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The study of ancient inscriptions can be frustrating.
Here are two good examples.


[image ALT: A fragmentary Roman inscription in the church of S. Claudio in Spello, Umbria (central Italy).]

Spello, church of S. Claudio.

The attractive monumental inscription above is actually rather straightforward: someone did something for Spello with his own money. Who did what is all we're missing:

Transcribed:
1
2
3
. . .IVS
COLONIAE HISPELLI . . .
PECVNIA SVA . . .
Translated:
1
3
2
. . .ius . . .
at his own expense, [adorned, restored, placed something in, etc.]
the [amphitheatre, baths, etc.] of Colonia Hispellum

Assuming this inscription has not moved too far from its ancient location (a big if); and dating it 1c A.D. from the style of the lettering, so that the nearby amphitheatre was not yet in need of restoration (unlike for example the 5c inscriptions we find on entering the Colosseum in Rome); my gut — a not altogether worthless commodity in epigraphy — gives this incautious reading:

1
2
3
. . .IVS
COLONIAE HISPELLI AMPHITHEATRVM
PECVNIA SVA EXORNAVIT
1
3
2
. . .ius, son of . . ., of the Lemonia tribe
at his own expense, beautified
the amphitheatre of Colonia Hispellum.


[image ALT: A stone slab, about 70 cm tall, with a rounded top and a roughly rectangular hole about 10 cm wide and 7 cm high, with a few carved letters. It is a Roman inscription in the church of S. Claudio in Spello, Umbria (central Italy). The inscription is discussed on this webpage.]
The item on the right is much more problematic. It's tempting to think it was a milestone, but it almost certainly isn't: see a real milestone which looks nothing like this; and conversely a stone which does look very much like this, but is clearly not a milestone.

The only thing that can be clearly made out is RIV. At the end of a word, it could be anything: ‑rium is a common ending. Here, though, it looks like a beginning, and is therefore either a proper noun, or something like rivum, a channel or stream. Boundary stone?

On the other hand, maybe the close-up shows PRIM and I just might have my milestone after all: the first one (primum) out from Spello.

I have no idea. Do you?

Such are the meager vestiges of the Roman presence to be found in this church — or are they? 
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Page updated: 11 Apr 02