Researching in Italy, the Terme di Diocleziano, and the Laudatio Turiae in person


Almost a full month since my return from Italy, I am finally settling in to begin the second phase of my research. To remind anyone reading, my summer research focuses on a laudatio funebris commonly known as the Laudatio Turiae, looking at both the importance that it represents as transitional document and the importance of the information on gender roles in the beginning of the Roman Empire that it carries. During the second part of my project, I will focus my efforts on the epigraphy of the inscription, especially the language itself. The third stage of my research will deal with the content of the document, particularly its representation of Augustan womanhood.

However, it is necessary at this point to document the first half of my project which I completed in Italy, specifically during a week in Naples and Pompeii and two weeks in Rome. To begin with, a typical day would begin with breakfast at 7:30 am and an 8:00 am – 9:00 am (if we were lucky) departure time from the place where we staying. Until around 4:00pm – 5:00pm, the day was spent out amongst the ruins, studying the structures that remained from the Greek, Latin, and Roman settlements, after which the rest of the day was free time to explore. During one of these free afternoons, I visited the Museo Nazionale Romano Terme di Diocleziano. A branch of Rome’s National Museum System, the museum located at the Baths of Diocletian not only houses artifacts from that famous public bathing site but also artifacts from Rome’s extensive epigraphic collection. Unfortunately for me, this collection is not well known and took quite a few navigational maneuvers to find. However, after locating the Baths themselves and entering the courtyard, hundreds of marble and tufa inscriptions become visible sitting in the yard. The stones are stacked against each other which illustrates the sheer size of the epigraphical collection.

Organized by era, the collection is spread between multiple rooms of the museum, but I focused my attention on Room IV which contains the Augustan Period inscriptions, including the Laudatio Turiae. Seeing the subject of my research in such close proximity, with the ability to study it for hours, was breathtaking. Located in a small corner of Room IV, the two extant columns of the Laudatio Turiae hang from the wall in a mounted case that allows the viewer to see the gaming board inscribed into the back, which is a perfect example of spoliation. While much of the first column of the inscription is lost, that which remains is in fact inscribed in marble, which alters some of my original information which reported it was tufa. The letters are for the most part clearly delineated from each other, with only some difficulty in ascertaining where one words ends and where the next begins that is typical in Latin epigraphy.

After spending an inordinate amount of time studying the tablet from all angles, I used the rest of my evening to view other inscriptions in the museum that either dealt with women or death during the Augustan era. However, I would be remiss if I gave the impression that all of my research in Italy was conducted in this specific museum. The beautiful thing about studying the Ancient City while in Italy is that it is literally all round you, so I was able to conduct research on Roman gender roles and Latin epigraphy during the entire trip, from first hand experiences on site and through educational lectures. To illustrate, while touring Pompeii I came upon the tomb of Eumachia, a Roman woman who built a structure used either as a guild hall or as a slave market. At the Tomb of Eurysaces, the Roman baker included an elegy for his hardworking wife on his personal tomb. Latin surrounds the visitor to Italy, and the language’s evolution, as well as the evolution of gender roles reflected in that language, impresses upon any willing to see.