other group), and sent to one of Cicero’s acquaintances in order to pave the way for the recommendee’s interests to be advanced. In essence, Cicero is recommending these men for a job, and is thus acting as the bridge, creating a weak tie between someone who requires assistance, and someone else who is in the position to grant such favour.
The letters are scattered throughout his collections, but Book 13 (in the pre-Shackleton Bailey edition) contains 79 letters, 78 of which are ‘commendatory’ letters regarding individuals or communities, and as such is the largest concentration of this form found in the literature of antiquity. (By contrast, similar letters found in the works of Pliny the Younger and Fronto are distributed fairly evenly throughout their books). The fact that so many letters are concentrated in one book has led some scholars to view Book 13 as a collection that was compiled and published by Cicero in his lifetime, thus illustrating that Cicero regarded these letters as a definite ‘type’. Whilst this idea cannot be proved, the fact that the letters contain certain features suggest there was a schema or formula to the letters, that this form of writing was an entrenched practice, using set phrases and conventional attitudes. As nearly half of the recommendations found in Book 13 can be dated to 46 BC, this lends further weight to the idea that this book was specifically compiled. It seems as if 46 was a particularly good year for Cicero – he had found favour with Caesar upon his return to Italy, was happily into his second marriage, and hadn’t yet been devastated by the death of his daughter Tullia. Because of his past legal and political career, he was seen as having great influence despite a current lack of power, and was probably one of the most widely known figures in the Roman world besides Caesar. Publishing his litterae commendaticiae from this time would thus serve to heighten appreciation of the influence he was still able to wield through social contacts and networks.
Letter writing in the Roman world was an essential part of political and social life, and that aspect goes some way to explain the nature of the letters of recommendation. Letters were meant to sustain or advance friendship and in the case of recommendations, were ineffective if there was no friendship between the author and addressee. Unlike more modern letters of recommendation, the emphasis in the letters of antiquity is not on the candidate himself, apart from identification, but the letter gets its force from the relationship between the recommender and the recipient. The letter was meant to invoke the obligations and responsibilities to each other which were born on an appeal to qualities of humanitas, liberalitas, voluntas, integritas, mansuetudo, clementia, stadium, and officium. Cicero not only makes note of his respect for the protocols of this obligation but also requests the benefactor to be aware of his deed, which illustrates Cicero’s desire to be seen as influential. These letters were more of a testimonial, recommending someone’s character, trustworthiness, honour, and staking the writer’s own reputation and integrity, as he provided surety for the recommended simply by writing the letter.
In a compelling essay, which at its essence is about social networks though the term is never utilised, Roger Rees refers to this as ‘The Amicitia Triangle,’ a moniker which evokes the earlier example of the links between individuals A, B and C that bridged a tie between the two figures unknown to each other. He argues, I think correctly, that a ‘more persuasive argument than the bald assertion of the relationship between the author and the subject, or between the author and the recipient, was the integration of all three parties.’ This ‘social triangulation’ makes fulfilling the request for assistance that much more attractive to the addressee, because rejecting it would not only refute Cicero’s amicitia but also deny the possibility of a new relationship. The assertion that the subject, by definition a friend of the author (whether or not this is in fact true), will prove to be deserving of the friendship of the recipient, creates a contract of reciprocal obligations, which forms the basis of social system found in the Roman world. In his 1929 Loeb translation of the letters, Williams suggests that the recommendations Cicero wrote show ‘impressive evidence of Cicero’s large-hearted bonhomie, and his unfailing readiness to do a friend, or even an acquaintance, a good turn; in short, of that humanitas which was one of his dominant characteristics.’ I’d argue this gives Cicero considerably more credit than is his due, as the letters are more often about the author than the beneficiary, and the sheer number of letters of this type that survive antiquity, by others in addition to Cicero, demonstrates that this was a standard, if not expected practice, and was an integral part of the patronage system and necessary to ensuring one’s rise up the political ladder. This is particularly clear in a substantial series of letters Cicero writes to a young protégé, Gaius Trebatius Testa.
Ad Fam. 27 (VII. 6)
‘Every letter I write to Caesar or to Balbus carries as a kind of statutory bonus a recommendation of yourself, and not the standard sort but phrased with some special indication of my regard for you.’
Ad Fam. 33 (VII.10)
‘How pressingly I have written to Caesar on your behalf, you know; how often, I know.’
Ad Fam. 29 (VII.8)
‘Caesar has written to me very civilly, regretting that he has so far been to busy to get to know you very well, but assuring me that this will come. I told him in my reply how greatly he would oblige me by conferring upon you all he could in the way of good will, friendly offices, and liberality.’
