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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces an article in
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 12, No. 1 (Jan.‑Mar. 1908), pp39‑46.

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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 p39  Unpublished Latin Inscriptions


Fragment of a large monumental slab of marble found about five years ago not far from Palestrina (Praeneste). Height, 0.53 m; greatest width, 0.33 m; thickness, 0.04 m; height of letters, 0.05 m.

[An ancient Roman inscription transcribed in the accompanying text.]

eniae · s
villivs · p
ıag · nava
/oto · svs
l · m
d · d · d

Interpret: Deae · Fortunae Primigeniae · sacrum |. . . uillius · P. . . . . . . | mag(ister) · naua(lium) ex· uoto · suscepto · | L(ibens) · M(erito) | D · D · D.

We have here a new dedication to the well-known Fortuna Primigenia of Praeneste. The letters are excellent capitals of the first century A.D., or early second at the latest. The title magister naualium, "master of the shipyards," is interesting. Certainly such a functionary was never employed in the inland city of Praeneste. More likely, having been saved from some misfortune or succeeded in some hazardous enterprise, he made a pilgrimage to Praeneste to pay his vow to the potent goddess there worshipped. The name is uncertain, Auillius, Suillius, or the like. I have been told, on what authority I do not know, that other fragments of the same inscription have come to light. The stone here published has been for a number of years in my garden at Rome. I have recently presented it to the American School of Classical Studies.

 p40  2.

[A large ancient Roman clay amphora bearing an inscription transcribed in the accompanying text.]

This curious epigraphic monument (Fig. 1) is said to have been found in 1905 outside of the Porta di S. Lorenzo not far from the Campo Verano. As it is unique of its kind, so far as I know, it merits a detailed description. We seem to have here the primitive domus aeterna of certain slaves together with a civis,  p41 who must have been of the class of Horace's "Pantolabi scurrae Nomentanique nepotis." These poor folk had improvised a novel resting-place for their bones and those of their friends. They selected a large amphora of the kind commonly used for storing and transporting wines, oils, etc. This they carefully sawed in two; the upper half they discarded, but the lower half, turned upside down and set in the ground, or in a niche in the tomb, became an admirable ash-urn. A rectangular perforation in the shoulder served to insert the ashes of the deceased. On the flank of the jar, the following inscription in well-made letters was incised with a pointed instrument:

[An ancient Roman inscription transcribed in the accompanying text.]

q · ivnivs
blasivs · ser
erego · hermero

Professor Ettore Pais, who examined the jar in my garden in Rome, agrees with me that the letters are of the first century A.D. The inscription itself presents several points of interest and of difficult interpretation. The first line gives us the name of a freeman. The writer had cut Q · Ivlivs, and then, noticing his mistake, changed it to Q · Ivnivs. The second and third lines record Blasius, the household slave. Blasius, a known slave name, has become, through St. Blasius, a common Christian name in Italy under the form Biagio. The misspelling cvbvcilarivs, if it is not a mere accidental metathesis litterarum, is an interesting bit of evidence for the hard pronunciation of c before i by the common people of Rome in the first century. The next name, or word, [.]erego, I am unable to explain; I had tried to see et ego, supposing Hermeros to have been the writer and improviser of the tomb, but the r is clear. Lastly, Hermeros is designated as compopilarivs, and this is the crux of the inscription, a new word unknown to Latin lexicons. It is evidently a popular formation, and the termination ‑arivs places it at once in the category of words denoting occupations.​1 The prefix con‑, too, is frequent in  p42 popular words; cf. commilito, compaganvs, conservvs, contiro, contvbernalis, and the like. Hermeros, then, was a fellow *popilarivs of the others, and I leave it to heads wiser than mine to determine with precision what a *popilarivs might have been. I was inclined at first to connect it with popina, through a diminutive *popilla, in the sense of "fellow-roisterer"; such an expression in the face of death would be quite in keeping with the vulgar Roman mind.​2 But I think it far more likely that we have here a mis-spelling for compvpillarivs, and our slaves will then have been in charge of their master's wards,​3 pupilli, of course merely as servants, and not in the legal sense of tutores; in short, something below paedagogi.4

The height of the urn is 0.53 m; greatest circumference, 1.23 m; hole for insertion of ashes, 0.90 m × 0.06 m. The letters, evenly made, vary in height from 0.02 m to 0.03 m.


Marble slab belonging to a loculus (0.22 m × 0.12 m × 0.03 m), found in 1906 in the excavations outside the Aurelian Walls for the construction of the new quarter of the Corso Pinciano, between the Porta Pinciana and the Porta Salaria.

[An ancient Roman inscription transcribed in the accompanying text.]

Pollia G(ai) (et mulieris) l(iberta) Urbana ornat(rix) de Aemilianis ollas II (sc. comparavit). M. Calidius M. Libertus Tonsor Apolloni(anus?) de Aemilianis.

 p43  The inscription is of topographical as well as epigraphic interest. I have cited it already in my Thesaurus Linguae Latinae Epigraphicae, Vol. I, fasc. 7, p155, s.v. Aemiliana; but as it may not there come under the eyes of the editors of CIL, I have thought it best to repeat it here with a word of comment. The freedman and his wife had been employed as slaves, she as lady's hairdresser and he as barber (in fact, he had been familiarly known simply as "the Barber," which had become his slave name); and after obtaining their freedom they (or the woman, at least) had continued the same occupations in the district known as Aemiliana, which, to judge from several casual references in literature and a single inscription published by Gruter (which has not yet found its place in CIL), must have extended from somewhere outside the Porta Fontinalis to the river front. Unfortunately the present inscription gives us no further information as to its location. The letters are carefully made along incised lines the traces of which are still to be seen, and the red pigment is well preserved.


