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Bill Thayer

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 p726  Manceps

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on p726 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

MANCEPS has the same relation to Mancipium that Auspex has to Auspicium.​a It is properly qui manu capit. But the word has several special significations. Mancipes were they who bid at the public lettings of the censors for the purpose of farming any part of the public property (Festus, s.v. Manceps; Manceps dicitur qui quid a populo emit conducitve, quia, &c.; Cic. pro Planc. c. 26, ed. Wunder). Sometimes the chief of the publicani generally are meant by this term, as they were no doubt the bidders and gave the security, and then they shared the undertaking with others or underlet it (Ascon. in Div. Verr. c. 10). The Mancipes would accordingly have distinctive names according to the kind of revenue which they took on lease, as Decumani, Portitores, Pecuarii. Suetonius (Vesp. 1, and the note in Burmann's edition) says that the father of Petro was a manceps of labourers (operae) who went yearly from Umbria to Sabinum to cultivate the land; that is, he hired them from their master and paid so much for the use of them; as is now often done in slave countries. The terms Mancipes Thermarum et Salinarum occur in the Theodosian Code (14. tit. 5 s3).

Thayer's Note:

a Manceps has the same relation to Mancipium that Auspex has to Auspicium: which the epitaph below (CIL VI.8455), currently in the Vatican Library, makes even clearer.

[image ALT: A Roman tombstone]
			Transcribed and expanded:



Publius Calvius Publii filius
item · flaturae
hoc · monumentum
cum · aedificio
me · vivus · feci mihi · et

I, Publius Calvius Iustus, son of Publius, contractor in charge of five bronze officinae, also in charge of striking silver, had this stone made, along with the structure (housing it), while I was alive; for myself and for Calvia Asclepias my wife.

You should be careful to read the strongly serifed letter at the end of line 1 as an F rather than E. Some modern worker got a bit carried away with the lining out: it can happen even in the Vatican Museums. (You can see much worse lining out elsewhere.)

On the other hand, the spelling mancips is of interest, since it underscores the etymological connections of the word and might even offer a clue to how it was pronounced. As for quinquae (instead of the correct quinque), it's a not uncommon hypercorrection that at best gives an indication to the pronunciation of quae.

Some of you might be thinking: hey, that's not much of a translation. What's an officina? The short answer is that it's a workshop in a mint — Publius was in charge of several centers producing bronze coins for the government, and he had something to do with silver, but he's careful not to say exactly what. For the long answer, with his usual attractive photos, see Doug Smith's page on officinae.

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Page updated: 1 Jun 17