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Bill Thayer

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An Illusion of Control

(CIL VI.21096)


[image ALT: A Roman inscription on stone, occupying nine lines of somewhat crude lettering, enclosed in a square border. The text of the inscription is transcribed and translated on this page.]
Transcribed and expanded:
1



5
Dis ❦ Manibus · Aulus · LARCIVS
ADIVTOR · FECIT
MONVMENTVM
SIBI · ET · SVIS · LIBE
RTIS · LIBERTABVS ·
QVE · POSTERISQVE
EORVM · HOC · M
onumentum
VETO · VENIRI · VETO
DONARI
 ❦
Translated:

To the Shades of the Dead. Aulus Larcius,
adiutor, made (this)
monument
for himself and for his fre
edmen and freedwomen
and their descendants.
I forbid that this monument
be sold; I forbid it
be given away.

imperial period
porch of S. Maria in Trastevere, Rome

As not uncommonly even in our own world, the deceased tried to make sure what he wanted would be done. He erected his own stone while he was alive, and he forbade its sale or disposal by gift: veto, veto.

In fact, this is merely an emphatic and personal version of a formula often seen on Roman tombstones: hoc monumentum heredes non sequitur — "This monument does not go to the heirs." Good stone after all is a valuable commodity.

The key to this rather sad inscription may lie in the word adiutor: the word (literally, a helper) may mean many things, and here we have no context; but Aulus was some kind of secretary, administrative or military aide, bailiff, temple assistant, or possibly even a supporting actor. Always following someone else's orders, here at last he can dispose and forbid: veto, veto.

The point is made by way of contrast, by a very different stone just a few feet away.


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Page updated: 23 Apr 14