Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 October 2020
The Latin words navicularii and nauclari and the Greek ναύκληροι or naucleri provide us with an interesting case study of epigraphic evidence. It is very illustrative of the opportunities that this evidence offers, as well as its limits of inference, and the amount of work still necessary for a sound understanding of its meaning. The corpus of known texts raises several issues. The first one is the small number of epigraphic occurrences of these words. Almost 90 individuals and more than 60 mentions of groups may be considered to be a significant corpus (Table 5). It is quite a small number, however, if compared to the some 600 inscriptions mentioning negotiantes, negotiatores and πραγματευόμενοι, or the 45 inscriptions mentioning naukleroi on the island of Delos alone in the pre-Imperial period. Occurrences of maritime shippers remain suprisingly rare given the large number of ports in the Empire and the time span of c. 500 years under consideration. Notwithstanding the presence of a number of major coastal ports, the epigraphy of the Roman Near East has provided a very large number of citations relating to occupations, but has only produced two naukleroi, one at Askalon, the other at Aradus in a late inscription, although three Levantine naukleroi are recorded in other geographical areas and ports. The reasons for such an epigraphic silence are worth exploring.