Posts Tagged With: Women

Rock the (Female) Vote

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One thing that has always been a bit of a pet peeve in my teaching of the ancient world is when students talk about both Greece and Rome as misogynist societies because women didn’t have the right to vote. Whilst I’m not denying that the ancient world was, for the most part, patriarchal by design, I’ve always found the enfranchisement of women as a rather daft piece of evidence considering that women couldn’t vote in the UK until 1918 (and even then only those over 30 with property qualifications) and in the US from 1919. It seems somewhat ridiculous to my mind to hold the ancient world to a standard that wasn’t met in modern life until the 20th century. Women in ancient Rome certainly couldn’t hold political office or vote, which we know from the laws collected by Justinian (D. 50.17.2), but there is ample evidence from Pompeii that women were very much engaged in the political process.

Amongst the electoral programmata that once covered the walls of Pompeii, there are fifty-four women supporting the candidacies of twenty-eight men. The majority of these women, thirty-three of them in fact, do so alone. That is, the dipiniti for which they are responsible is sponsored by them alone.

CIL IV 3479
Caecilium Capellam // d(uum)v(irum) i(ure) d(icundo) o(ro) v(os) f(aciatis) / Cornelia rog(at).
‘Cornelia begs you to elect (Lucius) Caecilius Capella duovir with judicial powers.’

Perhaps surprisingly, (see above – patriarchal society), only thirteen women offer an electoral notice with a man.

CIL IV 207
M(arcum) Cerrinium Vatiam aed(ilem) / Nymphodotus cum Caprasia rog(at).
‘Nymphodotus with Caprasia asks you to elect Marcus Cerrinius Vatia aedile.’

Four women sponsored dipinti with another woman, and two represent a larger group, as indicated by the word suis.

CIL IV 3294 = 3678
M(arcum) Casellium et L(ucium) Albucium aed(iles) o(ro) v(os) f(aciatis) / Statia et Petronia rog(ant) tales cives in colonia in perpetuo.
‘Statia and Petronia beg you to elect Marcus Casellius and Lucius Albucius, excellent citizens for the perpetuity of the colony, aediles.’

CIL IV 1053
Polybium / IIvir(um) Lollia / cum suis.‘Lollia, with hers, (asks you to vote) for Polybius, duovir.’

What is particularly interesting, however, is that some of the candidates who are supported by female rogators have an incredibly high proportion of these notices. Gaius Iulius Polybius, for example, is supported by six different women: Cosseia (CIL IV 10051), Cuculla (CIL IV 7841 = AE 1913: 95), Fabia (CIL IV 7189), Specula (CIL IV 7167), Vatia (CIL IV 123), and Zmyrina (CIL IV 7864 = AE 1912: 238). Another candidate popular amongst the female population of Pompeii was Gnaeus Helvinius Sabinus. He is supported by nine women – although the data may be skewed in part because he has far more surviving notices – Aegle (CIL IV 7862 = AE 1912: 236), Biria (CIL IV 9885), Caprasia (CIL IV 923), Iunia (CIL IV 1168), Maria (CIL IV 7866), Parthope (CIL IV 3403), Poppaea (CIL IV 357), Primgenia (CIL IV 3410), and Recepta (CIL IV 1083). What made these particular men so popular and seen as worthy of a magisterial position remains, unfortunately, lost in history. The programmata written by women do not differ in format from those by men, and thus give no specific clues as to why these women chose to support these men.

The evidence for women participating in the electoral process in Pompeii despite not being able to vote or run for office themselves is one that has always intrigued me, and one, as I stated at the outset, that I think challenges the idea of  women accepting a non-civically minded role in the ancient world. In the final weeks leading up to the American presidential election, the idea of the impact of women voting (or actively campaigning for male candidates) has taken on a new importance. Polls have revealed that women alone may be responsible for the defeat of Donald Trump. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but the possibility, in conjunction with the ancient evidence, demonstrates how much women are interested in politics, and always have been.

 

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Queer Graffiti

In recent weeks I’ve had cause to travel a bit within the UK, and during this time, I’ve come across a couple of (modern) graffiti that I found interesting, for related but somewhat different reasons. The first is really a text that no longer exists. That is, it is clear that an attempt was made to remove the sprayed inscription, but it failed in the respect that the original words, though faded, are still visible. On the side of a building at the University of Manchester, one can see this:

20160718_161128

‘FIGHT AIDS ACT UP’

ACT UP – the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power – was founded in New York City in 1987. Growing up in New York at the time, and with gay and lesbian friends as part of my community, church, and extended family network, this slogan, along with the image of the pink triangle and SILENCE = DEATH, were a familiar part of my childhood. I was, up to the moment I stumbled upon this, completely unaware of the slogan being used in the UK, or in fact, any time in the last twenty years or so. I am not by any means dismissing the continued need to campaign for gay rights, healthcare, and AIDS research (let’s face it, for everyone really), I just wasn’t aware of the ongoing use of this slogan. This of course set my epigraphic mind racing: when was this written? was it put up by an American? is it a relic of a very different time and place or reflective of a current movement? None of these questions seem to have answers (as far as I can tell), but it intrigued me nonetheless.

