Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2019.04.02 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2019.04.02

Monique Dondin-Payre, Nicolas Tran (ed.), Esclaves et maîtres dans le monde romain: expressions épigraphiques de leurs relations. Collection de l'École française de Rome, 527.   Roma:  École française de Rome, 2017.  Pp. 410.  ISBN 9782728312405.  €36,00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Jesper Carlsen, University of Southern Denmark (

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

Several of the French-Italian conferences on Roman epigraphy have been published in the prestigious Collection de l'École française de Rome.1 This is also the case for the twentieth conference, which was held in 2014 and focussed on the relationships between slaves and their masters as expressed in inscriptions.

This important volume brings together a number of case-studies, but as is so often the case with multi-authored volumes and conference proceedings, it lacks homogeneity to some extent. The eighteen contributions in French or Italian are divided into three parts and are preceded by a short introduction by François Chausson. The first four articles share the common theme of Roman law and the relationships between manumitted slaves and their former masters, while the following five contributions discuss different practices of slaves’ lives and deaths. The final nine articles are grouped together as regional studies, and surprisingly they all concern material from the Italian peninsula and Sardinia, while the case-studies in the two first sections discuss the famous manumission inscriptions from Delphi (Dominique Mulliez), a verse inscription from Caesarea Mauretania in Roman North Africa (Christine Hamdoune) or include epigraphical material from different provinces of the Roman Empire. One example is Egidio Incelli’s discussion of the different legal forms of manumission which uses inscriptions and papyri originating from Egypt to Spain. Another example is the very useful list Antón Alvar Nuño has compiled of curse tablets commissioned by slaves. He analyses an unusual defixio from Rome that a slave made aimed at his female owner. The interesting contribution by Franco Luciani examines the relations between former public slaves and their town after their manumissions, while Cyrielle Landrea focusses on the servile dependants of the senatorial Valerii Messallae attested in different columbaria at Rome. In their short article Simona Antolini and Silvia Maria Marengo present dedications of slaves to the genius not only of their masters, but also to institutions, although strangely they overlook the dedications to genius of the estates where the slaves worked.2 Nicolas Laubry analyses the well-attested formula libertis libertabusque posterisque eorum, but the contribution is too short to develop the many interesting observations and ideas on Roman funerary practice.

Very useful are the several contributions that publish recently discovered inscriptions. An ossuary in marble with two long inscriptions was sequestered by the Italian Guardia di Finanza near Rome in 2013, and Gian Luca Gregori and Gianmarco Bianchini present meticulously this important new funerary document with photographs, comments and translations. In a second paper Gregori publishes an epitaph found during an excavation in 2008 in the via Flaminia near Rome. It commemorates a young Roman citizen, who apparently lived only 6 years, 9 months and 22 days and was commemorated by L. Modius Urbanus who calls himself tata and the deceased a domnulus optimus et carissimus. It is first time that this diminutive of dominus appears in an inscription, and Urbanus may have been a freedman of the deceased or perhaps better of his father. Important also is Gregori’s discussion of other epigraphically attested job titles of males involved in child care among the Roman elite which show that these figures were normally slaves and freedmen. Marina Silvestrini publishes, together with excellent black-and-white photographs, some inedited funerary inscriptions from the National Archaeological Museum at Taranto. They do not all include slaves or freedmen but are important documents for the local history in the late Republic. Giovanni Mennella gives an improved and convincing reading of CIL V, 6785 from Ivrea, which has been removed from the porticus inside the Palazzo Vescovile. The inscription is, in fact, a herm perhaps dedicated to the genius of the colony Eporedia, and the long list of seventeen names of freeborn and freedmen is inscribed at different points in the second century CE as documented by distinct forms of lettering. Other regional contributions offer syntheses of the epigraphical material concerning slavery in Sardinia (Maria Bastiana Cocco) or aspects of slavery in a single town or the Augustan Italic regions. Laura Chioffi discusses several inscriptions from Capua, where the masters of the slaves are not private individuals, but a temple, the town, an association or the emperor. Maria Letizia Caldelli takes Ostia as her case study and analyses eighty inscriptions from the early empire. Once again Ostia provides a picture different from Rome, and the inscriptions demonstrate that the relations between slaves and masters were not perfect in all cases. Trustworthy slaves are the theme of Claudio Zaccaria’s paper, which also includes many useful tables of slaves and epithets in the Aquileian inscriptions. Regional analyses are presented by Alfredo Buonopane and Giovannella Cresci Marrone in a joint paper on female slave owners and freedmen in regiones X and XI and by Francesca Cenerini in a well-illustrated and well-documented paper on slave children up to seven years in Regio VIII.

