Latin Texts and Resources
Latin Inscriptions can be difficult to decipher
They were generally written in capital letters
The Romans used a system of abbreviations for personal names and some other common words
Some inscriptions had spaces or lines between words; others ran the words all together along the line.
Here are some of the common abbreviations :
||filius/filia - son/daughter of
||duumvir - town official
||legio - legion
||nepos - grandson of
||pronepos - great-grandson of
By the forum in Pompeii there was a large building, used as a Meeting Hall by the Cloth-workers' Guild. On the wall there was a plaque, with an inscription which is relatively undamaged. Unlike many inscriptions with which archaeologists have to work, the inscription is entire - there are no broken bits with missing words to be filled in by guesswork.
Here it is :
A. To read it we need more contrast, so that the letters show up better - inscriptions are best photographed with a strong light at an acute angle, so as to produce shadows in the incisions.
Here are photos of the two halves of the inscription, with a bit of overlap in the center :
B. We're in luck - this inscription has a dot between words - although some of the words are abbreviated.
1. Type out the inscription in your assignment sheet, exactly as it appears. There are no "U"s - the letter "V" was used for both the "u" and the "v" sound.
2. Type it out again, with spaces instead of dots between words, and changing "v" to "u" in various places if it helps you to spot what the words are.
3. The first word and the last word give the meat of the sentence - who did what?
4. Now expand the abbreviations - and there are some extra ones besides the names. "SACERD" is short for "sacerdōs" (priest or priestess), "PUBL" is short for "publica" (public). These two words are describing Eumachia as a "public priestess"
"M. Numistri Frontonis" refers to "M. Numistrius Fronto" - what case are these names in in the inscription? why? who is he?
5. Architectural words we need to know :
"chalcidicus" - an open vestibule;
"crypta" - a covered corridor with windows going around three sides of the building;
"porticus" - an open courtyard surrounded by columns.
What case are these words in in the inscription?
When translating the inscription, just keep these words in their Latin form
6. One word has an older spelling - how would you correct it?
7. "Augustae" is tricky - it is being used as an adjective, referring to a person. How might you tranlsate "Concordiae Augustae"?
8. Looking carefully at the endings of the other words, you can probably work out their cases, and translate the whole inscription
Copyright © 1999 Shirley J. Rollinson, all Rights Reserved
ENMU Station 19
Portales, NM 88130
Last Updated : December 24, 2010