Pisa Conference – Variation and Contact in the Ancient Indo-European Languages

By Francesca Cotugno

Pisa banner

On 19-20th of April the University of Pisa – which is also my alma mater ­– hosted an international conference entitled Variation and Contact in the Ancient Indo-European Languages: Between Linguistics and Philology. It was the first stage of the two-part colloquia followed by the conference held at St. Hilda’s College, in Oxford, on May 17-18 2018.


The aim of both of these events was to discuss the nature of contact, variation and change in ancient Indo-European languages by bringing together scholars at any stage of their career to encourage an interdisciplinary dialogue and to provide a special forum to foster new lines of research and collaborative endeavour. The Pisa colloquium featured two dozen speakers. It offered me the opportunity to present our project with a paper: Latinization of the north-western provinces: sociolinguistics, epigraphy and bilingualism. The Germanies.


The conference proved to be an ideal setting for debating the appropriate framework for analysing the nature of the linguistic changes taking place in the Iron Age and Roman period as two, seemingly local Indo-European languages, Germanic and Celtic, both well-attested since the Iron Age, were gradually interacting with and then partially superseded by Latin during a period of change that would see Latin emerge in several respects as the dominant language by the end of the imperial period.  My paper provided an overview of the possible sociolinguistic variables symptomatic of language change in the Germanies and a discussion of their connection to other social phenomena.

My case studies were chosen to study phonological difference from Classical norms as a way of revealing the interaction between Germanic, Celtic and Latin. Among the broad range of inscriptions those featuring personal and deity names are particularly relevant and the diffusion of theonyms can provide insights into the interaction of Roman and local religious traditions.

The first stage of analysis has shown that it is virtually impossible to draw a clear cut linguistic division between Celtic or Germanic languages. Instead I have been creating gradient maps in order to chart Celtic and Germanic features. Crossing-referencing these elements together with the archaeological evidence, it seems that in the Rhineland area, for example, for the most part personal names show a increased level of Celtic features, whereas theonyms often have Germanic features and are linked to Germanic words (e.g. the matres ‘the mother goddesses’, as we have Matronis ALAGABIUS (CIL XIII 8529, Koln) or [Mat]ri BVS SVebis Jethungabus (CIL XIII 8225, Deutz, Köln) or matres Alaferhviae, Alaterviae und Alat(e)ivia from Aachen).

As the project develops I will explore further how linguistic variation and change may, or may not, correlate with local population groups and their histories, and explore further possible local, provincial and imperial interactions.

What can personal names tell us about cultural contacts in Antiquity? Some reflections on names and identities in Bordeaux

By Noemí Moncunill

“Two people who do not speak the same language come across each other. One writes the name of the other. This fleeting scene seems timeless and banal to us; only the modest written trace that results from it keeps its memory alive. Yet it is thanks to it that we can, even centuries later, relive the exact moment of this linguistic contact.”

Coline Ruiz-Darasse (CNRS Ausonius – Université Bordeaux Montaigne), author of this remark, recently gathered a group of researchers from different countries in order to see how the study of personal names can contribute to our understanding of cross-cultural contact and linguistic change in Antiquity. This stimulating seminar took place in Bordeaux in April 2018 and LatinNow team members had the chance to participate. The title of this workshop was “Comment s’écrit l’autre. Sources épigraphiques et papyrologiques dans le monde méditerrannéen antique”.

Noemi Bordeaux names

The day started with a methodological presentation delivered by the organiser, Coline Ruiz-Darasse. There followed two papers on code switching in personal names, multiculturalism and Latinization in the western provinces, both presented by LatinNow contributors. Marie-Thérèse Raepsaet-Charlier (Université libre de Bruxelles), senior advisor of LatinNow, reflected on the multicultural picture of society arising from the study of personal names in northern Gallia.  Noemí Moncunill (University of Nottingham and CSAD, Oxford), LatinNow researcher on the Iberian Peninsula, analysed the adaptation of Iberian names into Roman duo or tria nomina, in order to assess how this can be related to linguistic change in Hispania.

After a delicious, typically French lunch at the “Boeuf sur la Place” restaurant, the focus of the meeting moved to the East in the afternoon. Dan Dana (CNRS, Anhima) outlined examples to show how “assonance names” can be considered as “cultural mirrors” in Thrace; Alain Delatre (Université libre de Bruxelles) analysed linguistic variation and interference in the impressively wealthy documentation of Christian Egypt and, last but not least, Ignasi-Xavier Adiego (Universitat de Barcelona) teased out the linguistic and phonological perspectives of the adaptation of Lycian names into Greek and, conversely, of Greek names into Lycian.

