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The Testament of Vibius Adiranus*

  • Katherine McDonald (a1)
Abstract

This article reconsiders one of the best-known examples of Oscan epigraphy — the inscription which commemorates the testament of Vibius Adiranus to the vereiia- of Pompeii. It has been widely accepted that this inscription is a first-century a.d. copy of a second-century b.c. original, and is therefore the latest extant example of Oscan in a formal public inscription. This is challenged here with an analysis of both the linguistic detail and archaeological context, and it is shown that this inscription itself is more likely to be the original. The re-dating suggested here has implications for our understanding of language use at Pompeii; it also facilitates more accurate estimates of when the deaths of the Italic languages took place.

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My thanks to James Clackson, Nicholas Zair and all the other members of the Linguistics Caucus at the Cambridge Faculty of Classics for their comments and encouragement. I am also very grateful to Greg Woolf and the two anonymous JRS readers for their invaluable suggestions for improvements to this paper, and to Patrick Clibbens for his help at every stage of this research. I would like to acknowledge the generous financial support of the following, without which this could not have been written: Pembroke College, Cambridge; the Allen, Meek and Read Fund; the Faculty of Classics, Cambridge; and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

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1 Rix, H., Sabellische Texte (2002), Po 3; Crawford, M. H., Imagines Italicae (2011), Pompei 24, with picture; Vetter, E., Handbuch der italischen Dialeckte (1953), #11. From this point, inscriptions will be referred to according to their numbers in Rix 2002, with concordances for the new Imagines Italicae edition prefixed by the word ‘Crawford’.

2 This view is put forward at some length by Poccetti, P., ‘Il testamento di Vibio Adirano’, Rendiconti della Accademia di Archeologia NS 57 (1982), 237–45, using a number of arguments. See also Poccetti, P., ‘Note sulla toponomastica urbana di Pompei preromana’, in Silvestri, D. (ed.), Lineamenti di storia linguistica della Campania antica I. I dati toponomastici (1986), 43. However, there is a long history of confusion over the date of this inscription. Buck appears to refer to it when he mentions ‘ein paar pompejanische Wandinschriften, die nachweislich nach den ersten Erdbeben (63 nach Chr.) geschrieben wurden’ (Buck, C. D., Grammar of Oscan and Umbrian (1928)). Conway in turn wrote that the late date implied by Buck ‘is very clearly true of the copy in its present position’, but suggests that the ‘original’ must predate a.d. 14 — it is not completely clear whether he believes the inscription to be recopied (Conway, R. S., The Italic Dialects (1897)).

3 See for example Cooley, A. E., ‘The survival of Oscan in Roman Pompeii’, in Cooley, A. E. (ed.), Becoming Roman, Writing Latin? Literacy and Epigraphy in the Roman West (2002), 81; Clackson, J. P. T. and Horrocks, G., The Blackwell History of the Latin Language (2007), 62.

4 The story that Cumae sought permission from Rome to switch their official language to Latin in 180 b.c. is found in Livy 40.43.1.

5 Adams, J. N., Bilingualism and the Latin Language (2003), 147.

6 See Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), 39, 657.

7 Dench, E., ‘Samnites in English: the legacy of E. Togo Salmon in the English-speaking world’, in Jones, H. (ed.), Samnium: Settlement and Cultural Change (2004), 13.

8 The so-called ‘Central’ or ‘Native’ Oscan alphabet was an adaptation from the Etruscan alphabet, and was used to write Oscan in Campania, Samnium and surrounding areas from around the fourth century b.c. to (perhaps) the first century a.d. In other areas, and at other periods, scripts based on the Latin alphabet and the Greek Ionic alphabet were used. See Lejeune, M., ‘Phonologie osque et graphie grecque’, Revue des Etudes Anciennes 72 (1970), 271–4, for more details.

9 Magistrate himself donating money: Po 16 (Crawford Pompei 16). Money from fines: Po 4, 13 (Crawford Pompei 21, 22). Cf. Cm 7 (Crawford Nola 2); also Lu 5 (Crawford Potentia 1), where an amount of money is stated, but the source is not clear.

10 Bon, S. E., ‘Formation processes at Pompeii’, in Bon, S. E. and Jones, R. (eds), Sequence and Space in Pompeii (1997), 10.

11 Apparently first proposed by Nissen, H., Pompeianische Studien zur Städtekunde des Altertums (1877), 158.

12 The use of this area is debated. See Laurence, R., Roman Pompeii: Space and Society (1994), 20–2 for the argument that it was a pre-Roman forum; Richardson, L., Pompeii: An Architectural History (1988), 67 describes it as the precinct of an archaic Doric temple.

