Hic Tacitus Lapis: Voice, Audience, And Space In Early Roman Verse-Epitaphs

Other Titles
This dissertation sets out to investigate the content, role, and effects of ancient Roman grave-inscriptions; I argue that Roman gravestones and their inscriptions were intended to serve as metonymic markers, stand-ins for their deceased subjects in the land of the living, allowing the dead to engage with the living and the living with the dead. As many previous studies of Roman grave-inscriptions have been undermined by the fact that their authors attempt to address the entire body of Roman epitaphs (a corpus too large and diverse to allow productive study of its entirety), this dissertation focuses on a smaller corpus, the forty-nine extant verse-inscriptions generally assigned to the Roman Republic. In investigating these epitaphs, I focus on the effects of the reading-act and the related issues of voice, audience, and space; my approach is informed by the works of Svenbro (1993) and Vallette-Cagnac (1997) on the readingact in ancient Greece and Rome respectively, Sourvinou-Inwood's (1995) study of voice in ancient Greek epitaphs, and Lowrie's (2006) work on deixis and its effects on the reader's perception of presence and absence. I argue that the reading-act of the passer-by activates a depiction of the deceased's life, tied to the stone as the metonymic marker of the deceased; it is through this depiction that the figure of the deceased can engage, implicitly and explicitly, with the living upon each reading of the inscription. Even among the most basic poems, devoid of any acknowledgement of a living audience, we find epitaphs that seek to connect through various devices to the real time and space of the living reader; other examples engage in what Conso (1994) terms "oralité fictive," allowing the epitaph to speak directly to that reader. And finally, we find examples in which the deceased's attempt to engage with the living is explicit: the deceased speaks, co-opting the voice of the reader to present his own portrait, in some cases without addressing a specific audience, but in other cases addressing the passer-by, or loved ones left behind. This study not only offers a detailed look at the content and artistry of these fascinating (and in many cases neglected) poems, but also illuminates the ways in which ancient Romans dealt with life and death.
Journal / Series
Volume & Issue
Date Issued
Latin epitaphs; Latin sepulchral poetry; Latin epigraphy
Effective Date
Expiration Date
Union Local
Number of Workers
Committee Chair
Mankin, David P
Committee Co-Chair
Committee Member
Pelliccia, Hayden Newhall
Weiss, Michael L
Degree Discipline
Degree Name
Ph. D., Classics
Degree Level
Doctor of Philosophy
Related Version
Related DOI
Related To
Related Part
Based on Related Item
Has Other Format(s)
Part of Related Item
Related To
Related Publication(s)
Link(s) to Related Publication(s)
Link(s) to Reference(s)
Previously Published As
Government Document
Other Identifiers
Rights URI
dissertation or thesis
Accessibility Feature
Accessibility Hazard
Accessibility Summary
Link(s) to Catalog Record