Collection of epigraphs

Lamina orfica
Orphic lamina

Orphic lamina

The small gold lamina, which can be dated to the fourth century BC, is part of a group of three discovered in the necropolis of Thurii, an Athenian colony founded by Pericles in 444-443 BC in the vicinity of Sibari in the present Basilicata.

The inscription written in Greek contains the formulae indispensable for the dead to reach eternal bliss, avoiding the necessary cycle of reincarnations.

The use of gold is explained with the extraordinary power attributed to this metal to contrast evil, as well as with its virtues of purity and nobility. The small laminae were generally placed, open, next to the right hand of the dead or, rolled, on the tongue.

Just one of the five laminae discovered at Thurii, and specifically the lamina found inside the huge tomb, contains the instructions to reach the Underworld. On the contrary, the lamina in question, as well as the remaining ones, ushers the soul in the presence of Persephone, the queen of the Underworld, whom it has to demonstrate to be initiated into orphic mysteries saying the formula “I am pure among pure people”.

Tabula veliterna
Tabula veliterna


Tabula veliterna

The bronze plate, worked with the techniques of melting and engraving, was found in Velletri in 1784 and preserved at the Museum Borgiano; then it was sold to the Museum of Naples by Camillo Borgia in the early 19th century.

The inscription is an important document for the study of Volscian language: the text, which uses the Latin alphabet, runs on four lines and contains a juridical core and an administrative framework.

The latter has an initial part referable to the goddess Declona and a final section related to the enforcement of the sacred legal transaction issued by two local meddices (magistrates among Sabellian populations whence Latin consuls derived) “Egnatius Cossutius son of Seppius (e) Marcus Tafanius, son of Gavius”.

Even the juridical core is subdivided into two parts corresponding to two paragraphs of a law. Hence the text can be considered to be part of “sacred laws”.

In fact, the inscription might refer to a wood dedicated to the goddess Declona and to the rules that regulated its inviolability.

Lex Cornelia de XX quaestoribus
Lex Cornelia de XX quaestoribus

Lex Cornelia de XX quaestoribus

The bronze plate, worked with the techniques of melting and engraving, dates exactly to 81 BC. It was found in the Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum, it was part of the Farnese Collection, it was inherited by Charles III and finally it came to the Museum of Naples.

The epigraph, which presents an introduction engraved with capital letters in a unique continuous line, was found together with the Lex Antonia de Termessibus of 71 BC, related to the privileges granted to Termessos maior, a town in Asia Minor.

Divided into two columns with unnumbered capita legis, or chapters, it results to be Table VIII, perhaps the penultimate, the only one preserved of at least nine plates containing the text of the Lex Cornelia de XX quaestoribus.

The law, which was proposed to Comizi tributi by the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla  along with the constitutional reforms, increased from twelve to twenty the number of quaestores and their apparitores, i.e. collaborators of magistrates.

Diploma militare


Military Diploma

The bronze diploma, worked with the techniques of melting and engraving, dates exactly to March 7th A(d) D(ies) NON(as) MART(ias) of 70 AD, the year of the second consulate of Vespasian: IMP(erator) VESPASIANVS CAESAR AVGVST(us) TRIBVNIC(ia) POTEST(ate) CO(n)S(ul) II.

It is an imperial diploma in two rectangular tables inscribed in Latin capital letters, the former presents four holes and it is fragmented, the latter presents five holes for the posting. A diploma, also called honesta missio, was given to the soldiers discharged after twenty or more years; it certified the honourable service performed and the grant of Roman citizenship (CIVITATEM .DEDIT) and the right to get married (CONVIBIVM CVM VXORIBVS).

In this case most of the discharged veterans mentioned seem to be Dalmatian from Salona (SALONITANI).

Tavole di Eraclea
Tables of Eraclea

Tables of Eraclea

The plates were found intact in 1732 in the small river Salandrella at Acinapura in the vicinity of Eraclea in the present Basilicata. The epigraphs date between the end of the fourth century and the early third century BC (310 – 290 BC), but the first plate is earlier than the second one, as it appears from the different names of the ephors.

The first table bears an inscription of 187 lines, written in Doric dialect with strong Attic influences, of a decree of the colony of Eraclea related to the land belonging to the Temple of Dionysus.

According to the text of the inscription, these properties are in a state of abandonment and have partially escaped the control of the temples, as they have been illegally occupied by private citizens. The city authorities, represented by the ephor and a series of five minor magistrates each with a specific role (the horistai for the placement of boundary stones or the sitagertai for the supply of wheat), are authorized by the citizens’ assembly to rectify the situation. The tables provide significant evidence of the legal and social regulations of the colony, since they bear the names of the legal institutions, mention the citizens’ assembly and give indications of the divisions of the civic body.

Tavole di Eraclea
Tavole di Eraclea

Tables of Eraclea

The second of the two tables bears a text related to the land belonging to the Temple of Athena Polias, which appears to be in better conditions than that of the Temple of Dionysus. It is completely tilled, with large vineyards, olive groves and fields crops. Even these six lots are granted to tenants with leases lasting five years and with the obligation to pay a higher rent than in the other plots of land, because the value of the property was higher, as the lands were already cultivated.

This table is of considerable importance for the history of agriculture: the text of the decree gives information regarding the five-year rotation of crops in order to obtain the best yield of the land and about the more cultivated cereals, that is wheat and especially barley, which was so important for the diet of that period as to be sometimes present as a monetary type or symbol on the coinage of Magno-Greek and Siceliote towns.

During the first half of the first century BC this table was re-used for the publication of a Roman legislative text known as Lex Julia Municipalis, as it was wrongly connected by early scholars with Julius Caesar.

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