The seminar was very rich in comments and insights on the part of participants and from the audience and it will lead to a monograph on the subject. We are already looking forward to reading it!


Roman writing equipment at the Roman Archaeology Conference

I’m just starting to draw breath after a fun and busy few days in Edinburgh last week at the Roman Archaeology Conference (RAC). I’d relatively recently been in Edinburgh giving a keynote at an interesting conference on theorizing contacts in the Roman world, but that was in December and the darkness meant I hadn’t appreciated any of the striking topography and monuments that make Edinburgh so special. It’s a beautiful city! RAC was brilliantly run by Ben Russell and his colleagues and there were over 400 delegates from several different countries. It felt inclusive and international.

I was at RAC to run a panel on writing equipment for the LatinNow project. As part of our study of the Latinization of the north-western Roman provinces, we are looking at archaeological finds of writing equipment as a possible proxy for Latinization. I kicked off the session with a talk which outlined the exciting scope of what we hope to do and the depressing realities (issues of identification and interpretation of material, very patchy data etc.), before going into some detail on one of our provinces, Britannia, for which we can cautiously use some pretty impressive datasets, for example from the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Rural Settlement of Roman Britain project. The results from the latter project underline the importance of road networks, status, urban centres, and the economy in the spread of literacy and Latin.

Find spots of Roman-period writing equipment from rural excavations (data from Rural Settlement of Roman Britain project, map by Michael Loy)

The second speaker was Javier Alonso from Mérida who presented both a global view of the Roman-period writing equipment from Hispania and a case-study from Emerita. His work over many years has tried to impress the importance of recognizing and publishing this material on archaeologists, museum staff and academics and shows what interesting work can be done if the material is carefully assessed in context. The third speaker was Oriol Olesti from Universitat Autònoma Barcelona who zoomed in on numerous sites in north-eastern Spain in the second and first centuries BC. The key messages from this paper were that the economy was an important driver in the uptake of literacy and that many sites, including those referred to as ‘Roman outposts’, with writing equipment seem to produce only Iberian graffiti in this period rather than Latin, which complicates the use of writing equipment as a proxy for Latinization in this area and period. I want to know more about this gap in the epigraphic record: is it ‘real’? LatinNow’s Noemí Moncunill, who was at RAC to present a poster created jointly with MJ Estarán Tolosa, will continue to work with Javier and Oriol as we try to understand the material from Hispania.

Oriol graffiti
Iberian graffiti from Ca l’Arnau (150-75 BC), a ‘Roman outpost’ (Sinner and Ferrer 2016)

Next we moved east and heard from Sylvia Fünfschilling about the fascinating material from Augusta Raurica (Augst) in the context of Roman Switzerland. Sylvia impressed on us the large number of types of object that could be used for writing, some of which were beautiful, for example this inscribed stylus, which is similar to a find from the Bloomberg excavations.

stylus Augst
Inscribed stylus from Augusta Raurica

Hella Eckardt from Reading discussed the various types of identities that may have been associated with writing equipment in the Roman world and looked particularly at the use and display of metal ink-wells across the Roman world. She highlighted the fact that writing equipment in graves of the very young could be aspirational rather than a reflection of what they had done in life. The next paper by Josy Luginbühl, Bern, followed on neatly and presented some of the material from her PhD thesis. We were treated to some intriguing examples of writing equipment deposited in Roman-period graves. Josy is interested in the fact that women are rarely directly identifiable as writers of our epigraphic materials, but appear in images with writing equipment and with this material in burial contexts. We look forward to hearing more as she continues her research! I think that more women in the Roman period are literate than we generally assume and LatinNow will be exploring this in more detail.

Colin Andrews of the Open University finished off the session with a close analysis of seal boxes, presenting the very latest finds and more evidence to back up his view that they were, in Roman Britain at least, and probably elsewhere, used to protect the seals that were used on the strings around bags which contained, e.g. money. In my view, though this means seal boxes cannot be taken as a direct proxy for literacy (we previously thought they sealed strings around stylus tablets), it does show the use of symbols and writing in administering the economic world, which, as it became increasingly complex in the Roman period, relied on literate systems for its control.

painting writing equip and coins
A wall painting from the House of Julia Felix, Pompeii, showing the close association of writing and the economy

The LatinNow team is looking forward to continuing our collaboration with experts on writing equipment and is very grateful to all the speakers and the audience at RAC. We would also like to thank Alex Smith and Tom Brindle for help with the RSRB data, to Scott Vanderbilt and Michael Loy for maps and support, and to Lacey Wallace for help with PAS data.


