Monday, July 18, 2011

Someone get an eraser!

In the last post, we saw that VF is the abbreviation for Vivus Fecit, which means the tombstone was commissioned while the 'user' was still alive. This meant you could have total control over how your family and friends would remember you but it could also cause some problems.

On this tombstone from the Museo Archeologico in Bergamo we see one of the problems of composing your epitaph before you're dead. When he was alive, he had been a sexvir (one of 6 men, like a double triumvirate) and a priest of the cult of the emperor Augustus. BUT THEN, after he had finished his tombstone, he became a flamen, another type of priest. That last piece of information had to be crammed into his already completed tombstone.

Note that sexvir is written with the Roman numeral 6 (IIIIII) and the noun VIR.

L(ucius) BLANDIVS C(aius) F(ilius)
VOT(uria tribu)
VALERIAE L(ucius) F(ilia)

Lucius Blandius, son of Gaius, from the Voturia tribe, a sevir, priest of Augustus and flamen, made this while alive for himself and for this wife, Valeria Rustica, daughter of Lucius.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'm not dead yet!

The last post had a tombstone with the abbreviation TFI, which stands for Testamento Fieri Iussit (He ordered it to be made in his will). This is what was put on tombstones if the deceased had not arranged for a tombstone to be made while he was alive, which was common practice for the Romans. If he had, the abbreviation VF would be on the tomb, for Vivus Fecit (He, while alive, made it), as in the following inscription from a museum in Brescia, found in Tremosine in 1754.

V(ivus) f(ecit) | Triumus | Celeris f(ilius) | sibi et | Duci|avae Turi f(iliae) | uxs(ori)

Triumus, son of Celer, while he was still alive made this tombstone for himself and for his wife Duciava, daughter of Turus.

All the names on this tombstone (besides Celer) point to indigenous, non-Roman citizens. Freed slaves would normally take three Roman names (praenomen, nomen, and cognomen), often influenced by the name of their former master. It's not unusual that members of the same nuclear family would have very different names, depending on their legal status.

This inscription included a CIL listing (CIL V 4881). The Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (Body of Latin Inscriptions) is a catalog of all the Classical Latin inscriptions known. The volumes are divided by date (I is the oldest inscriptions), by geography (II-XIV), or by special topics (XV-XVII). The CIL is headquartered at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences in Germany and has sister Corpora of Greek and Etruscan inscriptions.

Friday, June 24, 2011

VIP? How about an IOU?

Lol! OMG! jk! The Romans would have adored these internet abbreviations; as stone-cutting was a difficult, laborious task, Romans had standardized abbreviations used liberally in inscriptions. But when there are more abbreviations than actual Latin, it becomes difficult for the novice reader to make heads or tails of it. This inscription from Museo Civico Archeologico in Milan reads:

Testamento Fieri Iussit
which means "He ordered it to be made in his testament (will)."

Easier to say in Latin, no? The column looking things are fasces, symbols of power in ancient Rome and where we get the word fascism. In the middle is a seat with a frieze of weapons, a pillow and a footstool. All these show that this stele (large stone slab) commemorates an important magistrate or politician, but his identity is lost to time because of missing words (called a lacuna).