Inscribed plaque honouring the achievements of Aeneas.
Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.):
Portico of the ‘Eumachia’ building, Pompeii, regio I.
Actual Location (Collection/Museum):
Naples Archaeological Museum (inventory no. 3819).
9 BCE to 22 CE
Inscribed bronze plaque originally set into the wall beneath one of the small niches of the semi-circular exedrae of the chalcidicum of the Eumachia building. Now survives only in fragments.
CIL X, 808 + 8348 (ILS 63)
This inscription, along with CIL X, 809, comes from the chalcidicum, or porch, of the Eumachia building, the largest single structure flanking the Forum of Pompeii. The deep, columnar porch was symmetrically arranged, with a large curved niche and two smaller rectangular ones, each of which held a statue, on each side of the great door (van Buren, “Further Studies in Pompeian Archaeology”, p. 108). Although the statues themselves have not been identified, there is evidence to suggest that the back walls of the niches were decorated with coloured marble veneer, and holes for nails which appear in uniform positions over the brickwork suggest that the bronze plaque on which the inscription is found was attached to it (van Buren, “Further Studies in Pompeian Archaeology”, p. 109). The excavation reports state that CIL X 808 was discovered in many fragments, scattered around the chalcidicum, so it is not possible to identify securely beneath which niche it was originally placed (Fiorelli, Descrizione, p. 258).
The inscription is in the form of an elogium honouring Aeneas, the legendary Trojan hero and mythical ancestor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Although badly damaged it is possible to reconstruct the majority of the inscription, which briefly describes the story of Aeneas’s flight from Troy and arrival in Italy. Several key points of Augustan ideology are referred to in the inscription; firstly, that Aeneas was semi-divine, through his goddess mother, Venus, ‘Aeneas Veneris….filius’. This was an important distinction as Julius Caesar had also claimed divine ancestry from Venus, which thereby inferred the inherent divinity of Augustus as his heir, and more importantly demonstrated Augustus’ visible connection with the founders of Rome. The divinity of Aeneas is made clear in the final two lines of the inscription, in which we are told that Aeneas was called ‘Father Indigens’ and ‘received’ among the company of the gods’. ‘Indigens’ comes from the Latin epithet indiges, meaning “heroes elevated to the rank of gods after their death, and regarded as the patron deities of their country” (Lewis & Short, A Latin Dictionary). This is not the first appellation of ‘Father Indigens’ in reference to Aeneas; Livy describes that on the death of Aeneas, he was buried next to the river Numicus, and that men there called him ‘Jupiter Indiges’ (History of Rome, I.2.6). Dionysus of Halicarnassus further elaborates that the native Latins made a shrine at the site of his burial, with an inscription that named him ‘Father Indiges’ (πατὴρ χθόνιος; Roman Antiquities, I. 64). ‘Indiges’ is also used in reference to the Di Indigetes, who appear to have been local minor deities that originated in Italy, such as Sol Indiges, the grandfather of Latinus, the leader of the Latins with whom Aeneas forges his alliance (Hesiod, Theogony 1011-1016; Pliny, Natural History III.56; Vergil, Aeneid 12.161-4). If we consider that Anchises, the father of Aeneas (and grandfather of Ascanius, who would go on to found the city of Alba Longa, from which the founder of Rome, Romulus, was descended) is also named in the inscription, the attribution of Aeneas as ‘Indiges’ would suggest the successful combination of native Latin tradition with an equally venerable Trojan ancestry, both of which were attractive and useful propaganda tool for the early principate (for the competition between Latin and Trojan ancestry in the origins of Rome, see Galinsky, Aeneas, Sicily and Rome p. 150-169).
The inscription is, in fact, an abbreviated copy of one that formed part of the summi viri display in the Forum of Augustus in Rome. The Forum, dedicated in 2 BCE, included a series of statues of Roman ‘heroes’, including Aeneas, the kings of Alba Longa, Romulus and renowned Republican generals, with inscriptions on their statue bases detailing their cursus honorem, achievements and services to the Roman State (Zanker, Power of Images,p. 211). The elogia of the Forum of Augustus provided an unbroken chain of heroes, founders, kings and generals that culminated in Augustus and guaranteed the permanence of his connection to them (Shaya, The Public Life of Monuments, p. 89). Ovid’s Fasti (V.563-6) reveals that the statues of Aeneas and Romulus were placed opposite each other in the Forum of Augustus, which is striking given the discovery of a second bronze plaque from the Eumachia building, which contained an exact copy of the elogium of Romulus excavated in Rome, indicating an ideological and sculptural connection between the two structures. An early date for the construction of the Eumachia building has been proposed as 3 CE (Moeller, The Date of the Dedication of the Building of Eumachia, p. 232-6), meaning that the sculptures and inscriptions, if contemporaneous with the edifice, were set up just four years after their models in Rome (Geiger, The First Hall of Fame, p. 194). This perhaps is unsurprising, given the familiarity with the city of Rome demonstrated by Eumachia in her donation of the building and the language of its dedication (see CIL X 810); her use of Augustan ideology as a means of demonstrating her own social and political capital, as well as that of her son, finds further expression here and reveals the extent of Eumachia’s personal piety in its celebration of virtues and images appropriate to the imperial family.
The deliberate replication of the elogia and statues from the Forum of Augustus also reveals an important fact about the reception of such words and images in Pompeii; the reproductions were ordered by a private citizen, outside of the capital, and therefore attest to the wide awareness and appreciation of the sculptural programme of the Forum of Augustus. The replication of two of its texts, even in abbreviated form, in the chalcidicum of the Eumachia building must have been immediately recognisable to the inhabitants of Pompeii. It is possible too that some of those living in the Campanian region and elsewhere in Italy may have visited the Forum of Augustus themselves; the discovery of an archive of wax tablets in the House of the Bicentenary in Herculaneum included some vadimonia, or legal promises made on behalf of the litigant, to appear in the Forum of Augustus at Rome in order for a legal dispute to be heard by the urban praetor (Pugliese Carratelli, Tabulae Herculanenses 13, p. 168). It is clear that some inhabitants of the region at least will have experienced the Forum in person, and have reported its features to a more distant audience, both verbally but also in the reinterpretation of its monumental character, just as by Eumachia here. The incorporation of architectural details from the Forum allowed her to demonstrate her own personal status and social aspirations, as well as drawing attention to Augustus’s history and legitimacy.
The story of Aeneas seems to have been particularly popular in Pompeii; wall paintings of Aeneas in several places, including one caricature of Aeneas, in the form of a dog-headed ape with a large phallus, in a wall-painting in a villa at nearby Stabiae (Zanker, Power of Images p. 209). There are also several instances in which lines from the epic appear in graffiti on the walls of houses in Pompeii, including a parody of the first line: Fullones ululamque cano, non arma virumque (“I sing of fullers and an owl, not of arms and a man,” CIL IV, 9131), which appears on the side of the House of Ululitremulus (IX.xiii.5), close to a painting of Aeneas leading his family to safety. The myth, and its connection with imperial piety, was widespread in both the public and private sphere, permeating the consciousness of a wide spectrum of the empire’s population (Zanker, The Power of Images, p. 210). The pietas of Aeneas was paralleled in the figure of the princeps and in the figure of Eumachia, who honoured both in her imitation of imperial monumental architecture and language.