Then earlier this week I was in Belfast, and came across this:

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Having never been to Northern Ireland before, I may have held the somewhat stereotypical view of it being fairly conservative socially. As I walked around the city on Sunday and Monday, I was rather taken aback by the number of rainbow flags on display, and thought how wonderfully progressive  it was to see such a bold statement of acceptance on display. I couldn’t figure out why this would be the case in August, as Pride Month is in June, when most cities see annual events and parades organised by LGBTQ communities. It was only after I looked online that I discovered I missed Belfast Pride by a day – there had in fact been a parade on Saturday.

These messages are reflective of an important movement for rights and inclusion, and are reflective of a modern society, not to be found a few hundred years ago much less a few thousand. Attitudes and perceptions of homosexuality in antiquity are as conflicted and contested as they are in some parts of the world today. Nevertheless, what both of these graffiti brought to mind was the enduring importance of being able to have relationships in an individual’s life, whatever the sex or gender of the person you love. To quote a more recent slogan used in the gay rights movement worldwide, love is love is love. Here, four texts (two for men by men, two for women by women) provide some ancient evidence from the walls of Pompeii that echo this sentiment.

CIL IV 4485
Hectice pupe, va(le) Mercator tibi dicit.
Hecticus, my pet, Mercator says hello to you.’

CIL IV 1256
Sabine calos, Hermeros te amat.
‘Sabinus, my beauty, Hermeros loves you.’

CIL IV 5296 = CLE 950
O utinam liceat collo complexa tenere || braciola et teneris / oscula ferre labelis. || I, nunc ventis tua gaudia, pupula, crede. || Crede mihi, levis est natura virorum. || Saepe ego cu(m) media / vigilare perdita nocte || haec mecum meditas: multos / Fortuna quos aupstulit alte || hos modo proiectos subito / praecipitesque premit. || Sic Venus ut subito coiunxit / corpora amantum || dividit lux et se / parees qui{d} amant.
‘Oh, if only I could grasp my gentle arms around you and and give kisses to your delicate little lips. Come now, my little darling, entrust your pleasures to the winds. Believe me, the nature of men is flighty. Often as I have been awake, lovesick, at midnight, I think on these things: many whom Fortuna raised high, then suddenly thrown down headlong, she now oppresses. Thus, just as Venus joins the bodies of lovers in a moment, daylight divides them and you will separate their love.’

CIL IV 8321a
Chloe Eutychiae s(alutem): / Non me curas, Euty / chia. Spe firma / tua Ruf(um)? amas.
‘Chole greets Eutychia: Eutychia you don’t care about me. With a firm hope you love…’

Love can be unrequited, relationships can be forbidden by law or moral code, or be the basis of a decades long campaign for equality. Regardless, in antiquity, or today, love is love is love. And that is definitely worth fighting for.

 

 

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The Legacy of Venus

A number of months ago I had the chance to go to the V & A for the exhibit ‘Botticelli Reimagined.’ Whilst the exhibit as a whole was about more of the artist’s works than just Venus, both she and the similarly inspired by antiquity painting of Primavera were certainly a focal point of at least half of the collection on display. The artwork ran the gamut from Botticelli’s own paintings to modern works, fashion, dance, and performance art.

Untitled_Panorama5© Victoria & Albert Museum, London

What struck me about this collection of artwork is the enduring legacy of the image of Venus. It occurred to me that whilst I have previously written about Venus in her guise as a goddess of love in the graffiti of Pompeii, and her special role as the patron deity of Pompeii known as Venus Pompeiana, I have paid much attention to the image of Venus that was so prevalent both in antiquity and in the modern world.

The number of images (whether painting, mosaic, or statue) are far too numerous for me to catalogue here. What I am intrigued by, however, is the most recognisable form of Venus, in which she is depicted with emerging from the sea, usually from a shell, at the moment of birth. This is the image that Botticelli used in his painting, and is one that can be traced back to the walls of Pompeii.

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In the peristyle of the eponymously named House of Venus in the Shell (II.iii.3), this is the precursor to the famous  painting of the Italian renaissance. But it isn’t the only such image that survives antiquity. A second century AD mosaic from Zeugma in Turkey depicts Venus (here as the Greek Aphrodite) in her shell, surrounded by ikhthyokentauroi (consider them the fish version of centaurs) identified as Aphros (Sea Foam) and Bythos (Sea Depths), obvious references to her birth story.

