Monday, November 8, 2010


Version at BMCR home site

Joaquín L. Gómez-Pantoja, Epigrafia anfiteatrale dell'Occidente Romano, VII: Baetica, Tarraconensis, Lusitania Vetera 17 (with the collaboration of Javier Garrido). Rome: Edizioni Quasar, 2009. Pp. 313. ISBN 9788871403779. €47.00.

Reviewed by Guy Chamberland, Thorneloe College of Laurentian University

It has now been over twenty years since the first volume of the series Epigrafia anfiteatrale dell'Occidente Romano, hereafter EAOR, was published. The founding editor, Patrizia Sabbatini Tumolesi, was convinced that a systematic collection and re-examination of the epigraphic documentation needed to be done in order to investigate properly many fundamental and sometimes neglected aspects of gladiators and gladiatorial spectacles (cf. EAOR I, 7). The latest volume is devoted to the three provinces of the Iberian Peninsula: Tarraconensis, Baetica, and Lusitania.1 There are two main parts: the catalogue of inscriptions (35-201) and 16 synoptic tables followed by a general discussion (203-224). The volume is rounded up with detailed indices (225-270), a line-drawn map of the Peninsula (273), and 40 plates (274-313).2

The catalogue of inscriptions, none of which predates the Augustan era (but cf. infra on no. 1), is subdivided into four main themes: the administration of the gladiatorial establishment (35-72; nos. 1-7); gladiatorial displays (munera), amphitheatrical hunts (venationes), and the festivals and games of the local associations of youth—i.e., the spectacles actually produced and epigraphically attested, but also the organizers (73-88; nos. 8-16); gladiators, gladiatorial schools, and venatores (89-126; nos. 17-45); amphitheatres and attendant structures (127-201; nos. 46-74). Although the instrumentum domesticum is normally excluded from this series, eight fragments of thin-wall pottery from Calagurris (Tarraconensis) are provided (118-126; nos. 39-45). The documents add up to 74 numbers, but there are actually twice as many inscriptions and fragments (cf. 7). Thus, the 35 loca (or seating) fragments from the amphitheatre of Tarraco are all conveniently listed under no. 55. Only a few fragments, mostly limited to one or several letters, were previously unpublished (listed at 257). There is, however, quite a serious list of some 47 inscriptions which were excluded by Gómez-Pantoja, though at one time or another they have been included in collections of "amphitheatrical" documents (19-34; more on this below). As in the previous volumes, the documents are not translated.

The section on the administration of the munera includes some documents of exceptional importance for our understanding of the gladiatorial establishment not only in Hispania, but in the Roman West or even throughout the Empire. No. 1 (35-42; cf. 211-12) offers a selection of three excerpts (sections LXVI, LXX-LXXI, CXXV) from the charter of the Caesarian colony at Urso in Baetica, partially preserved in several bronze tablets inscribed ofthe Tiberian or Claudian period. I must point out an important omission, however, since section CXXXIV, which states that local magistrates must not receive any public money for giving or promising a munus (among other things), is neither transcribed nor discussed. The law is some sort of patchwork, different sections having been cut and pasted from different sources, which is quite obvious in the terminology used for the games, for example "ludos gladiatoresq(ue)" in section LXVI (on the privileges of priests) and "munus ludosve scaenicos" in LXX and LXXI (on the obligation for magistrates to produce games). On the significance of this and other peculiarities, Gómez-Pantoja offers a useful discussion at 40-41, though I believe, unlike him, that the term munus in LXX-LXXI, where the legislator deals with statutory spectacles, must be an Augustan or later update.

