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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s