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A late third century AD wall painting from Rome, found in the lower levels of the Case Romane del Celio, also depicts Venus in her shell, surrounded by erotes in small boats.

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Of course Venus was not just depicted in painting, or by Romans, as is evidenced by this third century BC terracotta statue from Greece.

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This image of Venus has endured for thousands of years, and Botticelli was not the only painter of the modern era that choose Venus as his subject. He will probably remain, however, the most famous. I have a number of theories as to why this version of Venus is so popular – her fantastical birth, the ability to depict her nudity as she wouldn’t be fully clothed in the sea – but one of the modern interpretations I saw at the V & A may hold the key to understanding this legacy of Venus.

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David LaChapelle ‘Rebirth of Venus’ (2011)

Here, the shell has moved to the forefront, and is used to shield the viewer from the genitalia of Venus. Concha, the Latin for shellfish or mollusc, has been used as a slang or derogatory term for a woman’s vagina in numerous languages and cultures. I cannot help but wonder, if in this context, the shell depicted in the many images of Venus’s birth across the millennia hasn’t been a nod to her sexuality, her guise as the goddess of (physical) love, and in fact has little to so with her birth story per se. Perhaps this is why this version of Venus has so long been the obsession of artists.

 

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For Women, By Women

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

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

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

 

 

 

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E is for Epidius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Black Friday

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

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

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Fresco_JuliaFelix2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

breadshop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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E is for Eumachius

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

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

 

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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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Sexing Graffiti

DSCF5889 Over the course of the last six months or so, there has been a sudden proliferation of graffiti on a wall in a female toilet in one of the university libraries here in Oxford. This is, in fact, part of a longstanding tradition of notes scribbled on the walls of the library toilets, some of which survived for years before removal, and are fondly remembered by those who frequented one particular loo or another. The current crop of texts began with the question of why no one was writing on the wall, quickly followed by a call to ‘Take back the toilet wall!’ and has since expanded to include quotations of both ancient and more modern literature (in multiple languages), laments of Saturdays spent in the library (which is somewhat ironic as that’s where and when I am writing this), and general conversations about life, relationships, and graffiti. Some of my favourite scribblings ask ‘What does the graffiti really want?’, adds a bit of archaeological context by writing about a foot higher on the wall than the other texts ‘The archaeologist would conclude that most people have been writing sitting down. (This is an obvious exception)’, and finally a warning that ‘Omnia vincit cleaner.’  A few days ago I noticed a new dimension to the texts: after six months, there were finally two graffiti of a sexual nature. One commented on a desire to actually have sex in the library (with some additional commentary regarding completing such an act, and further comment on the necessity to include a second person) but the other, proclaiming the power of female genitalia, included an illustration that was both startlingly accurate and really, quite funny in concept. Behold: DSCF5860 This got me thinking: the walls of Pompeii are covered with texts of a sexual nature (some of which I’ve discussed previously here and here) both written and figural, but are these largely composed by men, or women? Of course, answering this unequivocally is impossible for Pompeii (unlike, presumably, the women’s toilet in the library), but I couldn’t help but wonder if men are more inclined to reach the point of sexual texts more quickly than women… would it have taken six months for the first penis joke to appear in a men’s toilet? To this end, I thought to look at some of the Pompeian graffiti to see if there is any discernible difference between the way men and women write or draw about sex and genitalia.

On face value, it would appear that the majority of graffiti of a sexual nature are written by men. Although he does not include genitalia in his catalogue of figural graffiti, Langner does discuss the appearance of scratched phallus on the walls of Pompeii and elsewhere, noting that a vagina only appears once, but in Britain, not Italy.

Pompeii_graffiti_2The graffiti themselves can be viewed with a typology: brags, insults (which may come in the form of admonishments or directions), and advertisements (for prostitutes). Leaving the last category aside, male authors (and subjects) do seem to dominate the evidence. The standard braggart type consists of proclaiming either one’s conquests or one’s abilities, whether the author’s specifically or that of the partner:

CIL IV 8897
Dionysios / qua hora volt / [l]icet chalare.
‘Dionysios is allowed to fuck whenever he wants.’

CIL IV 2175
Hic ego puellas multas / futui.
‘Here I have fucked many girls.’

CIL IV 2145
C(aius) Valerius Venustus m(iles) c(o)h(ortis) I pr(aetoriae) / (centuria) Rufi fututulor maximum.
‘Gaius Valerius Venustus, soldier of the first praetorian cohort in Rufus’ century, the greatest of all fuckers.’

CIL IV 5251
Restitutus multas decepit / sepe puellas.
‘Restitutus has often seduced many girls.’

CIL IV 40129
Hic ego bis futui.
‘I have fucked here twice.’

