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UNSEEN AND UNHARMED: A CASE STUDY IN UNDERSTANDING OPISTHOGRAPHIC EPITAPHS*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 October 2017

Inger N.I. Kuin
Affiliation:
Groningen University
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Abstract

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Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Classical Association 2017 

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Footnotes

*

I want to thank Michael Peachin, Elizabeth Meyer, Angelos Chaniotis, Kaja Harter-Uibopuu, Scott DiGiulio and Daniel Hoyer for their help and advice during my research for this article, and CQ’s anonymous referee for their valuable suggestions.

References

1 It was fairly common for epitaphs to be dislodged and re-appropriated; see e.g. Carroll, M., Spirits of the Dead. Roman Funerary Commemoration in Western Europe (Oxford, 2006), 83–5Google Scholar. For examples, see e.g. Bodel, J., ‘Thirteen Latin funerary inscriptions at Harvard University’, AJA 96 (1992), 71100 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, nos. 13a and 13b; Tuck, S.L., Latin Inscriptions in the Kelsey Museum (Ann Arbor, 2005)Google Scholar, nos. 63, 87, 173, 265. The practice is not limited to Latin epigraphy: The Metropolitan Museum in New York, for instance, owns a reused opisthographic Egyptian tombstone from the Fatimid and Ayyubid periods respectively (2010.225).

2 Di Stefano Manzella, I., Mestiere di Epigrafista: Guida alla Schedatura del Materiale Epigrafico Lapideo (Rome, 1987), 201–2Google Scholar; cf. Carroll (n. 1), 118–19, on errors and opisthography. Examples may be found in Thylander, H., Inscriptions du Port d'Ostie (Lund, 1952)Google Scholar, nos. A263, A263a.

3 Peachin, M. (ed.), Greek and Latin Inscriptions at New York University (Rome, 2014), 110 Google Scholar.

4 Kuin, I.N.I., ‘Grave monument of Pudens’, in Peachin, M. (ed.), Greek and Latin Inscriptions at New York University (Rome, 2014), 94–6Google Scholar. See n. 1 above on reuse.

5 All translations follow the editions in Peachin (n. 3).

6 Kuin, I.N.I., ‘Grave monument of Mutia Chreste’, in Peachin, M. (ed.), Greek and Latin Inscriptions at New York University (Rome, 2014), 84–5Google Scholar; cf. Solin, H., Die griechischen Personennamen in Rom. Ein Namenbuch (Berlin, 2003 2), 2.1006–9Google Scholar.

7 Toynbee, J.M.C., Death and Burial in the Roman World (Ithaca, 1971), 71, 113–15Google Scholar; cf. Eck, W., ‘Römische Grabinschriften: Aussageabsicht und Aussagefähigkeit im funerären Kontext’, in von Hesberg, H. and Zanker, P. (edd.), Römische Gräberstrassen: Selbstdarstellung, Status, Standard (Munich, 1987), 6183 Google Scholar, at 62, 65.

8 Kuin (n. 4), 84 designates the two sides in the opposite way. Figure 1a clearly shows, however, that the nailheads have been chiselled off on the recto, allowing the stone to be pulled down from the wall. Examples of other columbarium markers attached with nails are: CIL 6.33493, CIL 6.33396, CIL 6.33534 and no. 99 in Wilson, H.L., ‘Latin inscriptions at the Johns Hopkins University VII’, AJPh 33 (1912), 168–85Google Scholar.

9 Kidd, S., ‘Grave monument of Primigenius’, in Peachin, M. (ed.), Greek and Latin Inscriptions at New York University (Rome, 2014), 26–8Google Scholar.

10 Cursive writing is usually found on writing tablets, potsherds and papyri; Keppie, L., Understanding Roman Inscriptions (Baltimore, 1991), 18 Google Scholar. Kidd (n. 9), 26 designates the two sides in the opposite way (as with no. 28; see n. 8 above). Figure 2a, however, shows clearly that the nailheads have been chiselled off on the recto; to reinstall the stone with the verso facing out clamps (not nails) might have been used.

11 neque concedere ulli probably rests on a mistake; it is not formulaic and it is even unusual; concederet or concedet must have been meant: cf. Kuin, I.N.I., ‘Grave monument of M. Octavius Diadumenus’, in Peachin, M. (ed.), Greek and Latin Inscriptions at New York University (Rome, 2014), 86–8Google Scholar.

12 Eck (n. 7), 61–2. The plot is unusually large; on plot sizes at Rome, see Eck (n. 7), 63–4, 82; Bodel (n. 1), 80 n. 53.