13 Cooley, op. cit. (n. 3), 81.

14 Adams, op. cit. (n. 5), 147.

15 Richardson, op. cit. (n. 12), 72; though see Beard, M., Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (2008), 282 for the view that the ‘ruined’ effect is caused by post-discovery activity.

16 Richardson, op. cit. (n. 12), 73.

17 Rix, H., ‘Oskisch vereiia- à la Mommsen’, in Habisreitinger, J., Plath, R. and Ziegler, S. (eds), Gering und doch von Herzen: 25 Indogermanistische Beiträge Bernhard Forssman zum 65. Geburtstag (1999), 237–8.

18 Richardson, op. cit. (n. 12), 74.

19 The main two suggestions connect it with defence, sharing a root with Oscan veru- and Gothic warjan ‘to ward off’, or see it as a synonym for touto ‘people, community’. See Rix, op. cit. (n. 17). Crawford proposes that it stands in contrast to ‘people’, and thus refers to a group of the élite, though he admits the meaning of the word remains problematic. Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), 24–5.

20 Richardson, op. cit. (n. 12), 75 (n. 4) — the layout of the building is not necessarily problematic, since temples of Hercules are apt to take unusual architectural forms.

21 In fact, the idea that the inscription was built into the wall may come from an early misunderstanding of the original reports. Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), 657.

22 ibid., 240.

23 ibid., 656–7.

24 Crawford lists a number of official Oscan-era inscriptions found, often in fragments, in contexts that suggest they were used as building material and their inscriptions were ignored (Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), 39).

25 In the Greek world, see for example the Egesta decree (IG 13 11), used as a door sill in a modern house such that the letters were visible but, presumably, were thought unimportant to the extent that they were completely rubbed away in places. Thanks to Robert Pitt for this example.

26 Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), 38. Pompei 13, 14 (laid into the road or pavement), 21 (sundial). Rix Po 1, 15, 4.

27 Guzzo, P. G., ‘Alla ricerca della Pompei sannitica’, in Studi sull'Italia dei Sanniti (2000), 111 goes so far as to suspect that it may have been ‘rejuvenated’ by a modern restorer.

28 Poccetti, op. cit. (n. 2), 243.

29 Poccetti, op. cit. (n. 2), 244.

30 Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), Pompei 12, 20.

31 e.g., in the Tabula Bantina (Lu 1; Crawford Bantia 1), written in Latin characters, from the second half of the second century b.c. This has ex.elg. for exeic, seemingly because the engraver misunderstood the first part of the word for a Latin preposition. It should be noted, though, that there are mistakes of this kind in texts not showing extensive influence from Latin — see the Agnone Tablet (Sa 1; Crawford Teruentum 34) for an erroneous interpunct in anter.stataí in both instances.

32 Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), Pompei 8.

33 Clackson and Horrocks, op. cit (n. 3), 108.

34 Gordon, A. E., Illustrated Introduction to Latin Epigraphy (1983), 16.

35 Clackson and Horrocks, op. cit. (n. 3), 110.

36 See Adams, op. cit. (n. 5), 27–8.

37 This term for ‘council’ is found in Pompeii only; elsewhere, the usual phrase is senateís tanginúd. See Untermann, J., Wörterbuch des Oskisch-Umbrischen (2000), 412.

38 Although see Crawford for doubts on the authenticity of this graffito (his Pompei 147), Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), 839.

39 See Mouritsen, H., Elections, Magistrates and Municipal Elite: Studies in Pompeian Epigraphy (1988), 2830, on details of magistracies; see Cooley, op. cit. (n. 3), 79 for another view, relying on Q in later inscriptions being quaestor, not quinquennalis or quattuorvir.

40 Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), Pompei 21, 19, 20, 23.

41 Clackson and Horrocks, op. cit. (n. 3), 63.

42 ibid., 64.

43 At Pompeii, forms of this verb are attested finally in Po 1, Po 3, Po 5, Po 6, and probably in Po 10, Po 13. (Crawford Pompei 13, 24, 9, 8; probably 25, 22.)

44 Buck, op. cit. (n. 2), 14. Cf. also English think, Gothic þagkjan.

45 At Pompeii, found in Po 3, Po 4, Po 9, Po 10, and probably Po 14 (Crawford Pompei 24, 21, 20, 25, and probably 23). Elsewhere, found in (among others) the Tabula Bantina, Cippus Abellanus, Sa 2, Sa 8, Sa 9 (Crawford Bantia 1, Abella 1, Teruentum 36, 21, 33). See Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), 1635, for a full list of attestations.

