NOVA  ROMA Interview



of the month


Interview of April

Prof Silvia Giorcelli Bersani
Latin Epigraphy

What is the CIL and what is its composition? What other methods do epigraphists have at their

The CIL (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum) is the most important collection of Latin inscriptions, and is a very important tool for every student of Roman history. It was conceived by Theodor Mommsen (Nobel Prize for literature in 1902) in mid-19th century after dozens years of planning work and attempts. It was published thank the undertaking of the Berlin Academy (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum consilio et auctoritate Academiae litterarum regiae Borussicae editum, Berolini 1863).
It is composed of a lot of volumes (and each of them is divided into instalments and tomes) and is written in Latin. Because of its makeup it is still incomplete, even though it is widely updated. To date there are 18 volumes organized following different criteria: on a chronological basis (vol. I, containing republican inscriptions prior to Caesar's death, 44 B.C.[ad C. Caesaris mortem]); on a geographical basis (vol. II-XIV, divided into provinces, Italic regions and cities); on a typological basis (vol. XV, domestic tools, vol. XVI, military diplomas, vol. XVII, mile posts, vol. XVIII, epigraphic poems).

VOL. I Inscriptiones Latinae antiquissimae ad C. Caesaris mortem
VOL. I2 Inscriptiones Latinae antiquissimae ad C. Caesaris mortem
VOL II Inscriptiones Hispaniae Latinae
VOL. II2 Inscriptiones Hispaniae Latinae
VOL. III Inscriptiones Asiae, provinciarum Europae Graecarum, Illyrici Latinae
VOL. IV Inscriptiones parietariae Pompeianae Herculanenses Stabianae
VOL. V Inscriptiones Galliae Cisalpinae Latinae
VOL. VI Inscriptiones urbis Romae Latinae
VOL. VII Inscriptiones Britanniae Latinae
VOL. VIII Inscriptiones Africae Latinae
VOL. IX Inscriptiones Calabriae, Apuliae, Samnii, Sabinorum, Piceni Latinae
VOL. X Inscriptiones Bruttiorum, Lucaniae, Campaniae, Siciliae, Sardiniae Latinae
VOL. XI Inscriptiones Aemiliae, Etruriae, Umbriae Latinae
VOL. XII Inscriptiones Galliae Narbonensis Latinae
VOL. XIII Inscriptiones Inscriptiones trium Galliarum et Germaniarum Latinae
VOL. XIV Inscriptiones Latii veteris latinae
VOL. XV Inscriptiones urbis Romae Latinae. Instrumentum domesticum
VOL. XVI Diplomata militaria
VOL. XVII Miliaria imperii Romani
VOL. XVIII Carmina Latina epigraphica

Within the volumes each inscription is identified by a number (e.g. CIL, V 5768 = 5th volume, about Gallia Cisalpina, inscription number 5768, which in particular is a sacred epigraph in Hercules' honour coming from Milan) and is shortly described (kind and shape of the object, state of repair, where it was found and where it is today). Then there is the transcription of the text, paged up as in the original. They are written in CAPITALS and integrated where needed by using lower-case italics. ITALIC CAPITALS are used for those letters and lines which we already knew from other inscriptions and which were later lost. A series of slashes /// indicate that the surface of the text is damaged. After the text there is the bibliography and the apparatus criticus (i.e. all the studies on that document in chronological order, the reading variants line by line, the expansion of the abbreviations). Each volume has an index divided into chapters (nomina and cognomina, but also divinities, emperors, consuls, magistrates, soldiers, localities, collegia and corporations, activities, etc.) which is the principle means to find inscriptions.

From the second half of the 19th century onwards other anthologies of inscriptions were compiled. Among them we can mention:
-F. Bucheler, Carmina latina Epigraphica (i.e. CLE, Leipzig 1895)
-H. Dessau, Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae (ILS, Berlin 1892-1916)
-Inscriptiones Italiae (Roma 1931, uncomplete)
-E. Diehl, Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres (ILCV, Berlin, Dublin, Zürich 1925-1931)
-A. Degrassi, Inscriptiones Latinae Liberae Rei Publicae (ILLRP, Firenze 1963 and 1965)
-Inscriptiones christianae urbis Romae septimo saeculo antiquiores (ICVR, Roma 1922 -)
-Inscriptiones christianae Italiae (ICI, Bari 1985 -)
-Supplementa Italica (Roma 1981 -).

Today we have at our disposal reading techniques which are more advanced that those of Mommsen and his contemporaries. In the critical editions there are extensive descriptions of the object (the class and kind of manufactured product according to a precise classification system, material, state of repair, figurative body, size of object and letters), the place where it was found, its history (its travels if any, after discovery), its current location and the bibliography. There is clear and detailed photograph, which allows one to immediately get the exact idea of the document and its text. Finally, there is a historical commentary and the dating of the object.

Given that the epigraphic patrimony is constantly growing thanks to new findings, it is necessary to systematically update the CIL. Therefore there are a lot of regional collections, magazines, journals, supplements which integrate the various volumes of the Corpus. The constant updating of the epigraphic editions is the purpose of the periodical "L'Année épigraphique" (AE
or AEp) which has been published in Paris since 1888. Other magazines dedicated to the publication of epigraphic documents (new, but also new editions and commentaries) are: "Epigraphica", 1939 to present time, "Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik" (ZEP) 1967 to present in Köln, "Chiron" 1971 to present in München. There are several websites on the Internet which contain archives with texts and pictures, as well as a number of informative websites about specific epigraphic projects. Among the most important ones we will mention the Epigraphische Datenbank Heidelerg directed by G. Alföldy, and the wide data bank of the J. W. Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt. These both are for experts in
the field. Accessible to amateur is the website Le iscrizioni latine come fonte per la ricostruzione storica (Latin inscriptions as source for historical reconstruction), edited by A. Cristofori. P. Donati Giacomini has recently published a small book about the use of the Internet in the study of ancient history where it is possible to find useful addresses for the research: (Innovazione e tradizione. Le risorse telematiche e informatiche nello studio della storia antica, Il Mulino, Bologna 2002).

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