BMCR 2021.07.21

Grumentum: the epigraphical landscape of a Roman town in Lucania

, , Grumentum: the epigraphical landscape of a Roman town in Lucania. Turnhout: Brepols, 2021. Pp. 248. ISBN 9782503589992 €90,00.

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“This volume seems to be a conclusive summa of Grumentum’s history”. With these words Attilio Mastrocinque begins his preface (p. 7) to the volume edited by Christian Laes and Alfredo Buonopane for the series Giornale Italiano di Filologia – Bibliotheca (vol. 22), published by Brepols, which offers a totally new and very useful edition of the Latin inscriptions of the Lucanian city of Grumentum. While the work certainly represents a milestone in the study of the city (and more generally of Lucania), in my opinion it cannot yet be considered definitive.

The volume is divided into two macro-sections. The first is dedicated to the historical contextualisation of the town, starting from a comprehensive history of previous epigraphic studies on Grumentum (chapter 1), which investigates the problems related to the formation of local epigraphic collections that were then dispersed and partially recovered (the case of the arciprete Carlo Danio is especially famous, pp. 12-14). Another interesting point is the re-evaluation of the work of local scholar Francesco Saverio Roselli, whom Mommsen had harshly criticised, judging many inscriptions he reported to be false. Mommsen’s suspicions are now rightly diminished and attributed by the authors to Francesco Saverio Roselli’s lack of epigraphic expertise (pp. 15-16).

In the second section of the first chapter the various archaeological campaigns conducted over the years in the urban centre and in some areas of Grumentum’s territory are then described, starting from Pellegrino Claudio Sestieri’s preliminary surveys in 1951 to the very recent (and still ongoing) excavation mission of the British Archaeological Project at Grumentum, which began in 2014 as a collaboration of Cardiff University, the Soprintendenza Archeologica of Basilicata and the Grumento Nova municipality. This section is useful not only to archaeologists, but also to understand how many inscriptions emerged during the excavation activities.

The second chapter contains a  comprehensive examination of the history of Grumentum from its origins in the second half of the 4th century BC until the 4th century AD, while Late Antiquity and the Christianisation of the town are discussed in a separate chapter (chapter 8).

The third chapter provides an in-depth examination of the institutions of Grumentum, with a very practical and useful synoptic table of the colony’s magistrates, distributed in chronological order. This is followed by a series of sections dedicated, with more extensive discussions, to the aediles (3.1), the praetores duoviri (3.2), the quaestores (3.3), and the decuriones (3.4), which provide a closer look at the activities of Grumentum’s colonial elite and the functioning and hierarchy of the local cursus honorum.

The last two sections of the third chapter (3.5-3.6) deal with the Magistri Mercuriales Augustales, Augustales Mercuriales and Augustales Herculanei and their organisation, tracing in a clear and enlightening way the intersections between the cults of Augustus, Mercury and Hercules that justify the titles of these officials. Here too there are practical synoptic tables of the individuals who held these offices, presented in chronological order.

The fourth chapter discusses the military personnel attested in the town, for which the authors underline a particularly interesting link with the Balkan area. The fifth offers an overview of the economic activities and professions attested in Grumentum. Alongside the occupations of a dispensator, two actores and a grammaticus graecus, the architectus T. Vettius (p. 96, no. 23) could perhaps have been mentioned in this chapter.

The sixth chapter deals with the religious universe of Grumentum, in which the authors skilfully cross-reference both the data offered by archaeological research and the information obtainable from epigraphic sources.

The seventh chapter then considers issues already addressed by Christian Laes in previous work,[1] concerning family and life course in the regio III Lucania et Bruttii, but now obviously focused on the city of Grumentum. This section, which is very useful for reconstructing trends in family relationships between dedicators and dedicatees, is then accompanied, once again, by a clear synoptic table organised in ascending order by the age of the deceased.

Chapter 8, which concludes the first macro-section of the volume, analyses the late antique and the Christian phase of the city, which most probably became a diocese as early as the 4th century AD; it also examines the period of the Greek-Gothic War. The authors also reflect on a very complex and problematic hagiographic source (dating back to 1162) concerning Saint Laverio, whose martyrdom is said to have taken place in Grumentum in AD 312 (pp. 58-59).

