Sunday, July 02, 2017


Methe and Chrestus

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum IV 2457 (Pompeii, VIII.vii.16), tr. Antonio Varone, Erotica Pompeiana: Love Inscriptions on the Walls of Pompeii, tr. Ria P. Berg, rev. David Harwood and Roger Ling (Rome: L'Erma di Bretschneider, 2002 = Studia Archaeologica, 116), p. 164:
Methe of Atella, slave of Cominia, loves Chrestus. May Venus of Pompeii smile favourably on their hearts and let them always live in harmony.

Methe Cominiaes Atellana amat Chrestum. Corde [si]t utreis que Venus Pompeiana propitia et sem[per] concordes veivant.
Varone remarks:
The most beautiful greeting, and perhaps also the most sincere and touching of all those that have been found, concerns two slaves, two people who are insignificant in terms of status, but who nonetheless make their way together through a shared life built on the basis of mutual love. We hope that Venus actually granted the prayer of the writer of the inscription.
For a less romantic assessment of the inscription see W.H. Davenport Adams, The Buried Cities of Campania; or, Pompeii and Herculaneum, Their History, Their Destruction, and Their Remains (London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1873), p. 58:
How the boys of London would titter if they saw written on a "dead wall" some such effusion...
Varone puts a full stop before corde. Likewise Rex E. Wallace, An Introduction to Wall Inscriptions from Pompeii and Herculaneum (Wauconda: Bolchazy Carducci Publishers, 2005), p. 75:
This graffito has two syntactic units: (1) line 1, Mēthē to Chrestum; (2) lines 1–2, corde to veivant.
But could corde go with amat? Oxford Latin Dictionary, s.v. cor, sense 5.a, doesn't mention this graffito but does cite Plautus, Captivi 420 (videas corde amare inter se), translating corde there as "whole-heartedly". Cf. also Plautus, Truculentus 177 (amat corde).

James L. Franklin, Jr., "Pantomimists at Pompeii: Actius Anicetus and His Troupe," American Journal of Philology 108.1 (Spring, 1987) 95-107 (at 103):
The graffito was found on the south wall of the corridor leading from the "Via Stabiana" to the large theatre, and on the basis of this inscription alone it has been suggested that both Methe and Crestus were actors, probably in atellanae, although the "Atellana" here may simply indicate that Methe came from Atella.28

28 M. Gigante (note 9 above) 146, following F. Wick, "Vindiciae Carminum Pompeianorum," MemNap (1907). On "Atellana" as a topographical reference, see I. Kajanto (note 25 above) 191.
"In atellanae," i.e. in atellanae fabulae, in Atellan farces.

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