“Dâmis built this grave for his battle-fierce but dead
Horse, after murderous Ares pierce his chest.
The blood spurted black from his thick-hided skin
And he dyed the earth with his painful life’s blood.”
“Your courage, Proarkhos, killed you in the fight and dying
You put the home of your father Pheidias into dark grief.
Yet this rock above you sings out a noble song:
That you died in a struggle for your dear homeland.”
Callimachus and Heraclitus of Halicarnassus, poets of the 3rd Century BC, were friends, as Callimachus’ tribute makes clear in the following poem:
Callimachus 2 (Gow-Page 34)
Someone spoke of your death, Heraclitus,
Moving me to tears.
I remembered how often we, talking,
Made the sun go down.
But now, my Halicarnassian friend,
Somewhere, and for almost too long to count,
You’ve been a pile of ashes.
Yet, your nightingales live on.
Hades, the god who steals everything,
Will not lay his hand on them.
Only one of Heraclitus’ “nightingales” survives, and it is the sepulchral poem below:
Heraclitus 7.465 (Greek Anthology)
Earth just recently dug up.
On the face of the tombstone
Half-green leafy garlands sway.
When the writing’s deciphered,
Traveler, we’ll know whose smooth bones
The stone claims to enclose:
“Stranger, I am Aretemias from Cnidus.
It was with Euphronus that I shared the marriage bed.
Rites of child birth were not denied me, and I bore twins:
One I left as a guide for his father in old age;
One I took with me—a reminder of my husband.”
“Columns, and my Sirens, and you, sorrowful urn
Who holds Hades’ small portion of ash—
Say “hello” to those who walk by my grave,
Whether they happen to be citizens or from another town.
Tell them this too so they may know it:
this grave covered me when I was a bride,
My father used to call me Baukis and Tenos was my land
Tell them also that Erinna, my friend,
Etched this poem on my Tomb.”
Animae sanctae colendae d(is) m(anibus) s(acrum). Furia Spes L(ucio) Sempronio Firmo coniugi carissimo mihi. Ut cognovi puer puella obligati amori pariter. Cum quo vixi tempori minimo et quo tempore vivere debuimus a manu mala diseparati sumus. Ita peto vos manes sanctissimae commendat[um] habeatis meum ca[ru]m et vellitis huic indulgentissimi esse horis nocturnis ut eum videam et etiam me fato suadere vellit ut et ego possim dulcius et celerius aput eum pervenire.
“To a sacred and worshipped spirit: a sacred thing to the spirits of the dead. Furia Spes (made this) for her dearest husband, Lucius Sempronius Firmus. When we met as boy and girl, we were joined in love equally. I lived with him for a short while, and in a time when we should have lived together, we were separated by an evil hand.
So I ask you, most sacred spirits, to protect my dear husband entrusted to you, and that you be willing to be most accommodating to him in the nightly hours, so I may have a vision of him, and so he might wish that I persuade fate to allow me to come to him more sweetly and quickly.”
Clausa iacet lapidi coniunx pia cara Sabina. Artibus edocta superabat sola maritum vox ei grata fuit pulsabat pollice c(h)ordas. Set (sed) cito rapta silpi (silet)…
“My beautiful, faithful wife, Sabina, lies enclosed in stone. Skilled in the arts, she alone surpassed her husband. Her voice was pleasing (as) she plucked the strings with her thumb. But suddenly taken, now she is silent.”
“To the spirits of the dead. For Flavia Sophe. Genialis, home-born slave of Caesar Augustus, keeper of the grain supply, made this for his loving, dear, well-deserving wife. She lived 32 years, 7 months.”
Iulia Cecilia vicxit annis XLV cui Terensus marit(us) fek(it) dom(um) et(e)r(nalem) f(eci)t
“Julia Caecilia lived 45 years, for whom her husband Terensus made this. He made her an eternal home.”
CIL 13.01983 (EDCS-10500938)
D(is) M(anibus) et memoriae aetern(ae) Blandiniae Martiolae puellae innocentissimae quae vixit ann(os) XVIII m(enses) VIIII d(ies) V. Pompeius Catussa cives Sequanus tector coniugi incomparabili et sibi benignissim(a)e quae mecum vixit an(nos) V m(enses) VI d(ies) XVIII sine ul(l)a criminis sorde. Viv(u)s sibi et coniugi ponendum curavit et sub ascia dedicavit. Tu qui legis vade in Apol(l)inis lavari quod ego cum coniuge feci. Vellem si ad(h)uc possem
“To the spirits of the dead and the eternal memory of Blandinia Martiola, a most innocent girl who lived 18 years, 9 months, 5 days. Pompeius Catussa, a Sequani citizen and plasterer, (made this) for his incomparable and most kind wife, who lived with me 5 years, 6 months, 18 days without any transgressions. While alive, he saw to the building and dedicated this, while under construction, to himself and his wife. You who read this, go and bathe in the bath of Apollo, which I did with my wife. I wish I were still able to do it.”
