THE SOLDIERS’ UNIONS IN THE INSCRIPTIONS
This chapter analyzes a survey of the soldiers’ family relationships, as recorded in Latin funerary inscriptions from the city of Rome, Italy, the Danubian provinces, and North Africa. As recently estimated, some 250,000 Latin epitaphs are known from the ancient world.1 The Latin epitaph is a highly specific cultural artifact; at its most extensive, it records the name of the deceased, his or her social status (Roman citizen, senator, soldier, freedperson, artisan), origin, career, age at death, and relationship to the commemorator (the individual who set up the tombstone). The epitaphs’ biases (they record the wealthier, more urban, and Romanized strata of ancient society) have been emphasized in recent years, with skepticism about the use of epitaphs as a source of social history.2 It is now agreed that epitaphs cannot be used to reconstruct positivistic demographic data, such as the average age at death in various regions or the size of populations (such as the number of freedpersons in Rome or the number of Roman citizens in the provinces).3 Nevertheless, the epitaphs do reveal the sentiments and social personae and aspirations of the deceased and the commemorators. Commemoration patterns suggest the epigraphic population’s family structures and their most valued social roles and social aspirations.4 Commemoration patterns can even be used to estimate age at marriage. Latin epitaphs pro
1 Shaw (1991), 67.
2 Parkin (1992), 19 warns that “The material is so plagued with misleading biases
and impossible demographic trends that the use of tombstone inscriptions, however
selective, is unjustified and potentially fallacious.”
3 Age at death: Hopkins (1987), 113–26; Brunt (1987), 133; Parkin (1992), 5–19.
Freedpersons and Roman citizens: concerning the problem of onomastic identification
of status, skepticism is expressed by Maier (1953–54) and Hartmut Wolff (1980),
4 Saller and Shaw (1984), 126–27; Shaw (1991), 67; Woolf (1998), “Mapping cul-
tural change,” 77–105.