Coarse slab (0.25 m × 0.10 m × 0.01 m) with ornamental ends in imitation of bronze tablets. The metal spud at the right is still in place, that at the left is missing from its hole. Litterae actuariae. The back of the slab is fluted lengthwise, as it had previously served as a moulding of a wall or pilaster. Same source as last.

[An ancient Roman inscription transcribed in the accompanying text.]

L. Gellius Primus v(ixit) an(nis) V, m(ensibus) VI, d(iebus) XX.


Small slab (0.20 m × 0.095 m), in form of tabula ansata, with holes for spuds. Same source.


[An ancient Roman inscription transcribed in the accompanying text.]

olla · svperior
Q · Lagerivs
Q · L · Dionysivs
Lageria · Q · L · Prima

The upper line, olla superior, was an afterthought.


Long double slab, broken in two, of which this is half. Same source.

[An ancient Roman inscription transcribed in the accompanying text.]

Asconiae · C · lib
C · Albivs · Felix · carissimvs

The terms of affection in sepulchral inscriptions merit a special study. It is curious how active and passive meanings merge. Thus, amans, amantissimus often = "beloved," desiderantissimus = "deeply mourned," etc.; and here carissimus, as elsewhere, is clearly not "most dear" (to her), but "most fond" (of her), i.e. "in loving memory."


Small slab. (0.20 m × 0.10 m.) Same source.

[An ancient Roman inscription transcribed in the accompanying text.]

Faenia · Rhome
patrono · acceptissim
v · a · xxxvi


Small slab (0.15 m × 0.07 m × 0.025 m.) Broken at the left, but with iron spud in place at the right. Coarse leaf-pattern above, incised ansa on the right. Same source.

[An ancient Roman inscription transcribed in the accompanying text.]

Laetvs · Q · Ploti · ser
vixit · an · xxii
Helena · conserva
de · svo · fecit

 p45  9.

Slab with carved (not incised) ansae. (0.17 m × 0.09 m × 0.02 m.) Careful letters. Same source.

[An ancient Roman inscription transcribed in the accompanying text.]

M(anius) Obellius Acastus auruf(ex) de Aurelian(is)

We seem to have mentioned here a place in Rome, hitherto wholly unknown: Aureliana (sc. praedia). Cf. Aemiliana above, No. 3.


Small slab (0.15 m × 0.12 m × 0.02 m), with spuds in place. Same source. Note the apices.

[An ancient Roman inscription transcribed in the accompanying text.]

Ivlia · fecit
Ianvario · Vernae
vix · ann · vii


Upright slab of white marble with pedimental top containing a sculptured rosette. (0.32 m × 0.18 m × 0.04 m.) Same source.

[An ancient Roman inscription transcribed in the accompanying text.]

d · m ·
Annia · Svc
cessa · T · Flavio
Avgvsti · liber
Hygino · con
ivgi · optimo · bene · meren
ti · fecit · vixit
annis · xxxxv
menses · iiii

 p46  12.

Small slab (0.21 m × 0.11 m × 0.035 m) with two heavy iron nails, found in the summer of 1907 in the neighborhood of the Corso Pinciano.

[An ancient Roman inscription transcribed in the accompanying text.]

C. Firmius C · l


Large slab (0.40 m × 0.30 m × 0.035 m) with sunken border, broken at three corners. Carefully and deeply cut square capitals. Same source as last.

[An ancient Roman inscription transcribed in the accompanying text.]

Dis · Manibvs
Dapno Arvntia ·
Prepvsa · conivgi · ka
rissimo fecit · cvm qvo
vixit ann · xxxvii et sibi
et posterisqve svis
in fr · p · iiiis =- in agr · p · iiis

Measurement of tomb, 4¾ by 3½ pedes.

George N. Olcott.

Columbia University.

The Author's Notes:

1 For a discussion of this class of words in inscriptions, see my Word Formation in the Latin Inscriptions, 1898, pp137 sq.

2 For similar sepulchral sentiments, cf. e.g. CIL III.293: dvm vixi [bi]bi libenter, bibi[te] vos qvi vivitis.

3 I wonder if the alvminarivs of CIL VI.9142, instead of a "dealer in alumen," may not be for *alumnarius, in charge of the alumni (young slaves). The form alvminoalvmno occurs CIL VIII.410.

4 Perhaps line 4 should be read [S]er(vos) ego Hermeros. Then compopilarius may be for compopularius, a not unnatural development from popularis, used here in the sense in which popularis is used by Terence, Phormio, I.1.1, where Davos speaks of Geta as his popularis, meaning simply "fellow-slave." The two lines would then mean: "I, Hermeros, am a slave, in the same class (as Blasius)." The word might also be used in the other transferred sense, "belonging to the same school," "addicted to the same tastes," or even, though this seems less probable, in its more primitive meaning, "from the same place." — H. N. F.

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