CIL IV 2273
Murtis bene / felas.
‘Myrtis, you suck well.’

CIL IV 2421
Rufa ita vale quare bene felas.‘Rufa, may life be as good as your sucking.’

Two texts, both found in the House of Fabius Rufus, written about a woman named Romula could be interpreted in a similar vein, but could just as easily be read as insulting to the woman’s character:

Fabio Rufo 34
Romula cum suo hic fellat et uubique.
‘Romula sucks her man here and everywhere.’

Fabio Rufo 19
Romula viros mule trec[en]tos.
‘Romula…thousands of men.’

Less clear cut is the following:

CIL IV 2310b
Euplia hic / cum hominibus bellis / MM.
‘Euplia was here with thousands of good looking men.’

Whilst at first this seems similar to the graffiti naming Romula, the qualification that the men were good looking seems to shift the identity of the writer – this is no longer simply an insult – but a statement about her ability to attract numerous handsome men. This seems less a comment on her wanton ways and more a compliment or boast on her own behalf.

One graffito describing the endurance of one woman’s activities appears to be written not by her or the man she was servicing, but by a third party, another man whose initials may indicate authorship.

CIL IV 1391
Veneria / Maximo / mentla / exmuccavt / per vindemia[m] / tota/ et relinque/t utr(umque) ventre / inane e[t] / os plenu / C(aius) S[- – – ?].
‘Veneria has sucked the cock of Maximus throughout the vintage, leaving both her holes empty and only her mouth full. Gaius S—?’

Some of graffiti offer directions, or admonishments for the abilities of one performing a sex act. Like many, the majority of these appear to be written by men.

CIL IV 4185
Sabina / felas / no belle fasces.
‘Sabina you are sucking it, but not well.’

Where the sex of the author is ambiguous, it is because it can be read as either a homosexual male (even if meant as an insult to a straight male) or a female.

CIL IV 794
Lente impelle.
‘Push in slowly.’

CIL IV 10041d
Piramo / cottdie / linguo.
‘I lick Pyramus every day.’

CIL IV 8715b
Iucu(n)dus / male cala.
‘Iucundus screws badly.’

CIL IV 4239 = CLE 41
Fortunate animula dulcis, perfututor. / Scribit qui novit.
‘Fortunatus, you sweet soul, you mega-fucker. Written by one who knows.’

Another graffito complementing Fortunatus (though it is impossible to say if it is the same man) suggests that it could be written by a woman, as it addresses another female by name, recommending Fortunatus’ technique:

CIL IV 1230
Fortunatus futuet te inguine / veni vede, Anthusa.
‘Fortunatus will fuck you really deep. Come and see, Anthusa.’

Even those texts that refer to performing sexual acts on women are somewhat tenuous in attribution. Males sometimes insulted other men by suggesting this was in their habit.

CIL IV 4264
Iucundus cunum lingit Rusticae.
‘Iucundus licks the cunt of Rustica.’

CIL IV 5178
Corus / cunnum lingit.
‘Corus licks the cunt.’

CIL IV 1383
Isidorum aed(ilem) [o(ro) v(os) fac(iatis)] / optime cunulincet.
‘Vote for Isidorus for aedile, he licks cunts the best.’

What strikes me about the written Pompeian evidence is that so much of it is so difficult to attribute. Although this is generally true of these kinds of texts, attempting to determine the sex of the author rather than a named individual writer seems, in theory, like it should be much simpler than it actually is. Whilst there is no doubt in my mind that some of these texts were written by women – who else but a female would write Gravido me tene(t) / Atm[etus?] (CIL IV 10231 ‘Atimetus got me pregnant.’) – it is near impossible to separate the descriptions of the acts taking place from a heterosexual interaction, an insult directed to another man, or a homosexual act. Unlike the two sexual texts I found in the female toilet of the library, the streets of Pompeii provide no agency as to who could have been there or would have scribbled such graffiti. The Roman world had very few spaces that can unequivocally be labelled as strictly single sex, and more to the point, had very different ideas than abound in the modern world not just about sexual images and commentary, but also about where and how these were expressed publicly.

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In the Eye of the Beholder

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Putti manufacturing perfume. House of the Vettii, VI.15.1

Like many of my fellow classicists, I have recently been to the British Museum to see the latest exhibit of ancient art ‘Defining Beauty: The body in ancient Greek art’. The exhibit makes use primarily of objects (both Greek originals and Roman copies of lost Greek works) already in their collections with the addition of a few pieces on loan – most notably perhaps the rather inspiring Belvedere Torso normally held in the Vatican Museums. The curation of the items focuses not just on beauty in the traditional sense – beginning most obviously with the Crouching Venus – but also on more general aspects of the body and physicality: motion, musculature, nudity, athleticism, proportion, divinity and mortality, sexuality, the grotesque, and wisdom. Each gallery focused on a particular aspect of how the human body could be realised, and to what ends.