13 Kuin (n. 11), 88.

14 An excellent comparandum for Diadumenus’ inscription is AE 1985, 199, where the (likely) verso lists only the dedicatees, while the recto also lists the dedicator and the people to be included in the burial site; cf. Kuin (n. 11), 88.

15 Toynbee (n. 7), 76; cf. Carroll (n. 1), 79–85.

16 See n. 1 above.

17 On reckless behaviour of gravesite visitors, see e.g. Petron. Sat. 112; Mart. 3.93.15, 1.34.8; cf. Toynbee (n. 7), 50–2; Keppie (n. 10), 98–101; Carroll (n. 1), 83.

18 E.g. Mart. 1.88, Auson. Epit. 32; cf. Carroll, M., ‘ Memoria and damnatio memoriae. Preserving and erasing identities in Roman funerary commemoration’, in Carroll, M. and Rempel, J. (edd.), Living Through the Dead. Burial and Commemoration in the Classical World (Oxford, 2011), 6590 Google Scholar, at 71.

19 damnatio memoriae did not only befall those (formerly) in power: Flower, H., The Art of Forgetting: Disgrace and Oblivion in Roman Political Culture (Chapel Hill, NC, 2006), 1011 Google Scholar; cf. Carroll (n. 18), 80; Closs, V., ‘Grave monument of L. Gellius Felix’, in Peachin, M. (ed.), Greek and Latin Inscriptions at New York University (Rome, 2014), 53–4Google Scholar. On damnatio memoriae (a modern term) as such, see Varner, E., Mutilation and Transformation. Damnatio Memoriae and Roman Imperial Portraiture (Leiden, Boston, 2004)Google Scholar, with comments on the term at 2 and n. 5.

20 Gordon, A.E., Illustrated Introduction to Latin Epigraphy (Berkeley, CA, 1983), 145 Google Scholar.

21 Visscher, F. de, Le Droit des Tombeaux Romains (Milan, 1963), 103–27Google Scholar; contra, Mierow, C.C., ‘Hoc monumentum heredem non sequitur – an interpretation’, TAPhA 65 (1934), 163–77Google Scholar, who interprets Gaius’ definition of res religiosae (Inst. 2.1–9) to mean that tombs are exempt from inheritance and commercial transactions.

22 Toynbee (n. 7), 76–80; cf. Carroll (n. 1), 102–5; Borg, B.E., Crisis and Ambition: Tombs and Burial Customs in Third-Century CE Rome (Oxford, 2013), 146–60Google Scholar.

23 Examples may be found in e.g. Roxan, P. and Holder, M., Roman Military Diplomas (London, 2003)Google Scholar, 4.593–6, no. 315; cf. Eck, W. and Pangerl, A., ‘Neue Militärdiplome für Auxiliärtruppen verschiedener Provinzen’, ZPE 196 (2015), 199210 Google Scholar.

24 Meyer, E., Legitimacy and Law in the Roman World: Tabulae in Roman Belief and Practice (Cambridge, 2004), 188–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

25 As e.g. at Bodel (n. 1), nos. 13a and 13b.

26 Beard, M., ‘Writing and ritual: a study of diversity and expansion in the Arval Acta’, PBSR 53 (1985), 114–62Google Scholar; cf. Scheid, J., ‘Rituel et écriture à Rome’, in Blondeau, A.M. and Schipper, K. (edd.), Essais sur le rituel (Leuven, Paris, 1990), 2.1–15Google Scholar; Rüpke, J., ‘ Acta aut agenda: relations of script and performance’, in Barchiesi, A., Rüpke, J. and Stephens, S. (edd.), Rituals in Ink: A Conference on Religion and Literary Production in Ancient Rome Held at Stanford University in February 2002 (Stuttgart, 2004), 2343 Google Scholar.

27 Beard, M., ‘Writing and religion: ancient literacy and the function of the written word in Roman religion’, in Humphrey, J.H. (ed.), Literacy in the Roman World (Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series 3) (Ann Arbor, 1991), 3558 Google Scholar, at 44–8.

28 Osborne, R., ‘Inscribing performance’, in Goldhill, S. and Osborne, R. (edd.), Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy (Cambridge, 1999), 341–58Google Scholar.

29 Linders, T., ‘Inscriptions and orality’, SO 67 (1992), 2740 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

30 Rogers, G.M., The Sacred Identity of Ephesos: Foundation Myths of a Roman City (London and New York, 1991), 20–4Google Scholar.

