Friday, December 09, 2016


The Harvester of Mactar: A Self-Made Man

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 8.11824 = Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae 7457 (Mactar, Tunisia, 3rd century A.D.), tr. Tim G. Parkin and Arthur J. Pomeroy, Roman Social History: A Sourcebook (London: Routledge, 2007), pp. 39-40 (line numbers added in brackets by me):
I was born into a poor dwelling and of a poor father, who had no property or household. [5] From the time of my birth, I lived in the country looking after my business; there was no time off in the countryside and none for me at any time. And when the time of year had brought forth the grain ready for harvest, then I was the first reaper of the stalks. When the sickle-bearing gangs of men had made their way to the fields, [10] whether heading for The Nomads of Cirta or The Fields of Jupiter, as harvester I preceded them all, first into the fields, leaving the packed bands behind my back. I reaped twelve harvests under the raging sun, and afterwards became a work gang leader instead of a labourer. [15] We led the gangs of harvesters for eleven years and our band cut down the Numidian fields. This effort and my frugal lifestyle brought success and made me master of a household and gained me a house, and my home itself lacks nothing. [20] And my life gained the rewards of office: I was myself enrolled among the conscript councillors. Elected by the order [of the decurions], I had a seat in the order's temple and, starting out as a humble country boy, I too became censor. I produced children and saw them grow into young men and saw their children too. [25] In accord with our services in life, we have enjoyed years of fame, which no bitter tongue has hurt with any reproach. People, learn to pass your lives without giving reason for reproach. The man who has lived without deceit has earned meeting his death in such a manner.
The Latin (first two fragmentary lines omitted):
paupere progenitus lare sum parvoq(ue) parente
   cuius nec census neque domus fuerat.
ex quo sum genitus, ruri mea vixi colendo;        5
   nec ruri pausa nec mihi semper erat.
et cum maturas segetes produxerat annus,
   demessor calami tunc ego primus eram.
falcifera cum turma virum processerat arvis,
   seu Cirtae Nomados seu Iovis arva petens,        10
demessor cunctos anteibam primus in arvis,
   pos(t) tergus linquens densa meum gremia.
bis senas messes rabido sub sole totondi,
   ductor et ex opere postea factus eram.
undecim et turmas messorum duximus annis,        15
   et Numidiae campos nostra manus secuit.
hic labor et vita parvo con(ten)ta valere
   et dominum fecere domus et villa paratast,
et nullis opibus indiget ipsa domus.
   et nostra vita fructus percepit honorum;        20
inter conscriptos scribtus et ipse fui.
   ordinis in templo delectus ab ordine sedi,
   et de rusticulo censor et ipse fui.
et genui et vidi iuvenes carosq(ue) nepotes.
vitae pro meritis claros transegimus annos        25
   quos nullo lingua crimine laedit atrox.
discite, mortales, sine crimine degere vitam.
   sic meruit, vixit qui sine fraude, mori.

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