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Public Epigraphy in Ancient Italy (third-first centuries BCE)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PEAI (Public Epigraphy in Ancient Italy (third-first centuries BCE))

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2020-04-30

The purpose of the PEAI project (Public Epigraphy in Ancient Italy III-I BC) was therefore to compile palaeo-Italic public inscriptions to analyze their use as a means of social communication from the third to the first centuries B.C. Public epigraphy comprises of the inscriptions intended for public display regardless of whether they were the result of an official or private initiative. These texts constitute a peculiar form of social communication which was quite typical in the ancient world. They were used for self representation and to spread and perpetuate a series of solemn messages linked to the fundamental values of society, in particular, the values of its élite. The chosen period, prior to the shaping of the so-called imperial epigraphic culture –which began under Augustus and involved an exponential increase in the ‘epigraphic habit’– is characterized by an incipient proclivity to produce public types of texts and, above all, by a diversity of epigraphic cultures, both with regard to language and script (etruscan, oscan, umbrian, messapian, etc.). The inscriptions are texts engraved on stone or bronze to prolong their durability, which in turn gave them a monumental and solemn appearance. They were displayed in busy urban sites such as squares, sanctuaries or city gates to ensure the dissemination of their message. In order to facilitate and stimulate the reading of these texts, the form of writing employed was characterized by its large size, elegance and legibility. The development of inscriptions as a mode of writing led to the creation of a special script for writing on stone. As a rule inscriptions contain five types of message –honorific, dedications on public works, legal, religious and funerary– that were deemed worthy of being conserved for perpetuity. This form of writing had considerable potential for circulating propagandistic messages, and indeed they were widely used by the political authorities, but also by private individuals. This monumental public form of writing is one of the most noteworthy characteristics of ancient culture and it offers a testimony to the concern of this society to create timeless solemn statements that were capable of communicating their message to the greatest possible number of readers.
The work resulted in the creation of a census of inscriptions written in various palaeo-Italic languages and catalogued on the online database ENCEOM, that has also included the direct analysis of a significant part of the inscriptions. The specific academic outcome consists of the organization of an international conference (Siste et lege. Exposed writing in ancient Italy societies, 3 rd – 1 st centuries BC, Roma 2020), a workshop (Le iscrizioni osche di Rossano di Vaglio: le più antiche parole dei Lucani offerte alla dea Mefitis), the participation in eight congresses and publications (booklet, papers and publications in conference proceedings). The proceedings of the conference Siste et lege are being prepared and the monograph is being written. An important effort has been made to synthesize the concept to make it accessible to the general public creating an illustrative Instagram account (@writtenrome), devising a didactic activity for children, and writing a booklet for distribution (Roman Inscriptions. Millenarian message in the Eternal City). This booklet explains the concept and origin of public epigraphy through instances that visitors may find within the city of Rome and it was published in three languages for broader dissemination. The goal of @writtenrome is to publish photographs of public inscriptions from the city of Rome that can still be found on the streets of Rome to create a simple and visual guide to the origin and development of this form of social communication (almost 400 posts were made over a one year period). Finally, the didactic activity titled Imparare l’alfabeto e i numeri romani per strada (Learning the Roman alphabet and numbers in the streets), whose purpose is to explain to children the origin of the Roman alphabet and numbers. To that end, the inscriptions with Roman numbers in street name signs are used. The communication activity related to the action has the EU emblem displayed and also included a statement that the project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
MSC-IF has allowed me to enhance my knowledge of ancient cultures and languages in Italy and of the methodology of the study of fragmentary languages, reinforcing my trainin. The MSC-IF has constituted a major advance in my training, not only from a scientific point of view but also in terms of developing my independence as a researcher. For the first time I directed a research project and organized several conferences. In sum, I broadened my knowledge and gained independence, acquiring valuable experience as a researcher which will allow me to successfully undertake future academic endeavours and consolidate as a mature investigator. The outcome of the project is highly attractive to a wide audience. Public epigraphy appeared in the ancient world and has been used in almost all historical periods. The analysis of the concept of public epigraphy thus applies to other eras. Besides, the study of inscriptions written in palaeo-Italic languages requires the convergence of several disciplines making it attractive to linguists, philologists, archaeologists, epigraphists and historians. The subject matter of this investigation is also of interest to a non-academic audience. Inscriptions have been part of the urban landscape since Antiquity and constitute a peculiar medium of communication in cities which is familiar to all. This project strived to synthesize the concept to make it accessible to the general public writing a dissemination booklet, creating an illustrative Instagram account and devising a didactic activity.
Main results of the proyect: conference, workshop, booklet and @writtenrome