A New Interpretation of CIL 6.14672: Latin Legalism and Greek Philosophical Epigram
CIL 6.14672 is a Greco-Latin bilingual funerary monument established for Cerellia Fortunata by her husband Encolpus that was incorporated into a columbarium near the Villa Pamphili in Rome. Prior treatments of this inscription have been simple translations (Hunt 2007, Shore 1997), general commentary (Moretti 1963, Kunst 2000, Hunt 2007), and arguments about the Latin or Greek with hardly any discussion about both (Niebhur 1822, Cougney 1890, Henzen, 1882). Since the editio princeps (Muratori 1740), commentators have argued over the personages contained in the Latin text and devoted little attention to its significance; nearly always they ignored the Greek epigram (Niebuhr 1822, Kaibel 1878). Decades later the inscription received more interest, but each component was treated in isolation.
I argue for a new interpretation of the monument that views the stone as a synthetic document whose constituent elements in Latin and Greek contextualize one another. Both languages serve as a basis to explore the degree to which these “Greek” freedmen identified, or sought to identify, with their conception of Greek culture on their funerary monument in light of their perceived Romanitas. To do this, I apply a new observation about the phases in which the inscription was cut, as well as current research in bilingualism in the ancient world (Adams 2002).
A look at the different phases in which the text was inscribed on the stone, determined by letter size and character, allows for a nuanced reading that reveals an ongoing process by which both the bereaved and deceased conceptualized and expressed their identity. On the one hand, the Latin portion of the inscription contains the traditional sepulchral accoutrements, including abbreviations, as well as a highly technical legal text employing the ius sepulcri familiare. The Greek text consists of two poems, one in Iambic trimeters and the other in elegiac couplets, both of which express Epicurean beliefs. At first glance, one could imagine some readers getting lost in the Latin legal text and choosing to walk by, for the inscription looks like one long, continuous text that appears to have just one subject. The overall effect of the Greek epigram, then, shocks the reader out of the Latin text and turns his attention to a different and rather personal text, which makes this hidden morsel of Greek all the more tantalizing.
Thus, the inscription provides us with a complex look at the lives of these people through two powerful texts highlighted by the phasing of the monument. Encolpus and Cerellia constructed this at its various stages with the intent to appear as Roman as possible, while paying homage to self-conceived notions of their cultural history. For these reasons, the stone offers modern readers a window into the lives of two Greeks engaged in a struggle to cope with their Romanitas in light of their ethnos. Although it is just one inscription, this monument provides a view of a stratum of Roman society otherwise poorly documented through which we can begin to understand other such inscriptions and further develop conversations about the “Greek” experience under the Roman Empire.