Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Wine and Oysters

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum XIV 914 (from Ostia, tr. Edward Courtney):
To the soul of Gaius Domitius Primus.

I, that widely-known Primus, am in this tomb. I lived on Lucrine oysters, I often drank Falernian wine; baths, wine, love aged with me through the years. If I was able to manage this, may the earth be light on me. Yet in the afterlife I am preserved by the phoenix on the altar, which hastens to renew itself along with me.

Site granted for the burial of Gaius Domitius Primus by the three Messii, Hermeros, Pia and Pius.
The Latin:
D(is) M(anibus) C(ai) Domiti Primi.

Hoc ego su(m) in tumulo Primus notissimus ille.
vixi Lucrinis, potabi saepe Falernum,
balnia vina Venus mecum senuere per annos.
  hec ego si potui, sit mihi terra lebis.
et tamen ad Manes foenix me serbat in ara
  qui mecum properat se reparare sibi.

L(ocus) d(atus) funeri C(ai) Domiti Primi a tribus Messis Hermerote Pia et Pio.
J.M. Stowasser, "Über ein paar anapästische lateinische Inschriften," in Dreißigster Jahresbericht über das k. k. Franz Joseph-Gymnasium in Wien, Schuljahr 1903/1904 (Wien: Selbstverlag des Gymnasiums, 1904), p. x, calls this inscription "ein Monstrum ganz ohne Sinn" even after suggesting several emendations: "illex" for "ille", "tenuere" for "senuere", "seposui" for "si posui", and "arca" for "ara".

Garrett G. Fagan, Bathing in Public in the Roman World (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999; rpt. 2002), p. 320, suggests that "The phoenix was quite probably represented on the man's tomb, which would explain the reference to it here." He gives no examples, but for a representation of a phoenix on a Christian tomb, see R. van den Broek, The Myth of the Phoenix, According to Classical and Early Christian Traditions (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1972), pp. 159-161. There is also a phoenix mosaic in a 3rd century A.D. non-Christian cave tomb: see J.B. Segal, Edessa: The Blessed City (London: Oxford University Press, 1970; rpt. Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2005), (plate 43.

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum XIV 914
(click on image to enlarge)

Pieter Claesz, Still Life with Wine Goblet and Oysters

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