Posts Tagged With: Wax Tablets

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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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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