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p435 Puticuli

Article on p435 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.


Puticuli: the contemptuous name given to the graves into which the bodies of slaves and paupers were thrown promiscuously and putrefied (Varro, LL V.25: extra oppida a puteis puticuli quod ibi in puteis obruebantur homines, nisi potius, ut Aelius scribit, puticulae quod putescebant ibi cadavera proiecta, qui locus publicus ultra Esquilias; Fest. 216: puticuli sunt appellati quod vetustissimum genus sepulturae in puteis fuerit et dicti puticuli quia ibi cadavera putescerent), and to the district where they were situated (Comm. Cruq. Hor. Sat. I.8.10: a puteis fossis ad sepelienda cadavera pauperum locus dictus est puticuli. hic etiam erant publicae ustrinae). This lay outside the agger of Servius and presumably near the porta Esquilina, where public executions also took place (Tac. Ann. II.32; Suet. Claud. 25), and is described by Horace as occupying a rectangle 1000 feet long and 300 feet wide (Sat. I.8.8‑13), but these dimensions can hardly be intended as exact. This cemetery belonged to the latter part of the republic, and having become a nuisance, was abated by Maecenas, who made it a part of his horti (Hor. loc. cit. 14‑16). See Campus Esquilinus.

In the block bounded by the Vie Napoleone III, Rattazzi, Carlo Alberto, and the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, an area about 60 metres square was excavated some fifty years ago (BC 1874, 42‑53; 1875, 41 ff.), within which were found many rectangular pits, from 4 to 5 metres long, arranged in rows running north and south. These pits were lined with cappellaccio (LR 33), and were full of bones, ashes and organic matter, and have usually been identified as the puticuli of Horace; but this has been disputed by Pinza (BC 1912, 65, 82), who insists that they did not belong to slaves and members of the proletariate, but to citizens of some distinction (HJ 268‑270; Gilb. III.310‑311; Lanciani, Anc. Rome 64‑65; LR 411‑412).


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Page updated: 8 Jan 09