Roman Lead Ingots from Germania

By Francesca Cotugno

One of the aims of the LatinNow project is to combine the analysis of writing with the material analysis of writing implements and epigraphic media. By drawing upon different strands of evidence – from archaeology, linguistics and history – we hope to get a clearer picture of the specific circumstances that were involved in the take up of Latin during the initial phases of Roman occupation of the north western provinces. In this post I want to draw attention to recent research on Roman lead ingots that were mined and cast along the eastern and western banks of the Rhine because they highlight the kind of insight – as well the conundrums – that this combined approach can yield.

ingot 1

Figure 1: Ingot from Saintes-Mairies-de-la-Mer (picture from Eck 2015)

Ingots are fascinating because they are impressed with names which offer us vitally important information about the imperial control of mineral sources as well trade and other cross-cultural dynamics in the early Roman Empire. Take the first ingot, which was found in the commune of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the Rhone delta close to the Mediterranean coast. It is impressed with the words FLAVI VERVCLAE PLUMB(um) GERM(anicum) ‘Germanic lead, product of Flavius Verucla’, along its side whilst  the top of the ingot is impressed with the words, IMP(eratoris) CAES(aris) ‘property of the Emperor Caesar’. Now let’s look at the second ingot, which was found miles further north on the north east reaches of the Rhine in Bad-Sassendorf (see figure 2). This has part of the personal name L. FLA[—] moulded on one side, and on the other side there is another version of the same name L. F. VE. It is possible that both of these formulations are the same as those of the Rhone delta ingot: L. FLA[vi Veruclae plumb. Germ.] and L. F[lavi] VE[ruclae plumb. Germ.]. In fact, the isotope analysis of the lead confirms that both ingots came from the same mine in the area of Sauerland (c. 120km from Cologne) and that they were cast in the first century CE.

Ingot 2

Figure 2: Ingot from of Bad-Sassendorf /Heppen (Image from Eck 2015)

If we turn to the historical evidence we can see that there would have been a very narrow time span (roughly from 7 BCE to 9 CE)  when lead mines on the eastern banks of the Rhine would have come under Roman control (and would therefore have been subjected to an imperial toll) as the imperial mark suggests. The salient dates here are 7 BCE – the year in which Tiberius was summoned back to Rome from his campaign in the territories east of the Rhine, and September 9 CE – when 35,000 men, almost three Roman legions and their auxiliaries, were either slaughtered or enslaved at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest by an alliance of Germanic tribes. After the permanent withdrawal of the legions from the area to the east of the Rhine, the Romans would have been forced to look for mineral resources in Germania Superior and Inferior on the west bank of the Rhine

As we would expect, lead ingots dating from the period in which Caligula was emperor (37–41 CE) come from Germania Inferior, the area west of the Rhine. Two ingots that were found near the river Rhone, at Fos-sur-Mer and at Ile-Rousse, on Corsica, are interesting in this respect. The ingot from the Rhone valley has the following moulded mark, IMP(eratoris) • TI(berii) CAESARIS • AVG(usti) • (plumbum) GERM(anicum) TEC(-). This can be roughly translated as ‘Property of the Emperor Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Lead from Germany’ . The ingot from Corsica shows the following text: CAESAR • AVG • IMP • GERM • TECF. The last letter is smudged and is difficult to decipher.

ingot 3

Figure 3: Ingot from Ile-de-Rousse (picture from Raepsaet-Charlier 2011)

In both cases, TECF and TEC remain unexplained. LatinNow’s Special Adviser, Prof. Marie-Therese Raepsaet Charlier has carried out extensive analysis of these ingots which I can only summarise here. She suggests that TEC is not a Latin word but may be of either Celtic and/or Germanic origin. This is interesting because the isotope analysis reveals that the lead was probably sourced in the area of Mechernich, west of the Rhine. Therefore the mine would have been in the vicinity of an altar where the matres and matronae Textumehae (distinctive groupings of three female deities, both mothers and matrons) were worshipped, and may reflect the first element of their name. An alternative, possibly related, interpretation is also possible. According to this, TEC may be derived from the Indo-European root teg- ‘to cover’, found in Celtic tribal names like Tectosages, and found in a toponym of the area, Tectae. This root is thought to have given rise to the Celtic term, tecto– ‘possession, property’. According to both interpretations, TEC would be an example where Latin was combined with Celtic perhaps in order to integrate the imperial control of mining resources within the non-Latin context. Both interpretations are possible, but an explanation involving unknown abbreviations or a mistake in Latin may also be an option. We await further clues to help to solve the mystery!


