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Inscriptions From Pompeii

[Davis Introduction]

There are almost no literary remains from Antiquity possessing greater human interest than these inscriptions scratched on the walls of Pompeii (destroyed 79 A.D.). Their character is extremely varied, and they illustrate in a keen and vital way the life of a busy, luxurious, and, withal, tolerably typical, city of some 25,000 inhabitants in the days of the Flavian Caesars. Most of these inscriptions carry their own message with little need of a commentary. Perhaps those of the greatest importance are the ones relating to local politics. It is very evident that the so-called "monarchy" of the Emperors had not involved the destruction of political life, at least in the provincial towns.

Wall Inscriptions

1. Twenty pairs of gladiators provided by Quintus Monnius Rufus are to fight at Nola May First, Second, and Third, and there will be a hunt.

2. Thirty pairs of gladiators provided by Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius quinquennial duumvir, together with their substitutes, will fight at Pompeii on November 24, 25, 26. There will be a hunt. Hurrah for Maius the Quinquennial! Bravo, Paris!

3. The gladiatorial troop of the Aedile Aulius Suettius Certus will fight at Pompeii May 31. There will be a hunt, and awnings will be provided.

4. Twenty pairs of gladiators furnished by Decimus Lucretius Satrius Valens perpetual priest of Nero, son of the Emperor, and ten pairs of gladiators furnished by Decimus Lucretius Valens his son, will fight at Pompeii April 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. There will be a big hunt and awnings. Aemilius Celer wrote this by the light of the moon.

5. The dyers request the election of Postumius Proculus as Aedile.

6. Vesonius Primus urges the election of Gnaeus Helvius as Aedile, a man worthy of pubic office.

7. Vesonius Primus requests the election of Gaius Gavius Rufus as duumvir, a man who will serve the public interest---do elect him, I beg of you.

8. Primus and his household are working for the election of Gnaeus Helvius Sabinus as Aedile.

9. Make Lucius Caeserninus quinquennial duumvir of Nuceria, I beg you: he is a good man.

10. His neighbors request the election of Tiberius Claudius Verus as duumvir.

11. The worshipers of Isis as a body ask for the election of Gnaeus Helvias Sabinus as Aedile.

12. The inhabitants of the Campanian suburb ask for the election of Marcus Epidius Sabinus as aedile.

13. At the request of the neighbors Suedius Clemens, most upright judge, is working for the election of Marcus Epidius Sabinus, a worthy young man, as duumvir with judicial authority. He begs you to elect him.

14. The sneak thieves request the election of Vatia as Aedile.

15. The whole company of late drinkers favor Vatia.

16. The whole company of late risers favor Vatia.

17. Inn to let. Triclinium [dining room] with three couches.

18. Here slept Vibius Restitutus all by himself his heart filled with longings for his Urbana.

19. To rent from the first day of next July, shops with the floors over them, fine upper chambers, and a house, in the Arnius Pollio block, owned by Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius. Prospective lessees may apply to Primus, slave of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius.

20. To let, for the term of five years, from the thirteenth day of next August to the thirteenth day of the sixth August thereafter, the Venus bath, fitted up for the best people, shops, rooms over shops, and second-story apartments in the property owned by Julia Felix, daughter of Spurius.

21. A copper pot has been taken from this shop. Whoever brings it back will receive 65 sesterces. If any one shall hand over the thief he will be rewarded.

22. He who has never been in love can be no gentleman.

23. Health to you, Victoria, and wherever you are may you sneeze sweetly.

24. Restitutus has many times deceived many girls.

25. Romula keep tryst here with Staphylus.

26. If any man seek /My girl from me to turn, /On far-off mountains bleak, /May Love the scoundrel burn!

27. If you a man would be, /If you know what love can do, /Have pity and suffer me /With welcome to come to you.

28. At Nuceria, I won 8552 denarii by gaming---fair play!

29. On October 17 Puteolana had a litter of three males and two females.

30. The smallest evil if neglected, will reach the greatest proportions.

31. If you want to waste your time, scatter millet and pick it up again.

Copies of Business Transactions on Wax Tablets

32. Umbricia Januaria declares that she has received from Lucius Caecilius Jucundus 11,039 sesterces which sum came into the hands of Lucius Caecilius Jucundus by agreement as the proceeds of an auction sale for Umbricia Januaria, the commission due him having been deducted. Done at Pompeii, on the 12th of December, in the consulship of Lucius Duvius and Publius Clodius. [56 A.D.]. (Many witnesses follow).

33. On the 18th of June in the duumvirate of Lucius Veranius Hypsaeus and Lucius Albucius Justus, I, Privatus, slave of the colony of Pompeii, declared in writing that I had received from Lucius Caecilius Jucundus 1,675 sesterces, and previous to this day, on June 6, I received 1000 sesterces as rent for the public pasture. Done at Pompeii in the consulship of Gnaeus Fonteius and Gaius Vipstanus [59 A.D.]. (Many witnesses follow).


From: William Stearns Davis, ed., Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, pp. 260-265

Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton.

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© Paul Halsall, July 1998

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