Inscriptions from KY.Lou.SAM

The J. B. Speed Art Museum in Louisville houses an unusually large and homogeneous collection of some 130 Latin epitaphs and 500 fragments of epitaphs, all reportedly deriving from a small group of columbaria uncovered between 1897 and 1902 during construction of a Carmelite church and convent of Santa Teresa d’Avilia beside the Corso d'Italia outside the Aurelian wall between the Porta Salaria and the Porta Pinciana in Rome. The vast majority are small tablets of the sort originally set beneath loculi, but the collection also includes 11 marble ash urns (4 uninscribed) more than 60 terracotta urns; 2 inscribed children’s sarcophagi; an inscribed funerary altar; several mensae sepulchrales; and 70 intact and fragmentary terracotta lamps. All these, along with various ceramic bowls, plates, and unguent bottles, were donated to the Museum in 1929 by a prominent local benefactor, R.C. Ballard Thruston, whose agent had purchased them in Rome in 1911 and shipped them to Louisville, where they arrived the following year.

The inscriptions come from a large necropolis outside the Porta Salaria that flourished in several phases between the first century BCE and the early third century CE and that was first uncovered during the last decades of the 19th century in the course of development of the new residential quarter of Salaria in the northern section of the newly designated capital of the recently founded nation state of Italy (Cupitò;cf. Bodel 2014: 179-81). During the years when the zone was being uncovered, T. Ashby photographed a few of the columbaria at the time of their discovery (Ashby 1989), and G. Gatti and others published brief transcriptions of many epitaphs in a series of reports in Bullettino Comunale and Notizie degli Scavi that were surveyed and summarized in 1905 by Gatti, who provided a useful inventory of the relevant texts: CIL VI 33364-33367, 33392-33397, 33413-33420, 33398-33412, 33428, 33472, 33535, 33453, 33532, 33421-33706, 33466, and 33544. More recently, L. Gigante and G. Houston have published 27 previously unedited inscriptions, 5 previously published epitaphs with new joins, and 144 previously unpublished or unidentified fragments now in the Speed museum collection, and they have furthermore placed more than 200 of the Speed inscriptions (identified by their CIL VI numbers) in specific tombs, including three columbaria belonging to the families of the Vergilii (Cupitò: UC 10.95); Cestilii (Cupitò: UC 10.96); and Livineii (Cupitò: UC.10.97).

  • T. Ashby, Archeologia a Roma nelle fotografie di Thomas Ashby 1891-1930, Rome, 1989.

  • J. Bodel, “The Life and Death of Ancient Roman Cemeteries. Living with the Dead in Imperial Rome”, in C. Häuber, F. X. Schütz, and G. M. Winder, eds., Reconstruction and the Historic City: Rome and Abroad (Beiträge zur Wirtschaftsgeographie München 6) (Munich 2014) 177-95.

  • C. Cupito et al., Il Territorio Tra la Via Salaria, L’Aniene, Il Tevere, and La Via Salaria Vetus (Rome 2007).

  • G. Gatti, “Sepolcri e memorie sepolcrali dell’antica via Salaria,” BCAR 33 (1905) 154-188, Tavv. VII-VIII.

  • L.M. Gigante, “Two Cineraria in the J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky,” Vergilius 40 (1994) 69-75.

  • L.M. Gigante, “Roman Funerary Monuments in Louisville, Kentucky,” Proceedings of the XVIth International Congress of Classical Archaeology: Common Ground (London 2006): 124-27.

  • L.M. Gigante and G.W. Houston, “A Collection of Inscriptions from the Via Salaria Necropolis now in the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky,” MAAR 53 (2008) 27-78.

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