As I wandered through the exhibit, I started thinking about the day to day reality of the human form and and the timeless desire to strive for the ideal, if not for beauty itself. To that end, I thought to look to the evidence that might survive in Pompeii which might equally illustrate the view of the body – not through the art – but through the texts. The are, of course, many ancient sources that prevail upon both men and women to tend to their own attractiveness – whether by staying clean and sweet smelling (Ovid Ars Amatoria III.193-199), using make up and ointments (Ovid Ars Amatoria III.200-204; Juvenal Satires VI.461-473) or fixing your hair (Martial Epigrams XIV; Ovid Ars Amatoria III.163-164). Archaeological evidence survives in abundance as well: combs and hair pins, jars of make-up and creams, tweezers, mirrors, scrapers and smoothers, and unguentaria filled with perfumes and oils. The use of some of these items is attested in three graffiti, one from a shop, and two from the Palaestra, which identify men who work as barbers or hairdressers.

CIL IV 743 =  ILS 6428b    shop VIII.4.12-13
A(ulum) Trebium / aed(ilem) tonsores.
‘Aulus Trebius, barber, for aedile.’

CIL IV 8619a
Aristo / to(n)sori.
‘Aristo, barber.’

CIL IV 8741
P(ublius) Corneli/us / Faventi/nus / tonsor.
‘Publius Cornelius Faventinus, barber.’

There are numerous graffiti that speak to the physical qualities of the addressee, but what I found surprising is that they are rather general, calling more for beauty and youth than any specific physical attribute or characteristic.

CIL IV 9171 = CLE 2059
Sic [t]ib[i] contingat semper florere Sabina / contingat / forma{e} sisque puella diu.
‘So may you forever flourish, Sabina; may you acquire beauty and stay a girl for a long time.’

CIL IV 1234 = CLE 232
Pupa qu(a)e bel(l)a s tibi / me misit qui tuus es(t) val(e).
‘Girl, you’re beautiful! I’ve been sent to you by one who is yours. Bye!’

CIL IV 8807a
Ceio et mul/tis pupa / venust/a.
‘Girl, you look lovely to Ceius and many others.’

CIL IV 2310b
Euplia hic / cum hominibus bellis / MM.
‘Euplia was here with two thousand handsome men.’

CIL IV 8870
A(n)ser ab(i) Amo(e)na[e] / loco.
Gosling, leave my beauty alone.

Two more specific texts talk of beauty in terms of light – twinkling eyes, radiance – but again, provide somewhat elusive concepts of what might make someone physically appealing.

CIL IV 6842 = CLE 2057
Si quis non vidi(t) Venerem quam pin[xit Apelles] / pupa(m) mea(m) aspiciat talis et [illa nitet].
‘Anyone who has not seen the Venus painted by Apelles should take a look at my girl: she is equally radiant.’

CIL IV 1780
Quid faciam vobis, ocilli lusci.
‘What shall I do for you, twinkling eyes?’

A series of others similar in content and construction debate the attractiveness of blonde versus brunette – perhaps demonstrating that even in antiquity blondes were thought to be more fun:

CIL IV 9847
Candida me docuit nigras o[d]isse / puellas odero si potero si non / invitus amabo.
‘A fair girl taught me to scorn dark ones. I will scorn then if I can; if not… I will reluctantly love them.’

CIL IV 1520 = CLE 354
Candida me docuit nigras / odisse puellas odero si potero sed non invitus / amabo / scipsit(!) Venus fisica Pompeiana.
Blondie has taught me to hate dark girls. I shall hate them, if I can, but I wouldn’t mind loving them. Pompeian Venus Fisica wrote this.’

Besides hair colour, there is one graffito that addresses the ethnicity of a chosen lover, suggesting that where others may reject one on based on the colour of skin, the writer relishes in the idea of it:

CIL IV 6892 = CLE 2056
Quisquis amat nigra(m) nigris carbonibus ardet / nigra(m) cum video mora libenter {a}ed{e}o.
‘He who loves a dark-skinned girl burns on black coals; when I see a dark girl I gladly eat blackberries.’

There is one admonishment to women that suggests that engaging in too much grooming may be a detraction:

CIL IV 1830 = CLE 230
Futuitur cunnus pirossus multo melius [qu]am glaber / ea[d]em continet vaporem et eadem v[ell]it mentulam.
‘It is much better to fuck a hairy cunt than a smooth one: it both retains the warmth and stimulates the organ.’

