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Practical Public Beneficence
CIL XI.5942


[image ALT: A thin horizontal rectangular marble plaque about 1 m long by 50 cm high, inscribed with seven centered lines of beautifully cut monumental capitals. There is a V‑shaped nick to the right of center, extending down thru two lines; the inscription is affixed to a wall by four metal brackets. It is an ancient Roman inscription in Città di Castello, Umbria (central Italy), the text of which is transcribed, translated and commented on this webpage.]

The Town Hall of Città di Castello (in antiquity, Tifernum Tiberinum) preserves several dozen Roman inscriptions: this is one of the most attractive.

From the style of the monumental capitals, somewhat influenced by manuscript lettering (note in particular the shading and the S's), late 1c A.D.?

Transcription:
Expansion:
1



5
L · VENNIVS · SABINVS · CVM
EFFICACE · FIL · FONTEM · ET
CONCEPTVM · AQVAE · SVIS
TERMINIS · VSQ · ADKAPVT
FORMAE · PVBLICAE
TIFERNATIBVS · TIBERINIS
D · D
1



5
Lucius Vennius Sabinus, cum
Efficace filio, fontem et
conceptum aquae, suis
terminis usque ad kaput,
formae publicae
Tifernatibus Tiberinis
dono dedit.
Translation:
1
2
6‑7
3
4
5
Lucius Vennius Sabinus, with
his son Efficax,
gave as a gift to the people of Tifernum Tiberinum
(this) fountain and the (entire) water collection system,
from their property line up to the intake,
for the embellishment of the community.

My translation feels shaky. I'm wondering whether fons might not be the actual spring: in which case they are not giving a fountain, but the rights to water on their property, conveying it only to the property line, from which point presumably the local government paid for the remaining main into town.

At any rate, this inscription is a typical witness to the common, almost obligatory practice of euergetism among wealthy Romans. Under that erudite Greek word, meaning no more than "good works" (ευ, good + εργ-, work), lies one of the realities of a successful public career in ancient times: if you did well, you paid some of it back to your community.

The better sort of man, or sometimes the man who hoped this would help his children, did it while he was still alive: in this inscription, you noticed that Lucius associates his son Efficax with his gift.

Giving a large amount of money to the public commonwealth after you were dead was both easier to do and, in view of human nature, less certain in its effects. For an example of what could go wrong, see this inscription, also, as it happens, at Tifernum.

    A few similar cases, involving somewhat more money though, are summarized on this page of the Internet Ancient History Sourcebook.


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Page updated: 18 Mar 07