[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]


[image ALT: A small Roman inscription.]
restored and expanded:


Dis · Manibus
. . . . . .O · CALPVRNio
. . . . .O FILIVS EPIC
fiLIO · DVLCis


To the Shades of the Dead
in memory of . . . Calpurnius
. . .: his son Epictetus
and Calpurnia
whose dearest son
(he was).

This little inscription in the narthex of the church of S. Giovanni in Velabro in Rome is a simple one: it's the tombstone of a man probably 35 to 55 years old. (His son dedicates it on his own — unlike the epitaph of Publius Caprilius in Hispellum there is no guardian — so his son must have the toga virilis and be at least 15; but his mother is still living.)

The puzzle here is to figure out the names, and I've met with limited success. I'm not an epigrapher, just an amateur; but the process below involves several typical facets of epigraphical identification, and may thus be of interest.

[image ALT: A small Roman inscription.]
	In a first stage, it looked fairly straightforward. We're missing the D of the opening Dis Manibus; put it somewhere on the left. The most common praenomen with Calpurnius is Lucius, pop that in (just for size: there's no shortage of other names it could be), plus the missing I in Calpurnio. The last three lines take care of themselves, all we're missing is the son's name. Epictetus is by far the most common Roman man's name beginning with EPIC, but it won't fit; Epicadus is the next commonest.

Bingo: plausible inscription.

But wait a second. Nicely cut inscription tries real hard to be symmetrical — spacing out the last line for example; and here I've gone and messed it up with an ugly third line, indented and starting with -IO; surely something's missing.

Resist the temptation to lengthen the name of our deceased by calling him Calpurniano (his mother wouldn't be Calpurnia); hunt around for a short cognomen, tentatively restore the third line as IO PIO FILIVS EPIC. I don't like that at all: for one thing, Pius was a rather rare cognomen; and realize that the problem is solved if I center the inscription a bit better:

[image ALT: A small Roman inscription.]
	So finally, I may not know the name of the deceased, but at least his stone has the tria nomina, and the cognomen is long enough for there to be a wide choice. Now there is also room enough on the third and fourth lines for his son to have the much more common name of Epictetus, although there's no guarantee of it.

Date: early imperial, probably no later than A.D. 150; the elegant open shape of the P's is a dead giveaway.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 28 Mar 05