Further Reading

Bode M., Hauptmann A. & K. Mezger (2009), ‘Tracing Roman lead sources using lead isotope analyses in conjunction with archaeological and epigraphic evidence—a case study from Augustan/Tiberian Germania’, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 1: 177-194.

Long L. & C. Domergue (1995), ‘Le véritable plomb de L. Flavius Verucla et autres ingots. L’épave 1 des Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer’, MEFRA 197-2: 801-867.

Raepsaet-Charlier M. (2011), ‘Plumbum Germanicum: Nouvelles données’, L’antiquité Classique 80: 185-197.

Raepsaet-Charlier M. and Raepsaet C. (2013), Der in Tongern aufgefundene Bleibarren mit dem Namen des Kaisers Tiberius. In G. Creemers (ed.), Archaeological Contributions to Materials and Immateriality (Atuatuca 4). Tongeren, pp. 38-49.

Latinization and education at the fringes of Empire

By Francesca Cotugno

From the Germanies it is possible to record direct evidence of education. At Velsen, the old Flevum, a Tiberian fort in the Netherlands, there is what may be the oldest abecedaria in Germania. It was written on a wooden barrel, which originally contained wine (Bosman 1999: 92). Writing on this type of material has also been found in the writing tablets from Londinium-Bloomberg and in Roman Britain there is evidence of abecedaria from London and writing exercises have been found in the auxiliary fort of Vindolanda. On the continent, other abecedaria and writing exercises have been found in the vicus of Sulz am Neckar (see figures 1 and 2). Also, a roof tile from a piece of slate from Frankfurt-Heddernheim represents another abecedarium found in the Germanies (Matijević 2015, Reuter and Scholz 2004: 62–63).

Sulz alphabet

Figure 1: Writing exercise on clay from Sulz am Neckar (source: Reuter and Scholz 2004)

sulz writing ex

Figure 2: Writing exercise on tablet from Sulz am Neckar (source: Reuter and Scholz 2004)

Frankfurt alphabet

Figure 3: abecedarium from Frankfurt-Heddernheim (source Reuter and Scholz 2004)

Beside a quite basic education, based on learning the graphemes of the Latin alphabet, it is noticeable that the education was based also on writing down passages of Classical texts, as reflected in the Virgil quotation from the Aeneid on a brick from Unter-Eschenz in the canton of Thurgau (see Figure 4, Reuter and Scholz 2004: 63).

Ziegle exercise

Figure 4: Classical text from Ziegel aus Unter-Eschenz, canton of Thurgau (source: Reuter and Scholz 2004)

In particular, the poet Virgil was extensively used for elementary instruction and there are evidences from other parts of the Roman Empire. This kind of writing exercise has been found also in some of the writing tablets from Vindolanda (Tab.Vindol. 118 and 452). Tab.Vindol. 118 (see figure 5), for example, reports the verse Aeneid 9, 473 interea pauidam uolitans pinnata per urbem, but failed in rendering the last part of the sentence (pinnata dubem) (Bowman and Thomas 1983).

Tab. Vindol. 118

Figure 5: Classical text from Tab.Vindol. 118 (source: http://vto2.classics.ox.ac.uk)

Coming back to the Germanies, it is possible to make reference to another evidence of school life in this area. It is an interesting exchange between a student and his teacher dating between 2nd–4th CE. The exchange is recorded on the wall plaster of a Roman villa in Ahrweiler (Reuter and Scholz 2004: 63) and indicates that the difficulties sometimes experienced in education are nothing new.

On this wall plaster we can still read (see figure 6):

Qui bene non didicit carrulus esse solet

scribtum me docuit Grati crudelis habena

 The sentences can be translated as follows:

‘He who has not learned well, tends to be a chatterbox

The belt of cruel Gratus taught me what is written [above]’


Figure 6: Wall plastering from Ahrweiler (source: Reuter and Scholz 2004)

In LatinNow we are looking at the up-take of Latin and literacy in the provinces and evidence for education is crucial for understanding this.  These scattered testimonia will form part of the difficult evidence we have to contextualize to explore the nature of schooling in the Roman world.


