1 Supply erat after pretiosior.
2 Supply est after visa. See Ovid, Trist. 1.3.16 qui modo de multis unus et alter erant.
3 Seriola is a small jar, here used to contain Allia Potestas’ ashes. The fact that Allia was cremated, as opposed to buried, argues against a later date for the inscription. Magna is descriptive of Allia’s character
6 Fatigor + infinitive is a strange construction seen only once outside of this inscription. It may be read as “I am tired of responding.” Aulus is weary of continually responding to all the people asking him the same question. I have taken this line to read, “I am hard pressed to respond.” Aulus is just as perplexed as the cunctis as to why Allia should have been taken from him.
7 Sui…animi should refer to the minds of the people shedding tears, not Allia’s mind. See Ovid, Trist. 1.8.28 et lacrimas animi signa dedere sui. Even people without an intimate relationship with Allia grieve her passing.
8 Asyndeton between the adjectives used to describer her. See Ovid, Met. 1.562 postibus Augustis eadem fidissima custos.
9 Sat intensifies the second munda. She is even more refined in public than she is in her home. Domi is locative: “at home.”
10 Posset is an imperfect subjunctive in a result clause.
11 Manebat here is the first of several instances (18, 22, 27) of this word used in place of fuit. See Ovid, Trist. 5.14.22 et tantum probitas inreprehensa fuit.
12 Add esse after manebat. See Ovid, Met. 12.211 nubigenasque feros positis ex ordine mensis.
15 Moresque salubres is an accusative of respect.
16 Allia did not consider herself free even after she had received manumission. This is the mark of a good freedwoman: even though she is not a slave, she still defers to her former master and current patron.
17-24 A detailed description of Allia (i.e. descriptions of her papillae and her manibus duris) shows that Aulus knew her intimately. For this description, see Ovid’s Amores 1.5. In this poem, Ovid discusses an intimate encounter with a beautiful woman in his house. The description he gives of her body is much the same as the one Aulus gives in his inscription. He talks about her faultless body, her shapely breasts, and her smooth skin. This kind of a description is a unicum among Latin epitaphs.
20 Horsfall discusses the debate over whether the papillae are here used as nipples or as synecdoche for breasts. For them to simply represent her nipples would be consistent with the idea of a physical relationship. Anyone might be able to tell that Allia had shapely breasts, but only someone who had seen her unclothed could talk about the shape of her nipples.
21 There is some controversy over this line. Horsfall suggests that Allia’s legs are reminiscent of Atalanta’s “on the comic stage.” I would tend to agree, however, with Gordon’s rendering of this line that Atalanta’s legs would look comical in comparison with Allia’s. See also Ovid, Met. 11.169 artificis status ipse fuit.
22 Allia must be anxia about something, and it is probably that she does not worry about her appearance. She was confident in her beauty.
23 Illi is a dative of agent after quaesitus. Add est after quaesitus. See also Juvenal 8.115 cruraque totius facient tibi levia gentis and Ovid A.A. 3.194 neve forent duris aspera crura pilis.
24 Culpabere is a deponent verb addressing the reader who might censure Allia for her rough hands, her only physical defect.
26 Nosse is a syncopated form of novisse.
27 The meaning of infamis is a negative one, which is at odds with the way Aulus has been characterizing Allia. Within the context of the line, the meaning should obviously be the opposite of what the word means. She was inreprehensa (11), which is completely at odds with infamis. Bourne points out that translating fama as “common talk or rumor” could lend meaning to the sentence. If we read it with this in mind, then infamis could mean something along the lines of “impervious to rumor.”
28 There has been much debate over the meaning of this line. There is general agreement that the duo…amantes are Allia’s two lovers. Gordon, however, takes this line to be talking about Allia’s loving children. In fact, he outright dismisses the idea that they could represent lovers. It is clear from the previous description that Aulus gives of Allia’s body that he knows her intimately. Also, the grief he shows at Allia’s death is reminiscent of the grief a husband would show for a wife, not for just any freedwoman. Aulus and Allia were most likely, however, not married. While Roman law permitted Roman citizens to marry manumitted slaves, for any Roman man not in the lower class, marrying a freedwoman would be looked down upon. Instead, Allia would have been Aulus’ concubine, as it would have been acceptable in Roman society for a man to cohabit with a freedwoman.
The idea of having two lovers is strange, but not without precedent. A sarcophagus found at Ostia dating from around 120 AD displays three people possibly in a love triangle such as the one described in this inscription. It was apparently also socially acceptable, at least in the case of Allia. We will remember that Allia, as Aulus describes her, is blameless and well known. In fact, many people who do not even know her that well grieve at her death.
29 Fierent is a subjunctive in a result clause. Pylades and Orestes were legendary friends from Greek mythology. Close companions, the use of this allusion here would indicate that Allia’s two lovers were inseparable because of their shared connection to Allia. Horsfall points out an instance in Ovid’s Tristia where the author describes the friendship between the two men. It would make sense, because of the author’s obvious familiarity with the Tristia, that he knew of this reference and possibly could not think of another example as poignant as this one for his poem.
31 Post hanc means the time after Allia’s death.
33 Fecerit is a subjunctive in indirect question. The allusion to Helen of Troy here is interesting. The fight over Helen destroyed a great city. A great relationship, like that of Orestes and Pylades, was tenuously dependent on Allia’s presence, and easily destroyed after her death. While the comparison leaves a little to be desired, the reader can still understand what Aulus is trying to say.