For anyone looking for a solid introduction to the so-called aes Italicense (no. 3), a famous senatus consultum dating to the joint rule of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus (176-180 CE) which regulated the production of gladiatorial shows throughout the Empire (except in Rome), the presentation at 44-66 (and cf. 212-14) is now perhaps the best place to start.3 This large bronze tablet (there were at least two others) contains a segment of the sententia prima or "first opinion" delivered by an unidentified senator. Of the several issues discussed by Gómez-Pantoja I will mention two. The first is the senator's mode of expression, such as his use of cavendum cum and other archaisms (53) and his categorizing of gladiators into manipuli, classes, coetus, etc., without ever uttering the technical term palus known from gladiators' epitaphs and other inscriptions (57-58). Elsewhere the senator uses the circumlocution munera quae assiforana appellantur ("shows that are called assiforana", a hapax; cf. 57).4 All this suggests to me that, from his aristocratic heights, and addressing his aristocratic peers, he avoids as much as possible a terminology that belongs to the world of popular entertainments. The other issue is the well-known crux at line 56: Ad Gallias SEDET PRINCEPS qui in civitatibus splendidissimarum Galliarum vetere more et sacro ritu expectantur. Gómez-Pantoja discusses at length (61-64) Piganiol's famous emendation, sed et trincos, which was based on a careful examination of a fragment from Sardis of the same imperial oration which prompted our senator's speech (ILS 9340). Not everyone will follow Gómez-Pantoja and prefer Bücheler's emendation, s[i] edet princeps, but his meticulous bibliographical survey and analyses are now required reading on this issue.

The section on the organizers and their shows contains nine documents (nos. 8-16), at first sight an astonishingly small number given that at least 15 to 20 amphitheatres are attested in the Peninsula (see 209-210, tables 15-16, with a useful town-by-town survey of the evidence at 220-223).5 What is more, nos. 9 and 10 (Carmo, Baetica) are actually twin inscriptions (for a man who was granted the power of a quattuorvir in order to produce a gladiatorial show: quattuorvirali potestate muneris edendi causa), and no. 16 (Singili Barba, Baetica) is most probably out of place in this collection since it records "youth games in the theatre" (ludos iuvenum in theatro). Gómez-Pantoja assumes that all youth games were gladiatorial or "venatorial" in nature (cf. 88, 216), but several inscriptions, including this one, tell otherwise. Here, they probably were stage representations, possibly in Thysdrus as well (Herodian 7.8.5), and it is very likely that the youth of Vienna (Narbonensis) were involved in athletic contests.6 So, we are left with seven texts, only two of which, nos. 8 and 9-10, concern municipal magistrates! But this is not so surprising if, as I have stated elsewhere, with Gómez-Pantoja's hesitating support, the inscriptions record mostly exceptional spectacles, not those which were required of the magistrates, such as those stipulated in the Urso charter (cf. 215, and also 63-64 where his application of the argumentum ex silentio principle is unwarranted). A Roman magistrate is by definition a curator ludorum or (much less often) muneris. However, this issue would need to be investigated by taking all public spectacles into consideration, especially ludi scaenici and circenses, which are beyond the scope of this collection.

Moving on, the performers and personnel of the arena, except for a referee (no. 17), a trainer of the retiarii (no. 18), and a probable [ve]nator (no. 38), are all gladiators (nos. 19-37, 39-44; cf. 206-9 tables 7-14). Almost all the documents in this section are datable to the first century, which is puzzling. A significant number of the gladiators mention the troupe or school (familia or ludus) to which they belonged; there are two Iuliani, three Neroniani, a Pavilianus, three Mentoniani, a Gallicianus, and a Hispanus. The last two were buried in Corduba, but there is an epitaph from Barcino of a tabularius ludi Gallici et Hispani (no. 6). I noticed that the northwestern provinces (the Gauls, Germanies, and Britannia), by comparison, have produced only two gladiators who mention their school, both Iuliani.7

The building and seating inscriptions are to a large extent a disappointing collection of fragments of a few letters. Gómez Pantoja is of course not to be blamed for this; he is rather to be thanked for having performed the drudgery of bringing them together in this volume. Some documents stand out more, such as Augustus' dedication of the podium and other features of the amphitheatre of Emerita in 8/7 BCE (no. 46), a building to be completed only a century later, and the restoration of the amphitheatre of Tarraco by Elagabalus in 221 (no. 49). Nos. 58-74 pertain to "luoghi di culto annessi agli anfiteatri" (180-201). Many are invocations or ex votos to Nemesis, including one in Greek letters (no. 62: Αὐγούσταε Νέμεσι, etc.) with good arguments that it was probably magical (187-8).

