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the orators and historians, such as Cicero, Livy, Pliny the elder, and Suetonius among the Latins, and Polybius, Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Josephus among the Greeks, occasionally mention inscriptions of high historical interest. A few grammarians, as, for example, Varro, Verrius Flaccus and Valerius Probus of Berytus, quote ancient words or formulae from them, or explain the abbreviations used in them. Juridical instruments, laws, constitutions of emperors, senatus consulta and the like appear in the various collections of Roman jurisprudence.

Inscriptions (in the wider sense, as we shall henceforth call them without regard to the distinction which has been drawn) have been found in nearly every centre of ancient Roman life, but, like many other remains of antiquity, only seldom in their original sites. The great mass of them has to be sought for in the large European museums of ancient art, and in the smaller local collections of ancient remains which occur nearly everywhere in the European provinces of the former Roman empire as well as in the north of Africa, and also here and there in Asia Minor.

Only those copies of inscriptions are to be received with full confidence which are furnished by experienced and well-equipped scholars, or which have been made with the help of mechanical methods (casts, photographs, moist and dry rubbings), not always applicable with equal success, but depending on the position and the state of preservation of the monuments.[1] From the first revival of classical learning in the Carolingian age attention was paid anew, by pilgrims to Rome and other places worth visiting, to epigraphic monuments also. In the time of the Renaissance, from the end of the 14th century downwards, some of the leading Italian scholars, like Poggio and Signorili, and the antiquarian traveller Cyriacus of Ancona, collected inscriptions, Greek and Latin.[2] In the 15th century large collections of the inscriptions of all countries, or of limited districts, were made by Giovanni Marcanova, Fra Felice Feliciano, Fra Michele Ferrarino, Fra Giocondo the architect of Verona, Marino Sanudo the Venetian polyhistor, and others. At the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th, the first printed collections can be recorded (Spreti’s for Ravenna, 1489; Peutinger’s for Augsburg, 1508; Huttich’s for Mainz, 1520; Francesco degli Albertini’s for Rome, printed in 1521 by Jacopo Mazochi), while during the same century a long list of epigraphic travellers, like Pighius, Rambertus and Accursius, or antiquarian collectors, like Sigonius, Panvinius, Antonius Augustinus with his collaborators Ursinus and Metellus, and many others, were busy in augmenting the stock of epigraphic monuments. The series of printed epigraphic Corpora begins with that of Apianus (Ingolstadt, 1534), the only one arranged in geographical order, and is continued in those of Smetius (1558, but edited only after the author’s death by Justus Lipsius, 1588), Gruter (with Joseph Scaliger’s Indices, 1603, and re-edited by Graevius, 1707), Gudius (about 1660, edited by Hessel, 1731), Reinesius (1682), Fabretti (1699), Gori (1726), Doni (1731), Muratori (1739), Maffei (1749), Donati (1765-1775). These collections, manuscript and printed, will never altogether lose their value, as great numbers of inscriptions known to the ancient collectors have since been lost or destroyed. But, inasmuch as even towards the beginning of the 15th century, as well as afterwards, especially from the 16th down to a very recent period, all sorts of inaccuracies, interpolations and even downright falsifications, found their way into the Corpora, these can be employed only with the greatest caution. Modern critical research in the field of epigraphy began with the detection of those forgeries (especially of the very extensive and skilful ones of Pirro Ligorio, the architect to the house of Este) by Maffei, Olivieri and Marini. The last-named scholar opens a new era of truly critical and scientific handling of Roman inscriptions (especially in his standard work on the Atti dei fratelli arvali, Rome, 1795); his disciple and successor, Count Bartolomeo Borghesi (who died at San Marino in 1860), may be rightly called the founder of the modern science of Roman epigraphy.[3] Orelli’s handy collection of Roman inscriptions (2 vols., Zurich, 1828) is a first attempt to make accessible to a larger scientific public the results of the researches of Marini and his successors; but it was not completed, (and thoroughly corrected) until nearly thirty years later, by Henzen (Orelli, iii., with the indispensable Indices, Zurich, 1856), who, with Mommsen and De Rossi, carried out the plan of a universal Corpus inscriptionum Latinarum, previously projected by Maffei (1732), by Kellermann and Sarti (1832), with Borghesi’s help, and by Letronne and Egger (1843). After the appearance of Mommsen’s Inscriptiones regni Neapolitani Latinae (Leipzig, 1852) and his Inscriptiones confoederationis Helveticae Latinae (vol. x. of the publications of the Zurich Antiquarian Society, 1854), the publication of the C.I.L., following the similar work of the Greek inscriptions, was undertaken by the Royal Academy of Sciences of Berlin.