34 See Ovid, Trist. 1.3.25 si licet exemplis in parvis grandibus uti and 1.6.28 grandia si parvis adsimulare licet. Aulus’ desire to use this allusion cause this line to become a heptameter.
35 See Ovid, Heriod. 3.15 at lacrimas sine fine dedi.
36 The use of muneris is strange. It seems to be in apposition to versus, but it is a genitive. Horsfall suggests translating it as “by way of a gift.” Amissae is a dative participle going with tibi in the line above. Pectore is an ablative of separation.
37 Quae refers back to versus, but is attracted to the case of munera grata.
39 Vivos is a Greek form that should be read as the nominative vivus.
40 See Ovid, Trist. 1.7.6-8 in digito qui me fersque refersque tuo/effigiemque meam fulvo complexus in auro. Lattimore points out that wearing a gold band with the name of a deceased loved one was a relatively common practice. It prevented their name from being forgotten, and it gave the wearer some tiny memory he or she could carry around.
41 Polyptoton with potest and potestas; interesting play on words as the one who ‘is able’ is able to hold on to life through Aulus’ remembrance.
42 See Ovid, Trist. 1.6.35-36 quantumcumque tamen praeconia nostra valebunt/carminibus vives tempus in omne meis.
44 What shape the effigiem that Aulus adores and wishes to take with him to his tomb is unsure. Surely, it is something more than a picture of Allia. Bettini indicates that this image most likely takes the form of a face of Allia made out of “wax or some other material,” which Aulus could gaze upon and would remind him of Allia as she looked when she was alive.
47 Sollemnia are solemn rites; they represent Aulus’ desire that the image of Allia be buried alongside him.
48 Possim is a subjunctive in an indirect question.
adimō adimere adēmī adēmptus: to take away
admittō admittere admīsī admīssus: to send to, admit
Allia –ae f.: Allia
amāns –antis: a lover
ānxius –a –um: troubled, disquieted
Atalanta –ae or Atalantē –ēs f.: Atalanta (name)
Aulus –ī m.: Aulus
auro aurāre: to gild
benīgnus –a –um: kind
capillus capillī m.: hair
comitor comitārī comitātus sum: to accompany
crūdēlis crūdēle: unfeeling, cruel
crūs –ūris n.: shin, leg
culpō culpāre culpāvī culpātus: to blame censure
cumque: whenever, always
cōmicus –a –um: of or pertaining to comedy, comic
dēlābor –lāpsus sum: to glide
dīripiō –ere –ripuī –reptus: to tear apart or off; snatch
dīvertō –ere –vertī –versus: to turn one’s self
dīvus (dīus) –a –um: divine
eburneus or eburnus –a –um: of ivory
effigiēs –ēī f.: something molded or fashioned; a figure
ei: woe! alas!
exiguus –a –um: small, little
existō –ere exstitī – : to come forth, emerge, appear
exsuperō exsuperāre exsuperāvī exsuperātus: to be completely above; mount upward
fatīgō fatīgāre fatīgāvī fatīgātus: to tire, wear out
forās: out of doors
fīdus –a –um: faithful, trustworthy
grandis grandis grande: full–grown; large
īnfāmis īnfāmis īnfāme: infamous
īnfēlīx īnfēlīcis: unfortunate, unhappy
inreprehēnsus –a –um: blameless, without blame
īnsīgnis īnsīgne: distinguished
īnsōns –sontis: innocent
lacertus –ī m.: the arm, esp. the upper arm
lacrimō lacrimāre lacrimāvī lacrimātus: to cry
lacēssō lacēssere lacēssīvī lacēssītus: to provoke
lectus lectī m.: bed, couch
lāna –ae f.: wool
līberta –ae f.: freedwoman
mandō mandāre mandāvī mandātus: to entrust
mānēs –ium m. pl: ghosts
nitor –ōris m.: brightness, brilliance
niveus –a –um: snowy
obsequium –ī n.: deference, solicitude
Orestēs –is or –ae m.: Orestes
papilla –ae f.: nipple, breast
patrōnus patrōnī m.: protector
permaneō permanēre permānsī permānsum: to remain
Persephonē –ēs f.: Persephone, Proserpina (name)
Perusīnus –a –um: Perusian, or Persusia
pilus –ī m.: a hair; something of no value or significance
praecōnium –ī n.: the office of a public crier
pretiōsus –a –um : expensive, costly, precious
probus –a –um: good
punctum –ī n.: point
Pyladēs –ae m.:
quamdiū or quam diū: as long as
quantuscumque quantacumque quantumcumque: how great soever. of whatever size
quiēs quiētis f.: rest
rēctor –ōris m.: director
salūbris –e or salūber –bris –bre: healthy
senescō senescere senuī: to grow old, deteriorate
serta –ōrum n.: things entwined; garlands
sollemnis –e: customary
status statūs m.: position
struō struere strūxī strūctus: to construct
sēdulus –a –um: careful, cautious
sēriola –ae f.: small jar
sōlācium sōlāci(ī) n.: comfort
tenāx –ācis: tenacious
titulus – ī m.: title, label, claim to fame
torum –ī n. (alsō torus –ī m.): bed, couch, cushion
Troia Troiae f.: Troy
versiculus versiculī m.: verse
versus versūs m.: line (of poetry)
videor vidērī vīsus sum: to seem; be seen
vīvus –a –um: alive