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Life in a Provincial Roman City
(2c A.D.: CIL XI.5939 ILS 5678)


[image ALT: A roughly square stone with 15 lines of text carved on it in Roman capital letters; it is eroded around the edges, especially the top, which has a somewhat curved shape as a result. It is set into a plastered wall. It is a Roman inscription in the Palazzo del Podestà in Città di Castello, Umbria (central Italy); transcribed, translated, and commented in this webpage.]
Unprepossessing photo.

This is one of several dozen Roman inscriptions set into the walls of the Sala del Consiglio of the Palazzo Comunale (in plain English, the council room of the town hall).

The inscription is of local interest. Tifernum Tiberinum was the Roman name of what is now Città di Castello, in modern Umbria. In Roman times, however, it was in Etruria: Pliny the Younger, who had a villa here, says it's "in Tuscos" (Letters, IV.i.2); and it is only 30 km E of Arezzo (Arretium), which Strabo (5.2.9 C226) says is the farthest inland of the Etruscan cities.

Indeed the name Arruns is of Etruscan origin, and the Arruntia family seems to have been local: see for example this attractive little funerary altar also in the Sala del Consiglio.

This page was prompted by a discussion on Latin‑L about the word deinde which appears here in the redundant phrase postea deinde in fact not quite so otiosely pleonastic as all that, I think: see below.

(For a clear detail of that part of the inscription, let your cursor travel over the image above until a URL appears; or click here: magnified view will open in a separate window.)

Transcription
(ligature in color):
[ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ]
[SI]BI ET FIL SVO NE
[PO]TI EX HS L̅X̅ N̅ PONI IVSSIT
ET OB DEDICATIONE EARVM
DEC 𐆖V VI VIR 𐆖III PLEB 𐆖II
 
DARI IVSSIT ITEM RELIQVI
A[E]D BALINEI FABRICA REI P
TIF TIB HS CL N QVAE EX SEN
TENTIA AEMILI FRONTONIS
CL VIR POSTEA DEINDE ARRI
ANTONINI CL VIR REI P TIF TIB
AB CIPELLIS PROFVTVRO ET PI
CENTINO HER ET AB ARRVNTIA
AMPLIANA HER ARRVNTI GRANIA
NI NVMERATA SVNT HER POSVER
L D D D
Inexpert and still temporary expansion:

[ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ]
sibi et filio suo ne-
-poti ex HS LX nummum poni iussit
et ob dedicationem earum
decurionibus denarios V, seviris denarios III, plebis denarios II
dari iussit. Item, reliquit
aedis balinei fabricam reipublicae
Tiferni Tiberini HS CL nummum quae ex sen-
tentia Aemili Frontonis
clarissimi viri, postea deinde Arri
Antonini clarissimi viri reipublicae Tiferni Tiberini.
ab Cipellis Profuturo et Pi-
centino heredibus et (ab Arruntia
Ampliana) herede Arrunti Grania-
ni numerata sunt. Heredes posuerunt.
Locus datus decreto decurionum.
Crowning translation:

. . . (Someone whose name has been lost in a first line) . . .
for himself and his son and his grandson,
ordered [altars?] placed for 60,000 sesterces
and on the occasion of their consecration ordered
that 15,000 be given to the decurions, 13,000 to the seviri and 12,000 to the people;
also, he left a building for housing the baths
to the commonwealth of
Tifernum Tiberinum for 150,000 sesterces: which by an
official decision of his honor Aemilius Fronto
and then after that of his honor Arrius
Antoninus of the commonwealth of Tifernum Tiberinum,
was paid out to Profuturus and Centinus Cipellus, heirs, and (thru Arruntia
Ampliana) the heir Arruns Granianus.
The heirs set up [this inscription].
The place for it was given by a decree of the decurions.
 

Story (or possibly, outright affabulation or novel)
extracted from all this by yours truly:

A man died, whose name has not come down to us, but who had a fair amount of money. In his will he ordered the payment of sixty thousand sesterces for setting up something, probably altars since the (presumably Augustales) seviri are involved; forty thousand more as a public bequest.

The decedent also bequeathed a hundred and fifty thousand more for the baths of Tifernum — I think fabrica suggests an addition or repair work rather than new baths altogether — but this was just too much to swallow for the residuary legatees, so they sought legal relief.

Aemilius Fronto ruled in their favor, but there may have been an appeal from the city, since the decision had to be reaffirmed ("postea deinde") by Arrius Antoninus. The 150,000 sesterces were finally paid out to Centinus and his nephew Arruns Granianus.

In the best tradition of Roman public posturing, and also as an indelible record of their rights as confirmed by two judges, they immediately set up this inscription, being quite understandably very pleased to do so.

So if I've got this more or less right, it conjures up a less than flattering picture of life in a small provincial center in the 2c (I'm guessing the date from the name Antoninus). Among the morals of this Roman story:

  • I may not have quite enough money to donate something big to the city, but I can make sure it's visible, even if I have to leave my son and grandson out in the cold by this show of public benevolence.

  • We've had a handsome chunk of inheritance but are greedy for every extra penny even if we have to break our benefactor's will and deprive our fellow citizens of their due.

  • You can't attack religion, especially if the decurions get a cut, but anything else is fair game: maybe that's why Dad left part of his money for altars.

  • Two judges can be bought for a small percentage of 150,000 sesterces, plus a line in the credits.

  • If you succeed at something, rub people's noses in it.

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Page updated: 24 Aug 12