It is almost impossible for two scholars to agree totally on the material that should or should not be included in a thematic collection of this sort. Many documents are fragmentary or known only from manuscript sources, and some terms are obscure or too vague to understand fully their intended meaning (thus we usually do not know when a dissignator was an usher or an undertaker, and none has found his way into the EAOR volumes; cf. HEp 1 [1989] no. 254). I have already questioned the relevance of no. 16. I disagree with Gómez-Pantoja also about esclusione no. 25 (= AE 1962 no. 55), the epitaph of two men, Alipus and Amabilis, which he rejects because neither mentions an armatura (retiarius, Thracian, etc.). The archaeological context (it was found in Corduba in the probable gladiators' cemetery which has produced nos. 19, 20, etc.; cf. 217), the facts that the men have single names (cf. 208-9, 218), that they probably were contubernales, and especially that Amabilis provides his origo (nat(ione) Gall(us)), as many gladiators do (cf. 206-7, 219), strongly suggest that they were gladiators (cf. EAOR II no. 47, which does not mention the armatura either, though admittedly it depicts the equipment of a retiarius).

According to the criteria adopted for this series, the general discussion in the second part is subdivided along the same lines as the catalogue, so that the authors, including Gómez-Pantoja, cannot reasonably be expected to provide much that has not already been said in the first part. Still, the reader will find many valuable points here, and I have taken care to provide references to this part throughout this review.

The plates are a valuable complement of this as of all EAOR volumes. Unfortunately, some photos are quite dark or too small for any details to come out. Many clearer pictures, particularly of the gladiators' epitaphs, will be found in the Hispania Epigraphica On-line Database.

As I said at the start of this review, the first aim of EAOR is to bring the material together. Although virtually all the Spanish inscriptions had already been published elsewhere, Gómez-Pantoja has been able to examine personally most of them and to republish them all according to much more rigorous criteria than we could have expected from Hübner and the other pioneers of Hispanic epigraphy. In this and other respects, and in spite of a few reservations, Gómez-Pantoja's contribution is an extremely valuable instrument de travail.


1.   In a recent book in memory of Sabbatini Tumolesi, the current editor informs us that a volume on the Campanian inscriptions is "in dirittura di arrivo": G. L. Gregori, "Schiavi e liberti imperiali per gli allestimenti teatrali," in R. Bertini Conidi and F. Longo, eds., Ex adversis fortior resurgo: Miscellanea in ricordo di Patrizia Sabbatini Tumolesi (Pisa: Pacini, 2008) 93-102, at 93. In the same volume, 31-52, note M. Buonocore, "Quindici anni dopo EAOR III."
2.   There is a detailed table of contents on Quasar's website.
3.   K. M. Coleman's recent paper in AClass 51 (2008) 31-46 offers much material and discussion to put the S.C. into its proper context.
4.   On the ranking of gladiators see M. Carter in Phoenix 57 (2003) 83-114; on munera assiforana see now Chamberland in Phoenix 61 (2007) 140-2.
5.   See also A. Ceballos Hornero's recent geographical survey in Caesaraugusta 78 (2007) 437-54.
6.   For these and other examples, cf. M. Kleijwegt in AClass 37 (1994) 85-90; M. Le Glay in Mosaïque. Recueil d'hommages a\ Henri Stern (Paris: ERC, 1983) 265-71; W. J. Slater in ClassAnt 13 (1994) 139-40; C. Lepelley in AntAfr 15 (1980) 264-6.
7.   EAOR V nos. 25 and 28, with G. Ville, La gladiature en Occident (Rome: EFR, 1981) 279 n. 116.

1 comment:

  1. I would like to add a reference to E. Melchor Gil, "La organización de 'ludi libres' en Hispania romana", HAnt 20 (1996)215-235. (It is perhaps unfortunate that the author uses the expression "ludi libres" to mean "private spectacles".) This article is easy to find on-line.


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