And finally, a warning that just because a woman is beautiful on the outside, that does not mean she is worth being pursued:

CIL IV 1516 = CLE 955
Hic ego nu[nc f]utu(i)e formosa(m) fo[r]ma puella(m) laudata(m) a multis se lutus intus {e}erat.
‘Here I’ve screwed a beautiful girl, praised by many, but inside there was a mudhole.’

Beauty did, of course, cause envy. This is apparent in the opening section of a curse tablet, wherein a woman is calling upon the gods to destroy a rival. This is done by condemning features of her physical appearance, so that she would no longer be attractive to the man for whom they both vie.

CIL IV 9251 = I² 2541, Inside tablet A
Facia / capilu cerebru flatus ren[es] / ut ilai non sucedas n[e?] / qui ilaec INL in odium / ut ilic ilac odiat como[do] / aec nec acere ne ilai qui qua acere posit ulo[s] / filios.
‘I consecrate to the infernal gods her face, her hair, her mind, her breath, her vital organs, so that you cannot gain possession of her; may he be hateful to her and she to him; even as she shall have no power over him, so may he be completely unable to give her children.’

Despite the large number of texts and images relating to gladiators, they are never described physically, but for their wins and losses or for their ability to seduce women. Liaisons between gladiators and women of all social standing are frequently alluded to in the ancient literature, often indicating the desirability of the men is due in part to their physicality, and strength, and in part to the allure of the bestial and forbidden. Two gladiators record their multiple (in theory) successes in this arena.

CIL IV 4356 = ILS 5142d
T(h)r(aex) / Celadus reti(arius) / Cresce(n)s / pupar{r}u(m) dom(i)nus.
‘Celadus the Thracian, Crescens the net-fighter, lord of the girls.’

CIL IV 4397
Suspirium / puellarum / Celadus t(h)r(aex).
‘Celadus the Thracian, the girls’ desire.’

CIL IV 4345 = ILS 5142b
Puellarum decus / Celadus t(h)r(aex).
‘Celadus the Thracian, pride of the girls.’

CIL IV 4353 = ILS 5142e
Cresce(n)s retia(rius) / puparum nocturnarum mat[tin]ar[um] aliarum / ser atinus medicus.
‘Crescens the net-fighter, doctor of girls in the night, in the morning, and at other times.’

There is also a suggestion of the sexual interest in gladiators by high-born women in a graffito documenting the sale of two gladiators to the wife of Decimus Lucretius Valens.

CIL IV 8590
Ven[i]vit / mul(i)eri / D(ecimi) Lucreti Vale(ntis) / Onus(tus) eques I / r(ationis) / Saga / t(h)r(aex) / m(urmillo) / I / XX.
‘Sold to the wife of Decimus Lucretius Valens: Onustus, horseman of prime quality, Sagatus, Thracian murmillo, prime quality.’

He was a magistrate well-known for the games he gave, but it was highly unusual for an editore to own gladiators, as the standard practice was to rent them as needed for specific events. It has been suggested, therefore, that this text does not represent an actual sale, but is a jibe, with venio used as a double entendre, to indicate that Valens’ wife preferred to spend time abed with these fighting men instead of her husband.

The graffiti then, unsurprisingly, perform the same function as they usually do, in that they offer a typical glance into the reality of the idealised forms of the ancient art. The texts, though frustratingly general, reiterate the desire for beauty in the physical form that is so clearly realised in the tangible shape of statuary and vase painting. For Romans, the visual ideal was as important as it was for the Greeks, not just in the form of copied artworks, but for the average person, scribbling messages in the streets of Pompeii.

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Pompeii and Rome

Romulus.Remus.Wolf On this, the 2768th birthday of Rome, it occurs to me there could not be a better time to take a look at the inscriptions in Pompeii that provide evidence of the connection this relatively small Campanian town had with the one and only urbs, the capital of the world. Though there are a number of graffiti that mention Rome specifically, usually as a place one has been, I am interested in those that mention an emperor. As with a goodly amount of the epigraphic evidence of Pompeii, there is a collection both of official and unofficial texts.

There are a series of inscriptions, as would be expected in any city under Roman rule, found on the bases of statues dedicated to various emperors and members of their families. Typically found a public area such as the Forum or the Triangular Forum, these include dedications to Augustus and his wife Livia (as Julia Augusta, a name she was granted in AD 14), Marcellus, nephew and one time heir of Augustus, Agrippina the Younger, wife of Claudius and mother to Nero, and Nero himself.

CIL X 931
Imp(eratori) Caesari [divi fil(io)] Augusto / [imperatori] XIII trib(unicia) p[ot(estate) X]V patri [patriae co(n)s(uli) XI.
‘To Imperator Caesar Augustus [son of the deified, hailed as victorious general] thirteen times, in his fifteenth year of tribunician power, father of his country, [consul eleven times].

