Suggestions of Sentiment: The Epitaphs of Tomb 87 (Isola Sacra) *

By Westcott, Ellen | Antichthon, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Suggestions of Sentiment: The Epitaphs of Tomb 87 (Isola Sacra) *


Westcott, Ellen, Antichthon


ABSTRACT

Epigraphic material has traditionally been used to explore a variety of topics ranging from demography to family relationships, but the subject of emotion is not often addressed. In this paper I examine three inscriptions which were discovered in situ in Tomb 87 at the cemetery at Isola Sacra. The paper provides a detailed analysis of these inscriptions within both their immediate context and the broader context of the body of epigraphic material discovered at the cemetery. Here I comment on the function of the inscriptions in relation to their location in the tomb and identify evidence related to the expression of emotion. I focus on the extent to which sentiment could be an element in the commemorative practice of ordinary Romans in the early centuries AD with a particular emphasis on the relationship between freedman and patron.

Keith Hopkins has observed: 'Romans had feelings, and it seems reasonable to ask what they were.' 1 Obviously in the ancient world the family and friends of a person who died must have experienced feelings similar to those which we in the modern world associate with the loss of someone close. In some instances the literary sources give a glimpse of this. The depth of emotion felt by Cicero following the death of his daughter Tullia in February 45 BC is evident in the letters which he wrote to Atticus during that year. In an attempt to remedy his grief, an emotion which he describes as vis enim urget ('the power [of the grief] presses down on me', Att . 12.14.3), Cicero occupied himself with the composition of a literary consolation and the search for a suitable property on which to build a shrine for Tullia. He notes that he is quite decided about the form the shrine will take, although this is not revealed in any detail, but is unsure as to its location, adding that consideration of the design will re-open the wound of his grief: quae res forsitan sit refricatura vulnus meum ('perhaps that will re-open my wound', 12.18.1). Although all mention of the shrine disappears from the letters, and as far as we know it was never built, we can be reasonably certain that Cicero's decisions regarding the appearance of the building and the text of its inscriptions would have been influenced by the decorative and epigraphic conventions of the period. However, if the shrine had been built and was available for study today, we may well have some difficulty with its interpretation. 2 Given the differences in genre, the sentiment that is apparent in Cicero's correspondence would naturally have been lost when translated into a different medium - but to what extent?

This gap between a monument and the emotion felt in respect of death is well illustrated when we compare the contents of a letter written by the younger Pliny (Ep. 5.16) on the occasion of the death of Minicia Marcella, the daughter of his friend Minicius Fundanus, with the contents of the epitaph on the funerary altar which has been identified as belonging to her. Although Pliny describes Minicia's character, the circumstances of her death, his own grief and the distress of her father at some length, there is no hint in her epitaph of the person she was or of her father's sorrow. The top of the simple marble altar is decorated with a carved eagle and flowers and, in common with many thousands of memorials, the inscribed words merely state her name and her age at the time of her death. 3 There are, of course, many epitaphs in which emotions were recorded; the inscription known as the 'Laudatio Turiae' is a notable but unusual example. But, as Hopkins pointed out, in many cases these are the work of stonemasons working either from a 'stock of conventions' or possibly hand-books.4

This is one of the problems inherent in the material on which we are forced to rely in order to discover any information about the feelings of the majority of ordinary Romans, and probably one of the reasons why social historians have shown a certain reluctance to address the subject. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Suggestions of Sentiment: The Epitaphs of Tomb 87 (Isola Sacra) *
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.