Roman Funerary Inscriptions Project


Funerary monuments, damaged though most of them are, are original documents that come from all areas of the Roman world, record the great and the powerless, and encompass hundreds of years of Republican and Imperial history. Funerary inscriptions add breadth, depth, and texture to the corpus of literary sources from Rome. Composed by people from all walks of life, women as well as men, they allow us to "see" and "hear" the otherwise silent many who are on the margins of Roman society, particularly women. However, commemorative inscriptions, couched in formulaic terms and standardized phrases, frequently preserve a culture's most conservative sentiments and expectations.


Getting Started:

Project Instructions:

  1. Select up to three inscriptions from the Monument Options listed. Each student will prepare one inscription. Every effort will be made to accommodate your first choice.
  2. Consult print and Internet sources (see Project Bibliography) to familiarize yourself with the conventions of the genre, especially inscriptional abbreviations and formulaic expressions.
  3. Compare the image with the photocopied excerpts from CIL supplied, and consult the online databases of Roman inscriptions, beginning with Clauss-Slaby (see Project Bibliography). Then transcribe the inscription into a Word document, keeping the line and word arrangement in all caps, and resolving all the abbreviations using brackets and lower-case letters.
  4. Describe your funerary monument in detail (e.g., date, origin and appearance of the stone, including lettering and decoration). If possible, locate and compare one or more similar monuments to determine what is conventional and what may be original and specific to this monument. Models for descriptive analysis and transcription may be found in Harvey's Roman Lives (see Project Bibliography).
  5. Translate your inscription.
  6. Write a gloss for each word of the inscription that you think would offer difficulty to an intermediate Latin reader and/or for which you have found important background information (models for lexical and interpretive assistance can be found in Raia et al., The Worlds of Roman Women (Focus 2005) and the Online Companion to the Worlds of Roman Women).
  7. Try to locate information about the individuals named in the inscription, including their relationships and status.
  8. Using all the information gathered above, prepare an introductory essay describing the monument and inscription, placing it in its historical and cultural context, and explaining what evidence it provides for women's lives.
  9. Make a 15 minute oral presentation of this assignment to the class.
  10. Submit a written and electronic version of your project using the student projects posted below as your guide (transcription, monument photo, introductory essay, translation of inscription, lexical and interpretive commentary).

Monument Options


Student Projects

Submitted by Anne Leen, Barbara F. McManus, Ann R. Raia
Updated February 2016
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