The consolidated bibliography is more than 40 pages and has only minor faults. Hanne Sigismund Nielsen’s article on alumnus appears both as Nielsen 1987 and Sigismund Nielsen 1987, while a few other references are missing. Together with the useful indices of sources, terms and onomastic elements this book will surely be a standard reference work on the epigraphical material for Roman slavery. The French-Italian conferences on Roman epigraphy have resulted in many important volumes in the last three decades, and the present one on the relations between slaves and masters in the Roman Empire is no exception. The contributions have very different approaches to the epigraphical material, but the best papers contextualise the inscriptions within a social context and give new perspectives on the conclusions that Keith Bradley reached more than three decades ago in his seminal book with the almost same title.3

Table of Contents

Avant-Propos (Monique Dondin-Payre and Nicolas Tran), 1
Introduction. La place de l’épigraphie dans l’étude des relations entre esclaves et maîtres (François Chausson), 3–10.

Le monde servile et le droit
La loi, la norme et l’usage dans les relations entre maîtres et esclaves à travers la documentation delphique (200 av. J.-C.–100 ap. J.-C.) (Dominique Mulliez), 13–30
Le rapport maître-esclave et les modalités de manumission dans l’empire romain (Egidio Incelli), 31–43
Cittadini come domini, cittadini come patroni. Rapporti tra serui publici e città prima e dopo la manomissione (Franco Luciani), 45–64
La désignation de la postérité. Autour de la formule libertis libertabusque posterisque eorum dans les inscriptions funéraires romaines (Nicolas Laubry), 65–79

Le monde servile face aux hommes, aux dieux, à la mort
L’épitaphe versifiée d’un esclave de la familia de Juba II (Christine Hamdoune), 83-96
La familia méconnue des Valerii Messallae (Ier s. av. – Ier s. ap. J.-C.) (Cyrielle Landrea), 97–111
Le malheur de Politoria : sur la malédiction d’une esclave contre sa matrone (Antón Alvar Nuňo), 113–127
Dediche servili al genius dei padroni (Simona Antolini and Silvia Maria Marengo), 129–140
Tra epigrafia, letteratura e filologia. Due inedite meditazioni sulla vita e sulla morte incise sull’ossario di Cresto (Gian Luca Gregori and Gianmarco Bianchini), 141–159

Études régionales
Patrone e liberti nella Transpadana romana (Alfredo Buonopane and Giovannella Cresci Marrone), 163–184
Fidelissimus servus. Considerazioni sul rapporto servo-padrone (testimonianze aquileiesi) (Claudio Zaccaria), 185–213
Liberi, liberti e schiavi in un dossier epigrafico da Eporedia (CIL, V, 6785) (Giovanni Mennella), 215–225
La rappresentazione epigrafica dell’infanzia servile nella Regio ottava: alcuni esempi (Francesca Cenerini), 227–241
Domnulo optimo et carissimo: la dedica funeraria di un tata per il suo pupillo (Roma, via Flaminia) (Gian Luca Gregori), 243–252
Schiavi e padroni ad Ostia: alcune riflessioni su un rapporto sociale ambivalente (Maria Letizia Caldelli), 253–267
Amans domini, opseq(u)ens amicis: vita da schiavi a Capua (Laura Chioffi), 269–277
Inediti da Taranto. Echi delle guerre civili (Marina Silvestrini), 279–296
La schiavitù nella Sardinia: sintesi dei dati alla luce della documentazione letteraria ed epigrafica (Maria Bastiana Cocco), 297–318

Bibliographie, 319-359
Résumés des contributions, 361-367
Indices, 369-407


1.   Several of the acts have been published in Collection de l'École française de Rome: Epigrafia, (CEFR 143) Rome 1991; Epigrafia della produzione e della distribuzione , (CEFR 193) Rome 1994; Il capitolo delle entrate nelle finanze municipali in occidente ed in oriente, (CEFR 256) Rome 1999; Colons et colonies dans le monde romain, (CEFR 456) Rome 2012. The 21th conference is already published: Le forme municipali in Italia e nelle province occidentali tra i secoli I a.C. e III d.C., Bari 2017.
2.   CIL VIII 27943; AE 1902, 223.
3.   K.R. Bradley, Slaves and Masters in the Roman Empire. A Study in Social Control, Bruxelles 1984; 2nd ed. Oxford 1987.

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