CIL X 799 = ILS 122
Augustae Iulia[e] / Drusi f(iliae) / divi Augusti / d(ecreto) d(ecurionum).
‘To Augusta Julia, daughter of Drusus, (wife) of the deified Augustus, by decree of the decurions.’

CIL X 832 = ILS 898
M(arco) Claudio C(ai) f(ilio) Marcello / patrono.
‘To Marcus Claudius Marcellus, son of Gaius, patron.’

CIL X 933
Iuliae] Agrippinae / [Germ]an[ici C]aesaris f(iliae) / [Ti(beri) Cla]udii Caesaris Augusti [- – -].
To [Julia] Agrippina, daughter of Germanicus Caesar, (wife) of [Tiberius] Claudius Caesar Augustus…’

CIL X 932 = ILS 224
Ti(berio) Claudio / Ti(beri) Claudi Caesaris / Augusti Germanici / p(atris) p(atriae) f(ilio) Neroni / Caesari / d(ecreto) d(ecurionum).
‘To Tiberius Claudius Nero Caesar, son of Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, father of his country, by decree of the decurions.’

There are three additional inscriptions that refer to Caligula in his role as named patron of the colony. Two are identical, except that the first contains the erasure of the damnatio memoriae whereas the second still retains the disgraced emperor’s name. The third (CIL X 904) is also missing the name of Gaius Caesar.

CIL X 901 = ILS 6396
[- – – ]simus Messi Fausti / [- – – ]rcidus Vei Frontonis / A(ulus) Arellius Graecus / min(istri) Aug(usti) ex d(ecreto) d(ecurionum) iussu / [C(ai) Caesaris] M(arci) Vesoni Marcell(i) / IIvir(orum) i(ure) d(icundo) / M(arci) Lucreti Epidi Flacci / praefecti / L(uci) Albuci D(ecimi) Lucreti IIvir(orum) v(iis) a(edibus) s(acris) p(ublicis) p(rocurandis) / Paullo Fabio L(ucio) Vitellio / co(n)s(ulibus).

CIL X 902
Phr[onimus Messi] / [Fausti] / Placi[dus Vei Frontonis] / A(ulus) Are[llius Graecus] / min[istri Aug(usti) ex d(ecreto) d(ecurionum) iussu] / [M(arci) Vesoni Marcelli IIvir(i) i(ure) d(icundo)] / [M(arci) L]ucre[ti] Epidi Flac[ci praef(ecti) i(ure) d(icundo)] / C(ai) Caesaris / L(uci) Albuci Celsi D(ecimi) Lucreti Valentis / IIvir(orum) v(iis) a(edibus) s(acris) p(ublicis) p(rocurandis) / Paullo Fabio L(ucio) Vitellio / co(n)s(ulibus).

‘Phr[onimus slave of Messius Faustus], Placi[dus slave of Veius Fronto], Aulus Are[llius Graecus], attendants [of Augustus, by decree of the decurions, by command of Marcus Vesonius Marcellus, duovir with judicial power and of [Marcus L]ucretius Epidius Flac[cus, prefect with judicial power] of Gaius Caesar, and of Lucius Albucius Celsus and Decimus Lucretius Valens, duovirs in charge of the streets, sacred and public buildings, in the consulship of Paullus Fabius and Lucius Vitellius.’

The only surviving epigraphic evidence that illustrates direct intervention by the emperor in Pompeii come from the time of the Flavians. Vespasian, as part of an empire wide initiative to generate revenue by reclaiming public lands, sent a tribune by the name of Titus Suedius Clemens to Pompeii. The cippi he erected at the boundary of public land at each of the city gates have been recovered, and contain the following text:

CIL X 1018 = ILS 5942
Ex auctoritate / Imp(eratoris) Caesaris / Vespasiani Aug(usti) / loca publica a privatis / possessa T(itus) Suedius Clemens / tribunus causis cognitis et / mensuris factis rei / publicae Pompeianorum / restituit.
‘By the authority of Imperator Caesar Vespasian Augustus, Titus Suedius Clemens, tribune, made an inquiry into public lands appropriated by private individuals, carried out a survey, and restored them to the Pompeian state.’

What is interesting about Clemens is that once he has completed his duty on behalf of Vespasian, he then appears to get involved in local politics. His endorsement is contained by six dipiniti supporting the candidacy of Marcus Epidius Sabinus, who is running for the office of duovir with judicial power. The most laudatory of these texts appears below:

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.’

Whether or not Clemens was fully behind this man, or had his name usurped after he had left town, is impossible to determine. However, it does seem to indicate that the tribune was well thought of, or at the very least, that a (if somewhat tenuous) connection with the emperor was viewed as a leg-up in the local election.

