“A sacred rite to the spirits of the dead. To Julia Saturnina, age 45, an incomparable wife, the best doctor, the most noble woman. Gaius Philippus, her husband, (made this) for her merits. She is buried here. May the earth be light on you.”
Julia Balbilla is a Roman poet from the time of Hadrian. She composed Greek verse. For more of her poems see Rosenmeyer 2008 below and Brennan 1998 for additional historical context
Julia Balbilla, Two Poems
In Memnonis pede sinistro. C. I. 4727 coll. Add. III p. 1202.
“I, Balbilla, heard from the stone when it spoke
Either the divine voice of Memnon or Phamenoth.
I came here alongside my beautiful queen Sabina,
as the sun kept its course in the first hour.
In the fifteenth year of Hadrian’s reign
When Hathyr had made its twenty-fourth day,
It was on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Hathyr.
In Memnonis crure sinistro. C. I. 4725 coll. Add. III p. 1201 sq.
“Julia Balbilla [wrote this]
When August Hadrian heard Memnon
I’ve learned that the Egyptian Memnon, bronzed by
The bright sun, sounds out from a Theban stone.
When he gazed upon Hadrian, the kingliest king
He addressed him as much as he could before the light of the sun.
But as Titan was driving through the sky on white horses
Holding the second part of the day in shadow,
Memnon’s voice rang out again like struck bronze,
High-pitched: and he let loose a third sound greeting.
And then Lord Hadrian hailed Memnon in return
And left on this column for future generations to see
Inscribed verses telling of everything he saw and heard.
And it was clear to everyone how much the gods love him.
CIRB 130 from the N. Black Sea ca. 50 BC-50 AD — GVI 1989
“Theophilê Hekataiou gives her greeting.
They were wooing me, Theiophilê the short-lived daughter of
Hekataios, those young men [seeking] a maiden for marriage.
But Hades seized me first, since he was longing for me
When he saw a Persephone better than Persephone.
And when the message is carved on the stone
He weeps for the girl, Theiophilê the Sinopian,
Whose father, Hekataios, gave the torch-holding bride-to-be
To Hades and not a marriage.
Maiden Theiophilê, no marriage awaits you, but a land
With no return; not as the bride of Menophilos,
But as a partner in Persephone’s bed. Your father Hekataios
Now has only the name of the pitiable lost girl.
And as he looks on your shape in stone he sees
The unfulfilled hopes Fate wrongly buried in the ground.
Theiophilê, a girl allotted beauty envied by mortals,
A tenth Muse, a Grace for marriage’s age,
A perfect example of prudence.
Hades did not throw his dark hands around you.
No, Pluto lit the flames for the wedding torches
With his lamp, welcoming a most desired mate.
Parents, stop your laments now, stop your grieving,
Theiophilê has found an immortal bed.”
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 2008Inscribing 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.”
“Previously Homeric grooves [arrows] were sounding out
The master-loving habit of Eumaios on golden tablets,
But now this stone, repeating the unforgetting word,
Will sing your wise wit even into Hades, Inakhos.
Philoskos, who reveres your home, will always increase
The fine gifts and honor you both among the living and the dead—
Along with your wife who honors your son who is weeping,
A young child who draws deep from the spring of her breasts.
O, inescapable Hades, why do you hoard this kind of blessing,
Taking away the famous son of Kleumakhis?”
“Pitiless god, why did you show me the light
Only for a brief number of few years?
Is it because you wanted to afflict my poor mother
With tears and laments through my short life?
She bore me and raised me and paid much more
Mind to my education than my father.
For he left me as a small orphan in this home
While she endured every kind of labor for me.
It would have been dear for me to have had success
Before our respected leaders with speeches in the law courts.
But the adolescent bloom of lovely youth did not
Reach my face. There was no marriage, no torches.
She did not sing the famous marriage song for me,
And the ill-fated woman never saw a child, a remnant
Of our much-lamented family. And it hurts me even when dead
My mother Polittê’s still growing grief
In her mourning thoughts over Phronto, the child she bore
Swift-fated, the empty pride of a dear country.
B. “Pôlittê, endure your grief, rein in your tears.
Many mothers have seen dead sons.
But they were not like him in their ways and life,
They were not so reverent toward their mother’s sweet face.
But why mourn so uselessly? Why weep without purpose?
All mortals will go to Hades in common.”
This is a contract written on a wax tablet for the sale of a Marmarian slave girl to Titus Memmius Montanus, a sailor in the praetorian fleet stationed at Ravenna. The girl is described as ‘veteranae’ (βετρανε), meaning she has been enslaved for some time. We don’t know what happened to her after this moment, but, as this contract was found in Egypt, there is good reason to believe that Titus Memmius was there at some point.
