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.


In the Eye of the Beholder

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.

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.

By Any Other Name: Bodicacia’s Tombstone


Wednesday saw the interwebs all agog with the live raising of a Roman tombstone in southern Britain near Cirencester, complete with an inscription seen for the first time in nearly eighteen hundred years. Those outside the world of Classical archaeology might not have seen this as a very big deal – new inscriptions, and for that matter, new burial grounds, are discovered all the time. Indeed, this is part of a larger excavation of a Roman cemetery which has thus far yielded the remains of fifty-five graves. What is fantastic about this is the fact that we have both a tombstone and corporal remains in situ: matching an actual skeleton to a named individual is rare, especially for Roman Britain, and the only example to come out of this burial site. The name itself, recorded on the tombstone in Latin, is sure to spark even further interest and speculation. The inscription reads:

I(unoni) / D(is) M(anibus) / Bodicacia / coniunx / vixit anno / s XXVII.
‘To the genius of the shades of the departed, Bodicacia, wife, lived twenty seven years.’

The dedication to Iuno is hardly unusual, and in fact appears in the funerary record of Pompeii. The inclusion of the Manes is a bit difficult to date precisely, but this far from Italy probably indicates a date in the 2nd century AD. Whist there is still some speculation as to whether this should be translated as a single name, or split to read Cacia, wife of Bodus, as I am not a linguist, this is a debate with which I don’t feel qualified to engage. What is interesting is that a number of the news stories have also offered the alternative of Bodica, and at least one I came across gave a full history of the infamous Boudica, clearly linking this burial to the Celtic rebel who fought Rome.

Although the burial of this warrior queen has never been located, and likely never will, there has been much desire to find it, and speculation of location ranges from the barrow of Parliament Hill to under a platform at King’s Cross to a McDonald’s in Birmingham (the latter no doubt inspired by the location of Richard III in a car park in Leicester). It seems very clear to me that this particular burial cannot be *that* Boudica. Not only is it miles away from both her area of origin (East Anglia) or the final battle between the Iceni and the Roman legions (the Midlands), but it is in Latin, follows Roman conventions for a funerary epitaph including a dedication to the Roman gods of the dead, and if the Twitter speculation is correct, bears Roman religious iconography in the form of the god Oceanus. Let’s face it: there is no way a woman synonymous with revolt would have been buried following the practices of those she saw as her oppressors.

But this leads me to a far more interesting question: was the name Boudica (or one of its many variants) a popular one? With this tombstone we potentially have the second known person to bear this name in the British Isles. Are there more? A quick search of the Epigraphik Databank Clauss / Slaby reveals that there are a number of occurrences of this name, with the initial root of Boudic-, Bodic-, and Boudig-. Whilst none of them are found in Britain, they do originate in other provinces with some Celtic antecedents, namely Lusitania and Germania Superior. There are three funerary inscriptions from Civitas Igaeditanorum (modern Idanha-a-Velha in Portugal), all of which demonstrate a combination of Roman and Celtic names.

CIL II 455 = ERBeira 229 = AE (1988) 697
Quintus Modesti f(ilius) a(nnorum) XXV / Placida Modesti f(ilia) a(nnorum) XIII / Boudica Flacci f(ilia) Modestus / Celtiatis f(ilius) liberis uxori sibi feci[t].

ERBeira 44
Bassus Maturo/vi et Boudica Sem/proni sibi et Bassi/no filio an(norum) XXX.

ERBeira 33 = AE (1967) 170
[L]ovio Caenonis f(ilio) patri / Boudicae Tongi f(iliae) matri / Cilio Tapaesi f(ilio) socro Cileae / Cili f(iliae) uxori Caeno Lovi f(ilio).