31 Williamson, C., ‘Monuments of bronze: Roman legal documents on bronze tablets’, CA 6 (1987), 160–83Google Scholar; cf. Harris, W., Ancient Literacy (Cambridge, MA, 1989), 166 Google Scholar; Culham, P., ‘Archives and alternatives in Republican Rome’, CPh 84 (1989), 100–15Google Scholar; Lintott, A., The Constitution of the Roman Republic (Oxford, 1999), 3 Google Scholar; contra, Haensch, R., ‘Statthalterarchiv’, ZRG RA 109 (1992), 209317 Google Scholar, at 212–13; Bats, M., ‘Les débuts de l'information politique officielle à Rome au premier siècle avant J.C.’, in Nicolet, C. (ed.), La mémoire perdue. À la recherche des archives oubliées, publiques et privées, de la Rome antique (Paris, 1994), 1943 Google Scholar.

32 Gager, J., Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World (Oxford, 1992), 341 Google Scholar, 226.

33 Strubbe, J.H.M., ‘Cursed be he that moves my bones’, in Faraone, C.A. and Obbink, D. (edd.), Magika Hiera. Ancient Greek Magic & Religion (Oxford, 1991), 3359 Google Scholar; cf. Faraone, C.A., ‘The agonistic context of early Greek binding spells’, in Faraone, C.A. and Obbink, D. (edd.), Magika Hiera. Ancient Greek Magic & Religion (Oxford, 1991), 332 Google Scholar, at 19.

34 Some epitaphs contain curses targeting potential vandals: see Keppie (n. 10), 109; cf. Strubbe (n. 33), 33–59.

35 Luckenbill, D.D., Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia. Vol. 2: Historical Records of Assyria from Sargon to the End (Chicago, 1927), 55–6Google Scholar, nos. 104–5.

36 Opisthographs are not catalogued systematically. The Heidelberg Epigraphic Database uses several terms (‘beidseitig’, ‘Opisthograph’ and ‘Opistograph’), and known opisthographs (e.g. AE 1985, 199; see n. 14 above) are not listed as such. The same is true for CIL (e.g. CIL 6.24999, CIL 6.33665), and there ‘a’ and ‘b’ numbers can refer to the two sides of opisthographic stones or to the fragments of a broken stone. I did a preliminary survey of two online epigraphic databases, but because of these issues the following numbers are probably too low. In the Epigraphic Database Heidelberg out of 24,340 epitaphs in total 41 are listed as opisthographs; of these, 22 are examples of reuse (AE 1968, 168; 1971, 299; 1978, 23; 1981, 110a, 344; 1983, 54, 98/128, 124; 1984, 147, 930; 1985, 485, 853, 859; 1987, 554, 700–1; 1988, 301; 2006, 1016; CIL 22.1342–3; CIL 3.2304/2569, 10020; CIL 6.19866, 41236/37061); another 14 are too fragmentary to rule out reuse (AE 1975, 109; 1985, 963; 1994, 1909; 1997, 1257; CIL 22.5.527/538, 5.1338–9; CIL 3.10236; CIL 6.41401/31947; IL Jug 3043, 3119; IRC 2.80; IRC 4(suppl.).324; Salona 4.117; LIA 287); none is the result of an error, leaving five possible examples of intentional funerary opisthography (CIL 22.5.364–5; CIL 3.2671/8653; CIL 6.12839 = CIL 10.2129; IRC 3.54–5; V. Beševliev, Spätgriechische und spätlateinische Inschriften aus Bulgarien [Berlin, 1964], 6–9, no. 7). In the database of the US Epigraphy Project out of 1,158 Latin epitaphs in total 31 are listed as opisthographs; of these, 17 are examples of reuse (KY.Lou.SAM.L.1929.17 331, 360, 363, 433, 490, 543, 564A–E, 592 and 647; MA.CAMB.HU.Sack.L.1932.56.129; MD.Balt.JHU.L.85; MI.AA.UM.KM.L 1446, 1534, 878, 949; OK.Norm.UO.SM.L.C47-48-8; CA.SF.SFSU.L.Tmp97.1.3.r.); 12 are too fragmentary to rule out reuse (KY.Lou.SAM.L.1929.17 493, 521, 625, 636, 710, 731, 737, 742, 801; MA.Well.WC.L.Tmp96.12.3; MI.AA.UM.KM.L 840; NY.NY.CU.Butl.L.3); one is an example of an error (MD.Balt.JHU.L.79); leaving one possible example of intentional funerary opisthography (MD.Balt.JHU.L.59).

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