The writer of the contract was likely a native Greek speaker who was unfamiliar with the Latin alphabet, employing Greek morphology (nominative -ος, , genitive -ου/-ης, accusative -ους, etc.), phonetic tendencies (-αρουν for -arum), and vocabulary (πεντηρω) in an otherwise formulaic document. It also displays several spellings reflective of Latin speech, such as the merging of /b/ and /w/ to /β/, and the monophthongization of /ae/ to /ɛ/.
For more on the language, see Adams (2003) Bilingualism and the Latin Language.
Idem cosulubus aeadem diem Domitius The/ophilus scrisi me in veditionem puellae Marma/riae supra scriptae pro Aescine Aescine phi/lium Flavianum secundum auctorem ex/stitise acctum
“In the consulships of Gaius Curtius Iustus and Julius Nauto (151 CE), October 2nd. I, Aeschines Flavianus, a Milesian, son of Aeschines, wrote that I received from Titus Memmius Montanus, soldier on the quinquireme Augustus, 625 denarii as the price of the Marmarian girl, a long-serving (‘veteran’) slave, whom I sold to him at double repayment (i.e. on default) under the best terms and handed over after the finished inspection of the signed tablets. Completed at the camp of the praetorian fleet at Ravenna.
In the same consulships and on the same day, I, Domitius Theophilus, wrote that I was present as a witness on behalf of Aeschines Flavianus, son of Aeschines, for the sale of the Marmarian girl, described above. Completed.”
Should anyone else want to use this in a Latin class (I’m incorporating it into a course reading), I’ve adapted a somewhat standardized version in the Latin alphabet:
Gaio Curtio Iusto (et) Iulio Nautone consulibus, sextum nonas Octobres, Aeschines Aeschinae (filius) Flavianus Milesius scripsi me accepisse a Tito Memmio Montano, milite quinquiremis Augusti, denarios sescentos viginti quinque pretium puellae Marmariae veteranae, quam ei dupla optimis condicionibus vendidit (vendidi) et tradidi ex interrogatione facta tabellarum signatarum, actum castris classis praetoriae Ravennae.
Idem consulibus eadem die, Domitius Theophilus scripsi me in venditione puellae Marmariae, supra scriptae, pro Aeschine Aeschinae filio Flaviano secundum auctorem exstitisse. Actum.
SGDI 15632 (Teos, c. 475 BCE; from Buck, Greek Dialects: Ionic Inscriptions, 3)
“Whoever should make deadly drugs for the Teian community or for an individual, destroy him and his family. Whoever stops the importation of grain into the Teian land or repels it as it is being imported either with skill or device and on sea or on land, destroy him and his family.”
Aristotle (On Plants) and Galen (varia) define deleterious medicines (δηλητήρια φάρμακα) as those that are fatal to human beings, such as poisonous venom or substances coming from hemlock (or concentrations of opium, henbane etc.). Of course, such things are weaponized fairly early in human history as this threatening inscription above from Teos illustrates.
Early medical authors understood the moral obligations of physicians and pharmacologists:
Galen, Method of Medicine 816k
“There is, therefore, a safe limit of medical treatment for one struggling admirably according to the practice of medicine against a sickness—and it is also the safeguard of ability for the one who is trying to soothe the pain. Beyond this is the work of a poor doctor, resulting in the end of the patient’s life with the sickness.
It is a flatterer’s act to try to please the patient, because this places pleasure not health as the primary aim. Practitioners descend into these kinds of extremes in many ways but especially in different types of treatments among which are chiefly the so-called anodyne medicines which are made from the poppy or seed of henbane, the root of mandrake, the storax or any other kind of thing.
Doctors who yield to the sick and use too much of these sorts of drugs destroy their patients with the pains as much as those who give them at the wrong time, in the wrong measure, or not at all.
Therefore, just as in everything else in life—in habits and actions—here the appropriate guideline to take is “nothing in excess”. The appropriate marker is the health of the sick…”
“[The Sintian men]: Philokhoros says that because they were Pelasgians they were called this because after they sailed to Brauron they kidnapped the women who were carrying baskets. For they call “harming” [to blaptein] sinesthai.
But Eratosthenes says that they have this name because they are wizards who discovered deadly drugs. Porphyry says that they were the first people to make weapons, the things which bring harm to men. Or, because they were the first to discover piracy.”
“He also gave them some deadly drugs to give to him in secret if they were able to persuade some of the cooks or waiters, even though [Albinus’] friends were suspicious and advising him to safeguard himself against a deceptively clever adversary.”