The second macro-section (pp. 67-198) is dedicated to the edition and commentary of 129 inscriptions (although one of them, no. 2, pp. 67-68, is not related to Grumentum, but has to be assigned to Atina), divided into sections according to the typological order used in the CIL (i.e. sacred inscriptions, dedications to emperors, inscriptions relating to notables and magistrates, funerary inscriptions and instrumentum inscriptum).

Each inscription is accompanied by a bibliography of previous editions and major discussions, an analytical description of the support and, if still existing and available, a photo or, failing that, a facsimile of CIL’s text. It is followed by a critical transcription of the text, an apparatus criticus, an English translation and, finally, acommentary, although not always equally exhaustive for all the epigraphic documents collected. Inscription no. 103 (p. 179), for example, could perhaps have been given more space for reflection, as it is most likely a funerary carmen of some importance, albeit fragmentary. This document constitutes an interesting novelty in a region that has so far yielded little evidence of inscriptions in verse.

An examination of the possible boundaries of the ager of Grumentum during the Roman age would certainly have helped to better define this section of the volume. A treatment of this thorny question, although never definitive due to the absence of certain data, would have helped to understand more clearly the selection criteria adopted by the authors for the inscriptions incorporated, since they only include some tituli found in the vicinity of Grumentum. From the site of the villa Barricelle in Marsicovetere, for instance, the authors include three texts (nos. 100; 125; 126), but do not consider two other inscriptions that Mommsen indicated as coming from Marsicovetere (CIL X, 190, 195). The authors may have excluded them because of historical or territorial considerations, but these are not made explicit, and, as a result, the reader may be disoriented.

Another epigraphic absence, about which no information is given, concerns a limestone cupa of the imperial period found near the church of San Laverio. While it is still basically unpublished, a photograph has been provided in at least two publications.[2] Another cupa from the same site is listed by the authors under no. 98 (pp. 173-174). The section on instrumentum inscriptum is also missing a series of artefacts, which are elsewhere assigned to workshops active in the town or in its immediate vicinity.[3] However, once again we do not know whether the authors intentionally excluded certain categories of the instrumentum.

Nevertheless, the work has the merit of presenting unpublished photographic documentation for several epigraphic texts and, above all, editions of no less than six new texts (nos. 102; 103; 104; 105; 116; 117), which were previously completely unknown.

At the end of the volume there are several useful indexes, compiled by Fiammetta Soriano, which include the literary sources cited, the epigraphic corpora, the places, the personages subdivided by Nomina virorum et mulierum, Emperors and their family members, Popes, bishops, clerics, saints, Tribus and finally a General Index. This section is followed by a table of concordance with previous epigraphic editions, as well as a final bibliography.

In conclusion, my opinion on the volume is surely positive, despite some limited gaps which confirm why the work cannot yet be evaluated as a “conclusive summa”, as Attilio Mastrocinque stated. The volume provides scholars with a useful and updated tool, which will be an indispensable point of reference for any future research on the city and, more generally, on the epigraphy and the society of the regio III Lucania et Bruttii.


[1] Ch. Laes, Latin Inscriptions and the Life Course. Regio III (Bruttium and Lucania) as a test case, in «Arctos», 46 (2012), pp. 95-113.

[2] G. Bertelli – M. Rizzi – R. Rotondo – A. Attolico – R. G. Lombardi – S. Airò, San Laverio a Grumento Nova (Pz): le fonti e gli scavi, in A. Coscarella – P. De Santis (eds.), Martiri, santi, patroni: per una archeologia della devozione (Atti X Congresso Nazionale di Archeologia Cristiana, Università della Calabria 15-18 settembre 2010), Rende 2012, p. 665, fig. 6a; G. Bertelli, 2008-2009. Archaeological Surveys in the San Laverio Area, Grumentum (Grumento Nova, Potenza). Earliest Data, in A. Mastrocinque (ed.), Grumentum e il suo territorio nell’antichità, Oxford 2013, p. 174, fig. 18.

[3] See S. Braito, A New Businesswoman from Roman Lucania: the Brick and Tile Production of Titia and Some Remarks on the Titii of Grumentum, in A. Mastrocinque – C.M. Marchetti – R. Schiavone (eds.), Grumentum and Roman Cities in Southern Italy, Oxford 2016, pp. 301-309.