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Latin Epigraphy I Posted by on Jan 8, 2012 in Latin Language, Uncategorized

Epigraphy is the science of the inscriptions. Latin epigraphy works on reading and desciphering the Latin inscriptions. It also helps to interpret the writings and to infer data  that can be applied in many fields.

  • Epigraphic texts are authentic and original compared to other writings that are copies (of copies).
  • There are inscriptions of various types (each one with its particular form): honorary, funerary, votive, monumental, acta (public / private) and on many different objects.*
  • There are common elements in them (letters, signs, names, titles…), but some elements are unique and distinctive (the arrangement of elements, forms…)
  • In epigraphy it is necessary to use numerous and extensive tables: acronyms and abbreviations, consuls, emperors, other charges…
  • The Latin alphabet, sometimes with a controversial origin, consists of 20 letters (23 with the Y, Z, G).
  • In the ancient Latin inscriptions only capital letters were used. These include: archaic, calligraphic (square and actuaria/rustic) and italics:
Archaic capitals Letters have no tips and are uneven.
Scriptura monumentalis (square capitals) It was improved by the time of Caesar and Augustus. Letters were the same size, proportionate and provided with tips. The text was harmonically distributed.
Scriptura actuaria (rustic capitals) Letters like drawn with a brush. More narrow and higher. Some of them stand out from the others. Elegant and neat inscriptions.
Italic capitals Contemporary of square and rustic capitals. Careless and quick: with stylus on tablets. It gave rise to the vulgar letters, which appear in some inscriptions.

 

  • Due to the narrowness of space connections were used  (usually for 2 or 3 letters, only in rare cases for 4 or more letteres) smaller letters and letters inside each other. For that reason they also used acronyms (litterae singulae), abbreviations and contractions. Examples: C., D.M.; PRAEF.; COS.
  • As signs of an abbreviation or contraction sometimes appear: an upper horizontal line, sicilicus, a line through the letter, inverted acronyms.
  • Besides the letters, there are other signs: numbering symbols, fractions, accents, auxiliary lines…
  • The dot (round, square, triangular, hedera distinguens, horizontal or slanted dash) is placed at mid-height of the letters (not down), it is used to separate words, although its use is very irregular.
  • The names do not always appear as tria nomina system, it may also be put down the filiation and tribe (alternate). There are special systems for different situations: liber, libertus, adopted, women…
  • The charges contained in the registrations can be multiple (senatorial, equestrian, lower, both  military or civilian, municipal, etc.) If many charges are mentioned, it is in order, which can be ascending (direct order) or descending (indirect order).
  • The names of the emperors are not listed under the family rules. It is common to use as praenomen IMP, CAESAR as name, followed by filiation and cognomina (personal, hereditary and honorary). Usually appear accompanying titles: religious (PM), political (TR.POT., IMP., COS., CENS., PROC.) or honorary (PP).
  • After the death of an emperor they could honor him with the apotheosis or divinization (when in an inscription figures DIVVS it means that the emperor is dead). He could also be condemned to damnatio memoriae, in which case his name was erased from the inscriptions.

 

Inscription from Saguntum (Spain):

 

 

Text:

L. ANTONIO L. F. GAL(eria)
NVMIDAE PRAEFECTO
FABRVM TRIBVNO MILIT(um)
LEG(ionis) PRIMAE ITALICAE
L. RVBRIVS POLYBIVS AMICO

 

 

Inscription from Arch of Trajan in Ancona (Italy):

Text:

IMP. CAESARI DIVI NERVAE F. NERVAE TRAIANO OPTIMO AVG. GERMANICO DACICO PONT. MAX. TR. POT. XVIIII IMP. IX COS VI P.P. PROVIDENTISSIMO PRINCIPI SENATUS P.Q.R. QVOD ACCESSVM ITALIAE HOC ETIAM ADDITO EX PECVNIA SVA PORTV TVTIOREM NAVIGANTIBVS REDIDERIT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*In the next post I will talk about the differents types of inscriptions and more…

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