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Bill Thayer

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8 Hours


[image ALT: A small horizontal rectangular stone with a Roman inscription, which is transcribed, translated, and commented on this page.]
Transcribed and expanded:
1



5
DIS MANIBus
VNGONIAE · HYGIAE
M
arcus · IVLIVS · SYNETVS · FECIT
CONIVGI · SVAE · KARISSIMAE · ET
PIISSIMAE · BENE · MERENTI · DE · SE
QVICVM VIXIT SINE QVAERELLA
ANNIS IIII MENSIB
us VIII DIEBus XXIII
H
oris VIII HIC SITA EST
Translated:
To the Shades
of Ungonia Hygia
Marcus Julius Synetus made (this):
to my dearest wife and
my most devoted, who deserved it well;
with whom I lived without a quarrel
4 years, 8 months, 23 days,
8 hours. She is placed here.

late 2c A.D.
courtyard of S. Silvestro, Rome
318 × 144 mm (the pen measures exactly 14 cm)

In addition to the most touching precision with which Marcus remembers the moment of his wedding, what a lot of little things there are to notice here!

An epitaph that almost certainly marked ashes in a loculus rather than a body in a tomb (sita est); the neat rules traced out in the stone only to be totally ignored by the person who cut the lines of the inscription; and even the hypercorrection of inserting that A in querel(l)a, which we've seen before and which tips us off to how the word quae was really pronounced: I can just hear the schoolteacher, "Now Lucius, remember, we may say que but we ought to be saying quae, so make sure you write it with an a!" So twenty years later Lucius the stonecutter, whose education wasn't really the best, remembers this and goes off and writes everything with that a, of course. (For an example of que without the a, see this pal<a>eochristian inscription.)

Even a second look at those eight hours suggests a devotion to astrology in the timing of important events, a branch of the art which, under the name of "horary astrology", flourished in the waning years of Rome just as much as it does in modern India.


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Page updated: 30 Sep 01