Hospes quod deico paullum est. Asta ac pellege. Heic est sepulcrum hau(d) pulcrum pulcrai feminae. Nomen parentes nominarunt Claudiam. Suom mareitum corde deilexit souo. Gnatos duos creavit horunc (horum-ce) alterum in terra linquit alium sub terra locat. Sermone lepido tum autem incessu commodo domum servavit lanam fecit dixi abei
“Stranger, what I say is short. Stand and read over it. This is the hardly beautiful tomb of a beautiful woman. Her parents called her Claudia. She loved her husband with all her heart. She had two sons, one of whom she leaves on earth, the other she placed under it. With pleasant conversing but respectable gait she cared for her home and made wool. I have spoken. Move along.”
Iulio Timotheo qui vixit p(lus) m(inus) annis XXVIII vitae innocentissim(a)e decepto a latronibus cum alumnis n(umero) VII. Otacilia Narcisa co(n)iugi dulcissimo
“For Julius Timotheus, who lived around 28 years of a most innocent life, cheated by bandits along with his 7 fostered children. Otacilia Narcisa (made this) for her sweetest husband.”
Does Charidas really lie dead beneath you?
“You mean Arimma’s son from Cyrenaica?
Then yes, he’s underneath me.”
O Charidas, what’s down there?
But what about the ways up?
Ah, nothing remains of us.
“What I’ve given you is my truthful account.
But if you want the pleasing version, here goes:
even small sums buy a big bull in Hades!”
Note: the final line of the Greek is likely corrupt, and therefore while I’ve followed Markovitch in assuming the questionable word is a reference to money (an “obol,” which I’ve freely rendered as “small sums”)–and amending the Greek to reflect that–others assume a reference to the bull’s place of origin (“Pella”).
Claudia Severa invites her friend Sulpicia Lepidina (wife of the prefect at Vindolanda) to a birthday party. Despite the use of soror, the two women are not believed to be sisters. With part of the document written by Severa herself, this (and the accompanying notes) is believed to be the earliest-known Latin written by a woman.
Cl(audia) · Seuerá Lepidinae [suae
iii Idus Septembr[e]s soror ad diem
sollemnem natalem meum rogó
libenter faciás ut uenias
ad nos iucundiorem mihi
[diem] interuentú tuo facturá si
Cerial[em t]uum salutá Aelius meus .[
et filiolus salutant … … sperabo te soror uale soror anima mea ita ualeam karissima et haue
(The italicized text was written by Severa herself)
“Claudia Severa to her Lepidina, greetings. On September 11, sister, for my birthday celebration, I ask you sincerely to make sure you come to (join) us, to make the day more fun for me by your arrival…Say hello to your Cerialis. My Aelius and little boy say hello. I await you, sister. Be well, sister, my dearest soul, so I may be well too. Hail.”
A sad text. Also a good one to use in class, it utilizes both Latin and Hebrew, and goes well with a discussion of diversity in the city and empire. It is also one of the latest dated texts in this document.
(H)Ic iacet Gaudi=
qui bissit annoru=
m plus minu(s) tre=
s requiebit in
“Here lies the child Gaudiosa, who lived around three years. She will rest in peace. Shalom (in Hebrew)
Here’s a picture of the Phrasikleia sculpture (the epigraph is on it):
Here is a polychromatic version:
Christos Tsagalis talks about inscriptions like this in his 2008 Inscribing Sorrow : Fourth-Century Attic Funerary Epigrams, (Trends in Classics. Suppl. Vol., 1) 2008, although his claim that the ἀντὶ γάμου is “especially suitable for young girls” (280) probably needs a little more nuance (I have found it in inscriptions for many young men too cf. e.g. SEG 42:212).
There are, of course, other expressions for the same idea. For instance, from nearly seven centuries later, the first half of IGBulg V5930 (The PHI link):
“Look at this grave marker, friend, and ask “who made this”?
Hermogenes made me in longing, seeking to honor his own daughter
Well-tressed Theklê, whom strong fate stole away
Before she saw a marriage, before she joined a husband in bed,
Before she suffered anything in her soul, she went unpolluted to god.”
“Traveler, weep for the age of this dead girl—
For she left when she was only twelve, causing her friends much grief
And leaving behind immortal pain. The rest of it
This memorial announces to everyone who passes by.
Much-wept Hades, why did you take Kleoptolemê when she
Was still a girl, at an ill-fated age? Didn’t you feel any shame?
You left for her dear mother Mnêsô everlasting grief
In exchange for mortal misfortune.
Dear Mother and sisters and Meidotelês who fathered you
As a source of pain for himself, Kleoptolemê,–
They look forward only to grief, and not your bed-chamber, now that you’ve died,
but a lament instead of a husband, a funeral instead of a marriage.”