This work, in which the previous literature is fully described and utilized, consists of the following parts:—vol. i., Inscriptiones antiquissimae ad C. Caesaris mortem (1863; 2nd ed., part i., 1893); Ritschl’s Priscae Latinitatis monumenta epigraphica (Berlin, 1862, fol.) form the graphic illustration to vol. i., giving all extant monuments of the republican epoch (with five Supplementa, Bonn, 1862-1865; R. Garrucci’s Sylloge inscriptionum Latinarum aevi Romanae reipublicae usque ad C. Iulium Caesarem plenissima, 2 vols., Turin, 1875-1877, must be used with caution); vol. ii., Inscr. Hispaniae (1869; with Supplement, 1892); vol. iii., Inscr. Asiae, provinciarum Europae Graecarum, Illyrici (1873; with Supplements and Index, 1889-1902); vol. iv., Inscr. parietariae Pompeianae Herculanenses Stabianae (the scratched and painted inscriptions chiefly of Pompeii) (1871; with Supplement, part i., 1898; part ii., 1909); vol. v., Inscr. Galliae cisalpinae (1872-1877; with Suppl., Et. Pais, C.I.L. suppl. Italica); vol. vi., Inscr. urbis Romae (1876-1902; with Supplement, 1902); vol. vii., Inscr. Britanniae (1873); vol. viii., Inscr. Africae (1881; with Supplement, 1891-1894, 1904); vol. ix., Inscr. Calabriae, Apuliae, Samnii, Sabinorum, Piceni (1883); vol. x., Inscr. Bruttiorum, Lucaniae, Campaniae, Siciliae, Sardiniae (1883); vol. xi., Inscr. Aemiliae, Umbriae, Etruriae (1888; part ii., 1901 sqq.); vol. xii., Inscr. Galliae Narbonensis (1888); vol. xiii., Inscr. trium Galliarum et duarum Germaniarum (1899 sqq.; part ii., 1905 sqq.); vol. xiv., Inscr. Latii antiqui; vol. xv., Inscr. laterum (1891; part ii., i. [vasa, lucernae, fistulae], 1899). The arrangement observed in the Corpus is the geographical (as in Apianus); within the single towns the order of subjects (tituli sacri, magistratuum, privatorum, &c., as in Smetius) is followed, with some few exceptions, where the monuments are so numerous (as in the forum of Rome and at Pompeii and Lambaesis) that they can be assigned to their original places. Running supplements to the C.I.L. are given in the Ephemeris epigraphica, Corporis inscr. Latinarum supplementum (Berlin, 1872 sqq.); and the new discoveries of each year are recorded in Cagnat’s L’Année épigraphique.

The inscriptions in the other Italian dialects have been published by Conway, Italic Dialects (Cambridge, 1897); cf. vol. ii. of von Planta, Grammatik der oskisch-umbrischen Dialekte (Strassburg, 1897). A Corpus of the Etruscan inscriptions was begun in 1893 by Pauli and is now nearly complete. The inscriptions of the Veneti, a N. Italian people of the Illyrian stock, will be found in vol. iii. of Pauli, Altitalische Forschungen (Leipzig, 1891). For the Christian inscriptions see De Rossi’s Inscr. Christianae urbis Romae septimo saeculo antiquiores, vol. i. (Rome, 1857), vol. ii. (1888); the Inscriptions chrétiennes de la Gaule of Le Blant (2 vols., Paris, 1857-1865; new edition, 1892); the Altchristliche Inschriften der Rheinlande of Kraus (1890); the Christliche Inschriften der Schweiz vom IV.-IX. Jahrhundert of Egli (1895); and the Inscr. Hispaniae Christianae and Inscr. Britanniae Christianae of Hübner (Berlin, 1871, 1876). As splendidly illustrated works on the Latin inscriptions of some districts Alphonse de Boissieu’s Inscriptions antiques de Lyon (Lyons, 1846-1854), Ch. Robert’s Épigraphie romaine de la Moselle (Paris, 1875), and J. C. Bruce’s Lapidarium septentrionale (London and Newcastle, 1875) can be recommended. Besides the above-mentioned Orelli-Henzen collection, G. Wilmanns’s Exempla inscriptionum Latinarum (2 vols, Berlin, 1873, with copious indexes), and Dessau’s Inscriptiones Latinae selectae (vol. i., 1892; vol. ii., 1903; ii., 1906) give a general synopsis of the materials. Inscriptions of interest to students of history are collected in Rushforth’s Latin Historical Inscriptions (Oxford, 1893); Leroux, Revue des publications épigraphiques relatives à l’antiquité romaine, records those which bear on antiquities. Of other works may be mentioned Ruggiero, Dizionario epigrafico di antichità romane (1886); Olcott, Thesaurus linguae Latinae epigraphicae (1904 sqq.).

II. Information regarding the forms of letters used on Roman inscriptions will be found under the articles Latin Language, Palaeography and Writing (cf. Hübner, Exempla scripturae

  1. See E. Hübner, Über mechanische Copieen von Inschriften (Berlin, 1881).
  2. Compare De Rossi, Bullettino dell’ instituto archeologico (1871), p. 1 sq.
  3. His works have been published by the French government in several volumes 4to (Paris, 1862 sqq.).