Bosman A. V. A. J. (1999), Battlefield Flevum: Velsen 1, the latest excavations, results and interpretations from features and finds, in Schlüter and Wiegels (eds.), Rom, Germanien und die Ausgrabungen von Kalkriese: Internationaler Kongress der Universität Osnabrück und des Landschaftsverbandes Osnabrücker Land e. V. vom 2. bis 5. September 1996, 91–96. Osnabrück, Landschaftsverband Osnabrücker Land.

Bowman A. K. and Thomas D. (1983), Vindolanda: the Latin writing tablets. London, Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies.

Matijević K. (2015), Writing and Literacy/Illiteracy, in James and Krmnicek (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Roman Germany. Oxford, Oxford Handbooks Online.

Reuter M. and Scholz M. (2004) Geritzt und entziffert: Schriftzeugnisse der römischen Informationsgesellschaft. Stuttgart, Theiss

A whistle-stop tour of LatinNow!

By María José Estarán Tolosa

Last monday I had the great opportunity of sharing a part of my research with some members of the Faculty of Classics of the University of Oxford, in the presentation of LatinNow in the Epigraphy Seminar organized at the Ioannou Centre. The room was crowded, and I think that the point that we wanted to adress was clear: the questions we want to answer in the next five years were posed, the method we want to follow was described, the sociolinguistical contexts of each region were explained, and the members of the team were introduced to the academic community… In less than an hour!

My contribution to the project, as a research affiliate of LatinNow, is to produce research on Latinization of the Iberian Peninsula, together with Noemí Moncunill, who is leading the work on that region as a research fellow of the project. I am focusing on sociolinguistical issues, carrying out a comparative study of the Latinization of the texts on coins and on epigraphy, taking into account the political context and the historical events.

My presentation for the Epigraphy Seminar consisted of Saguntum, an amazing case study given the rich epigraphic and archaeological materials preserved. The siege of Saguntum and its strong loyalty to Rome (see the dedicatory inscription to Scipio for the liberation and reconstruction of the city, inscribed in early Imperial times! Fig.1) derived in the landing of the Roman army in 218 BC in Spain.

Fig. 1: Inscription CIL II/14 327 (early Imperial times). Honorific inscription dedicated to Publio Scipio for the liberation of Saguntum. Picture: http://www3.uah.es/imagines_cilii/CILII/tarrac2.htm


In order to show outwardly this strong link to Rome, Saguntum produced bilingual coins, in Latin and Iberian, with the type of the prow between 130 and 72 BC.

cabeza galeada


Fig. 2: Bilingual coin from Saguntum (130-72 BC). Picture: http://rgonzalez.blogspot.es/1261559340/monedas-arse-sagunto-descripcion-imagenes/

The interesting point is that, although Saguntum produced many lapidary inscriptions in Republican times, all them are written in in Iberian language and script. These documents indicate that Saguntum lived a situation of societal bilingualism in Republican times, and that their elites likely chose Latin to perform their Romanitas outwardly, since coins obviously circulated more widely than inscriptions on stone.


Fig. 3: Languages timeline, Saguntum (MJET).

After that, I explained a completely different case study from the other side of the Iberian peninsula, so I could illustrate the linguistic and epigraphic heterogeneity of Hispania: the case of linguistic retention in the religious inscriptions of Lusitania. This hypothesis is based only on epigraphy, not in coins. We can infer that there was a sort of linguistic retention of the local language for religious matters thanks to two mixed inscriptions (heading in latin mentioning the author of the inscription, then commemoration of sacrifices / offerings in Lusitanian) and also thanks to c. 20 Latin dedicatory inscriptions where the theonym has Lusitanian morphology.

insc lusitana 2

Fig. 4: Lusitanian inscription from Lamas de Moledo, Sabugal (Portugal). Picture: Monumenta Linguarum Hispanicarum IV L.2.1.

My stay in Oxford was more than a presentation of this promising project: teamworking with LatinNow members (Alex, Francesca and Noemí) and preparing the next events of the project was really exciting and constructive!

Study of epigraphy of the north-western Roman provinces is alive and kicking! LatinNow welcomes Noemí and Francesca.

This summer the LatinNow team went through a lengthy recruitment process to hunt for two world-class Research Fellows who would work on LatinNow’s most westerly area, the Iberian peninsula, and the most easterly, the Germanies, Noricum and Raetia. The problem was not that these were hard to find, but that there are so many excellent researchers in this field: over 50 applied, the majority based on the Continent and well qualified. This highlights the interest and specialism in ancient epigraphies and, in a period where opportunities in academia are few and far between, the value of the support from funders such as the ERC. In mid-September the LatinNow team was delighted to welcome two fantastic Fellows.