Fortunately, we also have one letter Cicero wrote to Caesar, so we know that the claim of his efforts on Trebatius’ behalf was true. In this letter, Cicero breaks from form, referencing positions to which Trebatius no doubt aspires, but he does so in a joking manner. I suspect the tone is meant to prevent Caesar taking any offense that Cicero should presume to tell him what to do.
Ad Fam. 26 (VII.5)
‘So observe my presumption: I now want Trebatius to look to you for everything he would have hoped for from me, and I have assured him of your friendly disposition in terms really no less ample than I had previously been wont to use respecting my own… In embracing his acquaintance with all your usual graciousness, my dear Caesar, I should wish you to confer upon his single person all the kindnesses which I could induce you to wish to confer upon my friends…. I do not ask on his behalf for a Tribunate of Prefecture or any other specific favour. It is your good will and generosity I bespeak; though if in addition you have a mind to decorate him with such ambitious trinkets, I say nothing to deter you. In fine, I put him altogether, as the phrase goes, out of my hand into yours – the hand of a great conqueror and a great gentleman, if I may become a trifle fulsome, though that’s hardly permissible with you. But you will let it pass, I see you will.’
There is further analysis to conduct with those letters I have catalogued so far, particularly in regards to the identity and connections between Cicero, the recommended individual, and the addressee of the letters. Deniaux’s prosopography of the letters should be particularly useful for this. From there, my intention is to go forward with the remainder of Cicero’s letters. I am most curious to see if he included recommendations in the correspondence he wrote to those we can undoubtedly view as Ciceros’s strongest ties – Atticus, Quintus, and to some extent, Brutus. Though the evidence certainly will never provide a completed network for any of the authors, the ability to build even a partial network for them should shed some light on how networks of patronage and advancement worked in the Roman world.
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.
During the last three months I have had the privilege of hosting a number of distinguished speakers in the Department of Classics at the University of Leeds for a seminar series dedicated to current and future scholarship in Pompeii and the Vesuvian region. I wish to thank Professor Peter Kruschwitz, Dr. Rick Jones, Dr. Richard Hobbs, Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, and Dr. Anne-Marie Leander for giving their time and sharing their work with those of us in attendance, and for agreeing to share their papers more widely through this blog.
Prof. Peter Kruschwitz ‘Aufidius was here. (Really? Where exactly?)’
Dr. Rick Jones ‘Future oriented archaeology in Pompeii’
Dr. Richard Hobbs ‘Coins and Mediterranean connections in early Pompeii’
Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill ‘Herculaneum: Can we save the sites?’
Dr. Anne-Marie Leander ‘Focus on innovation in the study of insula V. 1 Pompeii’
Dr. Virginia L. Campbell ‘Sex degrees of separation’
I gave the final paper in the research seminar series Pompeii: The Present and Future of Vesuvian Research with a paper entitled ‘Sex degrees of Separation.’
I hold a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship for my project ‘Social Network Analysis in Pompeii.’ My work on the tombs of Pompeii led to an interest in the epigraphic evidence from Pompeii and how this can be examined to explore the connectedness of the community. This paper is the first presentation of this work.
Recorded on the 30th of April 2014 at the University of Leeds.
I have just returned to the UK after a weekend in Paris, and though I admit to a certain amount of touristy frivolity, the purpose of my trip was to attend a one day conference showcasing network based research for archaeologists and historians. This was organised by The Connected Past, whom have been responsible for a few other workshops and seminars I have attended. As someone relatively new to network studies, having the chance to hear what other people are doing and discuss the practical issues of data collection and visualisation programmes is invaluable. The papers are interesting too.
I am routinely stunned by the variety and breadth of the research that is being conducted using network analysis. There seems to be little limitation on the time or place to which this methodology can be applied. I have previously written here about the project mapping Benjamin Franklin’s correspondence, but add to that fifteenth century ties between the elite of Tours and the king, networks of Bronze Age archaeological contexts, connections between early twentieth century Swiss scientists, and the exchange of gifts amongst natives and Spaniards during Columbus’ Caribbean voyages. There was, of course, more, (the full programme is online and the proceedings were documented on Twitter at #tcp2014), but this demonstrates the richness of the potential for network theory as a methodology. The question was raised during discussion after the conclusion of the papers whether or not this is a fad or a valid methodological approach to our studies: Is network analysis the only way to access a specific set of data? To some extent, the answer to this question depends on the research questions one has in the first place, but for those in the room, the answer was certainly yes.
Undoubtedly the best aspect of this conference was being introduced to three other projects applying network theory to antiquity of which I was previously unaware. There is an ongoing project led by Henrik Gerding and Per Östborn at Lund University that is using network theory to chart the distribution of new technologies – specifically brick and tile production. The paper presented focused on Hellenistic fired bricks as an example of the diffusion of innovation, and presented a number of different hypothetical models in an attempt to discover how and why new production techniques were adopted.
