Venantius Restores the Colosseum

Aug.2015 997

Transcription
DECIUS MARIUS VENANTIUS BASILIUS[,] V[IR] C[LARISSIMUS] ET INL[USTRIS][,] PRAEF[ECTUS] URB[IS][,] PATRICIUS[,] CONSUL ORDINARIUS[,] ARENAM ET PODIUM QU[AE] ABOMINANDI TERRAEMO/TUS RUINA PROS/TRAVIT[,] SUM[P]TU PRO/PRIO RESTITUIT[.]

Translation
Decius Marius Venantius Basilius, a famous and high-born man, Prefect of the City [i.e. Rome], a Patrician and Consul Ordinary, has restored at his own expense (sumptu proprio) the arena and podium [of the Colosseum] which the disaster of a deplorable earthquake had laid low.

Commentary
This inscription (CIL VI.1716 b) is one of a few I photographed while I was at the Colosseum (also sometimes called the Flavian Amphitheatre), and which I will be translating and posting on the Medieval Latin blog.  The inscription itself commemorates the reconstruction of key parts of the Colosseum, destroyed in an earthquake ca. A.D. 443: namely, the Podium, which comprised the front-row seats reserved for distinguished guests; and the Arena, a word we still use in English with much the same sense, but which also denotes in Latin the sand on which the spectacles would be performed (itself called Arena or Harena).

The Latin also contains a few examples of official Roman titles, which merit explanation: as a Vir Clarissimus, Venantius is of senatorial rank (or in the family of someone of such rank); he has been made Prefect of Rome (Praefectus Urbi), an appointment akin to mayor of the city, which would have been granted to him by the Roman emperor; the status of Patrician (Patricius) originally identified a descendant of the early Senators of Rome (see Livy, ab Vrbe Condita 1.8), but had waned in importance in the imperial period; finally, as a Consul Ordinarius, Venantius was one of the two highest magistrates in Rome (Ordinarius designates the position as it is normally held, as opposed to a Consul Suffectus, i.e. one appointed in place of another who has died, fallen ill, etc.—or, from the time of Julius Caesar, one appointed to replace a living Consul Ordinarius, with the aim of increasing the number of consulars).

Further Reading:
An overview of the Roman Cursus honorum, the ranks of the Roman Empire, via VROMA.
A brief history of the Colosseum, in The Catholic Encyclopedia.

Advertisements

Latin Audio Tour at the Colosseum

Aug.2015 990  Aug.2015 985

Welcome to the first post on the Mediaeval Latin Blog!  Most of the posts on this page will feature editions and translations of Latin texts from the Middle Ages.  This modest inaugural post is to alert readers to the Colosseum’s audio tour guides, which are available (linguas inter alias) in Latin!

There are a few details about the audio guide worth reporting.  First, the Latin is very good, and relatively well-adapted to the demands of an audio tour: it tells you where to look, and familiarizes you with the Latin names for the parts of the Colosseum.

Second, it features some inventive neo-Latin.  For example, at the end, the voice instructs you to return your vocis machina, “voice machine” (apparently a genetive of characteristic; cf. e.g. Horace’s magni formica laboris; Sat. 1.1.33), to the kiosk.  And finally, the accent is a clear and beautiful ecclesiastical one, not the reconstructed classical accent found in most primers of the language.

If you will be visiting the Colosseum any time soon, why not give the Latin tour a try?