Noemí Moncunill Martí has taken on the Iberian peninsula. Noemí completed her PhD at the University of Barcelona, and has worked in different Universities in Spain, at the Sorbonne, Paris, and at KCL, London. She is a renowned expert on the Palaeohispanic languages, whose books include an introduction to Iberian (with Javier Velaza), a lexicon of Iberian inscriptions, a book on Iberian personal names from Catalonia and a forthcoming volume in the prestigious series Monumenta Linguarum Hispanicarum. On LatinNow she will be using her deep knowledge of the indigenous communities to understand the process of Latinization in the peninsula, starting with a fascinating period of change in the Republican period.

HESPERIA Mapas_Cronologicos_Inscripciones_3Map from Hesperia showing palaeohispanic inscriptions after the 3rd century and Latin Republican inscriptions. © 2005 Javier de Hoz and Daniel Romero. Departamento de Filología Griega y Lingüística Indoeuropea · Universidad Complutense de Madrid.


Francesca Cotugno has recently completed a doctoral thesis based jointly at the University of Pisa and Ghent on the sociolinguistic variation in non-literary documents from Roman Britain. She has published several articles on Latin linguistics and has already spent time at the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents, Oxford, using Reflectance Transformation Imaging to try to read stylus tablets from Britannia. On LatinNow she will be using an interdisciplinary methodology to explore the sociolinguistic complexity of our eastern provinces. It will be exciting for Francesca to work on Latin materials from the Continent, from where many of the authors of the Vindolanda tablets, on which she has worked extensively, come.

310_1-front_VindolandaLetter from Vindolanda from Chrauttius to Veldeius. © Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents, The British Museum and other copyright holders.

The spin-doctor of Caesar, or, the Gaditanus who changed the history of Rome

By Noemí Moncunill Martí

One bit of evidence that in the late republic the south of the Iberian Peninsula was strongly Romanized is that some relevant figures of this period come from this region. This is the case of the wealthy family of the Balbii from Gades, in modern Andalusia.

balbus maior
Inscription from Capua mentioning Lucius Cornelius Balbus Maior (CIL X 3854; ILS 888)

One of them, Lucius Cornelius Balbus Maior, played a crucial role in the politics of the Roman republic. He was granted Roman citizenship by Pompey the Great as a reward for his collaboration in the Sertorian War, in Hispania. Once a Roman citizen, he also managed to meet Julius Caesar, with whom he would become a close friend, as well as counsellor, secretary and, thanks to his great fortune, even the financier. The Gaditanus became so well-connected and influential that he has been considered as the principal intermediary between the two most prominent politicians of that time, Caesar and Pompey, and one of the shadowy ideologists of the first triumvirate, to the extent that some voices have considered his activity as one of the main causes that led to the irreversible erosion and fall of the old republican system.

Balbus’s biography shows a man of extraordinary political agility, able to remain in the political forefront without ever being damaged, in spite of the great instability dominating the social and political scene. He was a man who, despite being directly involved in the first triumvirate, was also involved in the second triumvirate, during which he reached the peak of his political career: in 40 BC he was elected consul, becoming the first non-Italian to hold the highest office.

Balbus minor

Honorific inscription to Lucius Cornelius Balbus Minor found in Cáceres, Extremadura (AE 1962, 71).

One of Balbus’ nephews, Lucius Cornelius Balbus Minor, followed in the steps of his uncle attaining notorious political and military success. In 19 BC, he became the first non-Italian to celebrate a triumph in Rome. He is also well known for promoting an urban renovation of his native Gades and for funding some important buildings in Rome, including a theatre.


Model of Rome showing the Theatre of Marcellus in the foreground and the Theatre of Balbus in the background (Wikimedia Commons)

Further reading:

Espluga, X. and Moncunill, N. 2013.  «Introduction to Pro Balbo», in Cicero, Discursos XVI, Fundació Bernat Metge, Barcelona.

Pina, F. 2011. «Los Cornelio Balbo: clientes en Roma, patronos en Gades», in A. Sartori and A. Valvo (coord.), Identità e autonomie nel mondo romano occidentale: Iberia-Italia Italia-Iberia. III Convegno Internazionale di Epigrafia e Storia Antica (Epigrafia e Antichità, 29), Faenza, 335-353.

Rodríguez Neila, J. F. 1996. Confidentes de César. Los Balbos de Cádiz, Madrid, Sílex ediciones.