The texts from the province of Germania are also funerary in nature. One is from Bingium (modern Bingen am Rhein), a name thought to be Celtic in origin in and of itself, and the second is found in Ingelheim am Rhein:

CIL XIII 7519  
D(is) M(anibus) / Focuroni(a)e Pat/t(a)e fili(a)e et Firmi/nio [—]esinto ge/nero s[u]o Lutoria / Bodic(ca?) mater / de suo [vi]va pos(u)it.

Finke 224
D(is) M(anibus) / Martialio / Miccioni / et Ibliomari(a)e / Bodic(a)e patribu(s) / Miccionia / Ammisia / filia / f(aciendum) c(uravit).

What I find intriguing, however, is an inscription found on an altar in Bordeaux. This small monument appears to have been erected by a man as part of a vow regarding his passage from York (where the stone was sourced) to Gaul in AD 237:

ILTG 141 = AE (1922) 116
Deae Tutel(a)e Boudig(ae) / M(arcus) Aur(elius) Lunaris IIIIII/vir Aug(ustalis) col(oniarum) Ebor(aci) et / Lind(i) prov(inciae) Brit(anniae) inf(erioris) / aram quam vover(at) / ab Eboraci evect(us) / v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito) / Perpetuo et Corne(liano).
‘In honour of the goddess Tutela Boudiga, Marcus Aurelius Lunaris, sevir Augustalis of the colonies of Eboracum and Lindum, in the province of Britainnia Inferior, set up the altar he vowed on starting from Eboracum.  Willingly and rightly he fulfilled his vow, in the consulship of Perpetuus and Cornelianus’.

A more detailed discussion of the altar can be found here, but what I find compelling about this (and of course, the other texts) is that the name of Boudica, so often associated with an Iceni queen, with revolt, and re-appropriated during the reign of Victoria to symbolise the might of the British Empire, has a place in Roman history far beyond one individual. The name itself, in all its versions, divine or otherwise, was an example of the creation of a Romano-Celtic culture that held a place of some significance in the provinces.

Alma Tadema’s Imagined Connections


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ianuarius the First

Today marks the first day not only of the new year, but also of a new month. January, thought to be named for the Roman god Ianus (or more commonly in English, Janus), was the god of transitions, beginnings and endings, and thus was worshiped at the start or end of new years, new months, wars, harvests, marriages, and other times when a change occurred. He was depicted with two faces, one facing towards the past, and one the future.

janus_viennaRepublican coin depicting Ianus, c. 225-212 BC
(Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien)

Although there is some confusion about how exactly he was worshiped and how this evolved over time, Ianus was an important deity in the Roman pantheon. Whilst he had his own temple in Rome (the doors of which were closed during times of peace and open during war), there is little evidence for his worship in Pompeii. However, the name itself, Ianuarius (and of course, the feminine version Ianuaria), is found in abundance in both lapidary and non-lapidary inscriptions.  As per usual, many of the graffiti contain nothing more than a single name, so it is impossible to glean much information about either the status of the individual or the family he or she belongs to. But a number of the more formal texts, a few examples of which are contained herein, are more telling.

CIL X 1063 = ILS 5724
Thermae / M(arci) Crassi Frugi / aqua marina et baln(ea) / aqua dulci Ianuarius l(ibertus).
Baths of Marcus Crassus Frugus with seawater and baths with freshwater. Ianuarius, freedman.

These private baths have never been positively identified archaeologically, but the information in the re-used inscription found elsewhere in the city does indicate the baths were managed by the owner’s freedman, and due to the use of seawater, has been posited to be close to the coastline.

CIL X 1027  = ILS 6379
N(umerio) Istacidio Heleno / pag(ano) pag(i) Aug(usti) / N(umerio) Istacidio Ianuario / Mesoniae Satullae. In agro / pedes XV in fronte <p>edes XV.
To Numerius Istacidius Helenus, member of the pagus Augustus, to Numerius Istacidius Ianuarius, to Mesonia Satulla. Depth fifteen feet, fifteen feet in front.