If we turn to the non-official texts, the graffiti and dipinti that cover the walls of Pompeii, the honourifics, seemingly at least, continue. One survives from the reign of Augustus, but the majority (unexpectedly due to issues of preservation) date from the reign of Nero.

CIL IV 8277
Octavia Augusti [vale h]abias [pr]opit[- – – ] sa(lutem).
‘Octavia, of Augustus, good wishes and health to you.’

CIL IV 10049
F(eliciter) Pop(p)a[e(ae)] August(a)e feliciter.
Good fortune to Poppaea Augusta, good fortune.

There are a series of graffiti, found in numerous locations around the city, that proclaim support for the judgements of Nero and his wife Poppaea. As she is referred to as Augusta or Poppaea Augusta, these texts post date AD 63 when she was granted that title. With this date in mind, some scholars have taken these texts as demonstrations of a grateful population, pleased that Nero has lifted the ban on gladiatorial games instituted in AD 59 after the riot in the amphitheatre. This is viewed as an economic decision made in the aftermath of the AD 62 earthquake in order to help Pompeii recover from the damage.

CIL IV 1074
Iudiciis Augusti Augustae feliciter / nobis salvis felices sumus / perpetuo.
‘Good fortune to the judgements of Augustus and Augusta, whilst you are safe we are forever fortunate.’

CIL IV 3726 = ILS 234
Iudici(i)s Augusti p(atris) p(atriae) et Poppaeae Aug(ustae) feliciter.
Good fortune to the judgements of Augustus, father of his country, and of Poppaea Augusta.’

CIL IV 3525 = ILS 6444
Iudicis Aug(usti) felic(iter) Puteolos Antium Tegeano Pompeios hae sunt verae / coloniae.
Good fortune to the judgements of Augustus. Puteoli, Antium, Tegianum, Pompeii: these are true colonies.’

Dipinti advertising games given in honour of the emperor also survive. One from the Augustan reign, and another for Nero.

CIL IV 9969 = AE 1992: 270 = AE 2006: 289
Puteo[lani – – – ]V[- – – Id]us Dec(embres) / pugn(abunt) (etiam) Herculanei pro sal[ute Cae]sarum et Liviae Aug(ustae) vela erunt / Iole sal(ve).
‘At Puteoli on the eighth of December, boxers, also at Herculaneum for the prosperity of Caesar and Livia Augusta. There will be awnings. Iole greets you.’

CIL IV 7989a = 7989c
Pro salute / Neronis Claudi Caesaris Aug(usti) Germanici Pompeis Ti(beri) Claudi Veri venatio / athletae et sparsiones erint V IIII K(alendas) Mart(ias) CCCLXXIII // Claudio Vero felic(iter).
‘For the well-being of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, at Pompeii, there will be a hunt, athletics, and sprinklings by Tiberius Claudius Verus on 25–26 February. Good fortune to Claudius Verus.’

There are two additional graffiti concerning Nero and Poppaea that may show the imperial couple in a less favourable light. The texts suggest that offerings were made by both Poppaea and Nero to Venus. Lest we forget, Venus was not only an important deity in the Roman pantheon, but was also the patron goddess of Pompeii.

AE 1977: 217 = AE 1985: 283 = AE 2001: 801 = AE 2004: 404
Munera Poppaea misit Veneri sanctissimae berullum helencumque unio mixtus erat.
Poppaea sent as gifts to most holy Venus a beryl, an ear-drop pearl, and a large single pearl.’

AE 1977: 218 = AE 1985: 284 = AE 2001: 801 = AE 2004: 404
Caesar ut ad Venerem ven<e> sanctissimam ut tui te vexere pedes / caelestes Auguste millia milliorum(!) ponderis auri fuit.
‘When Caesar came to most holy Venus and when your heavenly feet brought you there, Augustus, there was a countless weight of gold.’

Whilst it is entirely possible that these inscriptions could be taken at face value, both their form and their location seem somewhat suspect. These are not lapidary texts on votives found in the precinct of the Temple of Venus or even the Forum, but words scratched into the wall of the House of Iulius Polybius (IX.xiii.1–3). This seems at odds with the manner in which such Imperial gifts would expect to be recorded, particularly if dedicated to the patron goddess of a city. I wonder, if instead, these texts should be viewed as a commentary on the excessive luxuria for which Nero’s court was renown, and not as praise for gifts to the goddess. Perhaps this could be taken as a reflection of a sense of neglect residents of Pompeii may have felt in the years after the earthquake, when the only assistance granted by Rome may have been the resumption of games, a somewhat paltry attempt at economic recovery considering the level of damage.

Regardless, what is apparent from the epigraphic evidence that remains is probably what should be expected of Rome and a subject city such as Pompeii: official honours to the Imperial households in the Forum and other public spaces, and anonymous scratchings that could show dissent from rule, if only in the most subtle of fashions.

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