Notes for the Funerary Inscription for Caecinia Bassa

Bassa’s tombstone was found outside the Porta Salaria in Rome. Since the upper part of the stone is badly broken, it is uncertain whether it once contained an image of Bassa and/or the heading DIS MANIBUS (to the spirits of the dead), which was regularly found on the upper portion of funerary inscriptions from the end of the 1st century BCE through the 2nd century CE.

Bassus, i m. is a name which appears in Rome during the late Republic and into the Empire as a family cognomen. Both Ovid and Propertius mention a fellow poet by the name of Bassus; Livy’s Periocha mentions a Caecilius Bassus in 46 BCE, an equestrian who fought for Pompey in Syria; Cicero’s 11th Philippic mentions a Quintus Caecilius Bassus, a self-appointed general who led an army against Antony in Syria.

situs, -a, -um (from sino, -ere, sivi, situm)
placed; lying, buried (in reference to the dead). Consider the grouping of words in the first two lines when you decide whether to translate this form as a compound verb or an adjective.

pius, -a, -um
dutiful, obedient.

pudicus, -a, -um

excedo, excedere, excessi, excessum
surpass, exceed.

cunctus, -a, -um
all, all together. Note the gender of this adjective. What noun might you supply?

ingenium, -i n.
mental powers, intelligence; cleverness, skill; ablative of respect.

aequalis, -e
of the same age; equal in years; aequalis is the accusative plural here.

cum conjunction
although; a concessive clause followed by the pluperfect subjunctive (dedissent).

bis adverb

quini, -ae, -a (plural distributive adjective)
five each; five.

undecumum = undecimum
eleventh; in the colloquial Latin of this period, the alternative spelling of u/i was common.

perduco, perducere, perduxi, perductum
lead out, spend; pass, live out.

licet, -ere, -ui
it is permitted, lawful.

cum conjunction
although; a concessive clause followed by the imperfect subjunctive (adularent).

adulor, adulari, adulatus sum
make obeisance to; flatter, fawn upon.

at conjunction
yet, still.

saevos = saevus, -a, -um
savage, cruel. This is a frequent epithet for Pluto, the dread god of the underworld. The exchange of o for u is found in all periods of Latin (see SPQR at the end of the line for a funerary relief of Pluto snatching Proserpina).

rapio, rapere, rapui, raptus
snatch away, steal away; carry off.

inferus, -a, -um
lower; in reference to the dead, of the underworld.

templum, i n.
region, space.

opses = obses, obsidis m/f.
hostage; surety/ guarantee; opside me is an ablative absolute. The elegiac verses begin here.

Parcae, arum f. pl.
the Fates. Originally Parca, the goddess of birth (from the Latin parere to give birth), she became the Parcae (Nona and Decima, perhaps in reference to birth term, and Morta, perhaps signifying a stillborn fetus) when she was assimilated into the Greek sister goddesses of fate. The Moirai (from the Greek word for share, portion) gave humans their allotment of life: Lachesis plucked a tuft of wool from her distaff, Clotho spun the wool into the life-thread, Atropos ended life by cutting the thread (see SPQR).

cum conjunction
when; temporal cum is followed by the indicative when the main verb is in the present tense (videntur).

ante preposition + accusative
before; it governs alios. Scansion of this line shows the metrical bonding of ante alios through elision and diaeresis (in dactylic pentameter it is the strong metrical pause between words in the middle of the third foot).

verna, -ae m./f.
a slave born in the house or on an estate rather than purchased; that there were at least three home-born slaves suggests this was a substantial household. Despite its placement beside alios, vernas is separated by the diaeresis from alios and joined metrically with tres rapuere.

rapuere = contracted form of rapuerunt.

mihi: from me; the dative of person regularly follows verbs of taking away (rapuere). The syntax of these two lines is murky, although the general content is clear: some disease/contagion spread through the household not affecting all but causing the deaths of four people. Caecinia perhaps lingered for a time (her parents prayed for her life and three slaves preceded her), but the Fates, taking her as a hostage in exchange for more deaths, were satisfied.

si quis = si aliquis.

forte adverb
by chance.

gaudeo, gaudere, gavisus/-a sum
rejoice, feel joy at/over.

iniquus, -a, -um
unjust, unfair; hostile. Although iniqua is repeated in the next line, it scans differently; so, too, consider Bassa’s point of view when you translate iniqua with morte and then with Ceres.

sit: translate as an optative subjunctive or subjunctive of wish with Ceres as the subject.

Ceres, Cereris f. : the daughter of Saturn and Ops, she is the sister of Jupiter and Pluto, the mother of Proserpina and the goddess whose special realm is agriculture, particularly the cultivation of grain (see SPQR for a statue of her holding a conucopia filled with fruit and vegetables).

perficio, perficere, perfeci, perfectus
end the life of, destroy; translate this subjunctive as a wish/curse.

fames, -is f.
famine; hunger.

Caeciniae Bassae: the formulaic phrases Dis Manibus or hoc monumentum sacrum est are usually understood as the reason for the deceased’s name being in the dative or genitive case.

Sextus, -i m.
A male praenomen, in the genitive after f[iliae]. Her father's three-fold name, Sextus Caecinius Bassus, marks him as a Roman citizen.

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