This funerary epitaph, located on a relatively modest tomb outside of the Porta di Ercolano (21S), is believed to have belonged to a group of freedmen of the Istacidii family, who had their own, considerably more elaborate, tomb closer to the city gate (4AS). Although none of the individuals named here, including our eponymous Ianuarius, provide filiation, the membership in the pagus Augustus is one that is exclusively found for other former slaves in Pompeii.

Near another tomb (39AN), on the opposite side of the road, a columella was discovered which bore the following inscription:

CIL X 1022
Lucceia Ianuaria.
Lucceia Ianuaria.

 This tomb is typically identified as belonging to a man named Lucius Ceius Labeoni. If we follow Roman naming conventions for women, the name should be a feminised version of Ceius. What we have instead, in addition to the name Ianuaria, seems a conjunction of the names Lucius and Ceius. This in itself is rather odd, and combined with Ianuaria, may suggest she too is a freedwoman.

In the necropolis at the Porta di Nocera, a very young slave boy is found, both in the titular epitaph of the tomb of Lucius Barbidius Communis (15ES) and on a columella within:

D’Ambrosio and De Caro 1983: 15ES
L(ucius) Barbidius L(uci) l(iberti) / Communis mag(ister) / Pag(i) Aug(usti) Fel(icis) Suburb(ani), sibi et / Pithiae P(ubli) l(ibertae) Rufillae uxori, / Vitali et Ianuario l(iberis).
Lucius Barbidius Communis, freedman of Lucius, magistrate of the pagus Augustus Felix Suburbanus, [made this] for himself and Pithia Rufilla, freedwoman of Publius, his wife, [as well as] Vitalius and Ianuarius, children.

 D’Ambrosio and De Caro 1983: 15ES, n. 11
Ianuarius / v(ixit) a(nnis) II.
Ianuarius lived two years.

There is some disagreement amongst scholars as to whether or not the ‘l’ in the last line of the initial text should be expand as I have it here as liberis or liberti, meaning freedman. However, as both these are in fact children (Vitalius died at the age of three), and have only a single name, it is perfectly clear that they were still in fact slaves at the time of their deaths. There is one further columella of a slave, found some distance from the city, in the Fondo Santilli area.

NSA 1916: 303
Ianuarius / vix(it) an(nos) XXXV.
Ianuarius lived thirty five years.

 Again, we have a single name, indicating the enslaved status of the deceased. There is one final example, from a columella found in the same burial area, which seemingly negates the idea that this is a name used by those of servile origins.

ILS 7663 = AE 1894: 147
Laturnia / Ianuaria Calcaria / vix(it) ann(os) XXXXV.
Laturnia Ianuaria Calcaria lived forty five years.

Whilst it is not unheard of for a woman to have three names, it is a bit unusual in the time from which these burials seem to date and in Pompeii as a whole. One clue may come in the description of the lettering on this columella, which is described as ‘careless’. As there is no evidence for Ianuarius as a gens, it would appear that this text either contains a mistake, or this woman, likely a freedwoman, was given two names when she was a slave.

What I find interesting is that, save the one somewhat suspect example, those who have this name are either slaves or of servile origin, and whilst it certainly is not unusual to find a specific name that is associated with a particular group, I am curious as to what it was exactly about the god Ianus that was attractive as a slave name. It has been claimed that the name Ianuarius was simply given to children born in the first month of the year (in which case, with a birthday in the next few weeks, I am much relieved my parents didn’t adopt that convention), but it would seem odd that only slaves are born that month. What I am wondering, though it is unlikely to be provable, is if some slaves were born with their fate already decided. Was a name derived from the god of transitions and new beginnings assigned to those who their owner one day intended to free?

This may assume far more forethought regarding manumission and slavery than the Romans should be credited with, but it is an idea I find quite attractive at the start of a new year, facing my own transitions, and setting off on a different path. It is sentimental, I admit, but somehow reassuring to think that as you moved through life, you knew, simply from having the name Ianuarius, that someday, you would be given the chance to start anew.

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.