46 See Senatus Consultum de Bacchanalibus, 186 b.c.: lines 8, 17, 21, 23.

47 Adams, op. cit. (n. 5), 137.

48 Poccetti, op. cit. (n. 2), 245; Clackson and Horrocks, op. cit. (n. 3), 62.

49 There are probable parallels for lexical borrowings from Latin legal language in the second century b.c., such as ehpreívíd for ex privato (Sa 16, Crawford Teruentum 9).

50 There are two instances of afaamated in two Oscan inscriptions written in Greek script (Lu 6, 7; Crawford Potentia 9, 10). In Oscan script we have only the form without the prefix, faamated (Sa 13; Crawford Teruentum 12).

51 Adams, op. cit. (n. 5), 140–1.

52 Pocetti, op. cit. (n. 2), 239.

53 Adams, op. cit (n. 5), 137.

54 Clackson and Horrocks, op. cit. (n. 3), 63.

55 Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), 2, 657.

56 Poccetti, op. cit. (n. 2), 243.

57 Adams, op. cit. (n. 5), 147.

58 Poccetti, op. cit. (n. 2), 243.

59 Cooley, op. cit. (n. 3), 80; Crawford regards Po 8 (his Pompei 19) as having been dumped in a cupboard for future use as building material (Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), 39).

60 Cooley, op. cit. (n. 3), 81.

61 Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), 681.

62 Ovid is clear about his Paelignian background (Amores 3.15.5–10), but rather than revering his ancestors sees himself as surpassing them; he also does not mark them out as specifically non-Latin-speaking (Millar, F., ‘Ovid and the Domus Augusta: Rome seen from Tomoi’, Journal of Roman Studies 83 (1993), 6). The claim to Etruscan ancestry by Maecenas in the first century b.c. is a possible exception to the general rule — Hor., Od. 3.29. However, Etruscan had a cultural standing at Rome that Italic did not, as shown by the continued study of Etruscan by the Roman élite into the imperial period, including famously by the emperor Claudius (Suet., Life of Claudius 42.2).

63 Wallace-Hadrill, A., Rome's Cultural Revolution (2008), 76.

64 Cooley, op. cit. (n. 3), 80.

65 Wallace-Hadrill, op. cit. (n. 63), 89.

66 Cic., Sul., 29.60–2.

67 Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), 662–4.

68 Wallace-Hadrill, op. cit. (n. 63), 131–2; Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), 615.

69 Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), Pompei 46, 147, 146.

70 Rix, op. cit. (n. 1), 108 reads margas; Vetter, op. cit. (n. 1), 64 reads markas.

71 Rix, op. cit. (n. 1), 142.

72 Crawford, op. cit. (n. 1), 39, 838–9.

73 Crawford, M. H., ‘Italy and Rome from Sulla to Augustus’, in Cambridge Ancient History 2, vol. 10 (1996), 429.

74 The term ‘Romanization’ has come under scrutiny, in particular for being over-simplistic and over-emphasizing the rôle of Rome in what was often a locally-driven phenomenon, but an equally succinct adequate replacement has yet to be proposed. See for more detailed discussions of this issue: Wallace-Hadrill, op. cit. (n. 63), 10; Curti, E., Dench, E. and Patterson, J. R., ‘The archaeology of central and southern Roman Italy: recent trends and approaches’, Journal of Roman Studies 86 (1996), 181; Bispham, E., From Asculum to Actium: The Municipalization of Italy from the Social War to Augustus (2007), 310. Pompeii (and indeed much of Italy) has, in any case, a complex history and cultural identity that may not be well-represented by words such as ‘Romanization’ or alternatives. See Wallace-Hadrill, A., ‘Pompeian identities: between Oscan, Samnite, Greek, Roman, and Punic’, in Gruen, E. (ed.), Cultural Identities in the Ancient Mediterranean (2011), 415–27.

75 Cooley, op. cit. (n. 3), 84.

76 Hamers, J. F., and Blac, M. H. A., Bilinguality and Bilingualism (1989), 176; Myers-Scotton, C., Multiple Voices: An Introduction to Bilingualism (2006), 100.

* My thanks to James Clackson, Nicholas Zair and all the other members of the Linguistics Caucus at the Cambridge Faculty of Classics for their comments and encouragement. I am also very grateful to Greg Woolf and the two anonymous JRS readers for their invaluable suggestions for improvements to this paper, and to Patrick Clibbens for his help at every stage of this research. I would like to acknowledge the generous financial support of the following, without which this could not have been written: Pembroke College, Cambridge; the Allen, Meek and Read Fund; the Faculty of Classics, Cambridge; and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

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