Shifting further east, Networks in the Roman Near East (NeRoNE), is a relatively new project led by Eivind Heldaas Seland at the University of Bergen. His paper focused on finding trade routes between Palmyra and the Persian Gulf in the first three centuries AD. This uses archaeological and ethnographic data and maps, amongst other features, available water supplies as the basis of a network in order to determine the routes used by caravans across the desert.
The final presentation on the ancient world was a literary one. Anthony Glaise (Paris IV-Sorbonne and the École Normale Supérieure) and Thibault Clerice (King’s College London) developed a programme that maps mentions of Cicero in literature from the time of his life until the fifth century AD. This resource, available online, allows connections to be drawn between one of the more prolific writers of the late Republic with people, places, gods and other literature. This approach (much like Elton Barker’s Hestia project) seems to have great potential for challenging the way we study ancient literature.
As most scholars will relate, research can be an incredibly solitary thing. This is one reason why conferences such as this are so important – not just for the opportunity to learn about other projects, but in order to discuss your own. For someone working with a methodology that has (relatively) few participants in Classical studies, this has been, once again, an experience from which I come away feeling reinvigorated about my own work, and the potential for the future. Besides that…..Paris.
A recent article in Smithsonian Magazine profiled the work of Caroline Winterer, an historian and director of the Humanities Center at Stanford University. She, like me, is using social network analysis to look at the past in a new way. In conjunction with the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, she leads a team taking a quantitative approach to the letters written by and to Benjamin Franklin as part of the project Mapping the Republic of Letters. This project, in which the research focuses more on the information typically found on an envelope than the content of the letter itself, demonstrates how this methodology allows historians, of any period, to discern connections and patterns found in huge amounts of often fragmentary data that would otherwise be inconceivable.
Letters, unfortunately, do not survive from the ancient world in quite the same way, nor in such abundance – Franklin exchanged more than three thousand letters whilst living abroad between 1757 and 1775. For the best known letter writers of the ancient world, Cicero and Pliny the Younger, both of whom maintained collections of their correspondence specifically for the purpose of publication, there are merely hundreds. Survival of letters of the more average Roman, such as those recovered from Vindolanda, are more rare, especially outside of the dry conditions that preserve so much papyri in Egypt. To date, none have been recovered from Pompeii.
Yet, amongst the thousands of graffiti that cover the walls of the city, there are exchanges between two or more scribblers, responding, commenting, and furthering a type of discourse that can, in some sense, be compared to the back and forth nature of more formal correspondence. One such example is a brief dialogue between men named Severus and Successus, rivals for the affections of a woman named Iris. Found at the entrance of a caupona at I.x.2, CIL IV 8259 and 8258 are actually three separate inscriptions, the first and last by Severus, with a reply from Successus in between.
Successus textor amat coponiaes ancilla
Nomine Hiredem, quae quidem illum
Non curat, sed ille rogat, illa com(m)iseretur.
Scribit rivalis, vale.
‘Successus the weaver loves a barmaid named Iris who does not care for him. The more he begs, the less she cares. A rival wrote this. Farewell!’
This is followed by the rather confrontational response from Successes:
Invidiose, quia rumperes, se(ct)are noli formonsiorem
Et qui est homo pravessimus et bellus.
‘You who are bursting with jealousy, don’t dare to harry someone who is more attractive than you, one who is robust and wicked.’
To which Severus replies:
Dixi, scripsi. Amas Hiredem,
Quae te non curat. S[u]a Successo
Ut su[p]ra(t) [—].
‘I have written and spoken. You love Iris, who does not care about you. To Successus, as….. Severus.’
Both Cooley & Cooley and Varone discuss the texts, noting that this sort of rivalry is not unusual in the Pompeian corpus of graffiti. There are numerous texts which disparage a love rival, insult an acquaintance, or dismiss the abilities (usually sexual in nature) of a fellow Pompeian. What fascinates me about this particular example is the exchange between the two men – and like Franklin’s letters – it isn’t the content I am interested in, but that it occurred at all. This dialogue illustrates the connectedness of this community – that Successus should not only discover and respond to the initial text, but also that Severus should come back to add further to their exchange. A likely scenario is that this pub served as the local drinking establishment for both men, with the popular Iris serving the wine. Regardless, this type of discourse, scratched onto a wall in Pompeii, provides evidence for a kind of interaction more usually found in letters, and thus substitutes one written form for another in a place where little non-lapidary writing survives.
* With thanks to my dad, an avid magazine reader, who gave me the article that inspired this post.
As part of the Leverhulme Trust funded research project on Social Network Analysis in Pompeii, in conjunction with the Department of Classics at the University of Leeds, a research seminar series on current and future work in the Vesuvian region has been organised for the Spring semester 2014. All are welcome to attend.
For further information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.