Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Roman Inscriptions in the RCHME

Over the last couple of months we have published two volumes about Roman remains in England: Roman London and Eburacum, Roman York. These have been part of our current digitisation of the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments inventory series for England.

This subject matter is somewhat unusual for British History Online, although we do have similar material elsewhere, as in the Victoria County History volume for Oxfordshire, Volume 1, and as part of the RCHME we will soon be adding a volume on Iron Age and Romano-British monuments in the Cotswolds. But these two latest RCHME volumes have been a bit of a challenge to digitise because of the large number of inscriptions they contain.

Roman writing did not contain such useful things as spaces between letters, punctuation or differences of case. If you owned a book yourself then you could mark it up for reading yourself, to make things easier. Obviously this couldn't be done with inscriptions, so there was a tendency to add some former of marker between words to make things easier for the reader; here it is done with a mid dot in a dedication tablet from York:

Elsewhere in Roman inscriptions covered by the RCHME a leaf or other symbol is used. Notice that this still doesn't make the inscription very easy to read: words can spill over onto the next line without any indication that they are doing so, as in the name HIERONYMIANVS above; also, like text messages today, Roman inscriptions tend to be highly abbreviated. Fortunately the RCHME editors have painstakingly transcribed, and then translated, the inscriptions for us, with abbreviations expanded. Here is the above:


'To the holy god Serapis, Claudius Hieronymianus, legate of the Sixth Legion Victorious, built this temple from the ground.'

The editors then give us quite a lot of information about who this Claudius Hieronymianus was:

"Claudius Hieronymianus is identified (Prosopographia Imperii Romani, 2nd ed., II, 206, no. 888) with a vir clarissimus of this name involved in a judgment by Papinian about a will (Ulpian, Digest, 33, 7, 12, 40) and with the praeses of Cappadocia whom Tertullian (ad Scap. 3) mentions at the turn of the 2nd and 3rd centuries as persecuting Christians after his wife's conversion..."

Thanks to the efforts of the RCHME editors for these volumes, there is a wealth of information of this type - photographs, transcriptions and translations - now available to all.

Monday, 20 May 2013

April photo competition winner

For this month's competition the voting among my colleagues gave us a shortlist of three. In no particular order the two runners-up were:

Tudor Barlow's picture of the cloisters at Gloucester Cathedral

This will be a familiar setting to many but the light in this photograph is evocative. The bright light of the open doorway at the end of the cloisters conveys just the numinous effect that Gothic architecture, presumably, aspires to achieve.

Our other runner up was Disused Slate Mine by stephen bolton1. A photo which I find gritty and melancholy but also eerie - or, if you like, earthy and unearthly at the same time.

After discussion, however, we chose as our winner, Little Moreton Hall by alan tunnicliffe

Like Gloucester Cathedral, this a well known setting, but the photograph is quite unsentimental, perhaps because of the tripartite sky: part lowering, part blue and part irradiated. The context of the house seems to be in harmony with the building, both being somewhat overgrown and chaotic.

Everyone is welcome to add their photos the the British History Online group on Flickr. We are picking our favourite every month in order to celebrate our 10th anniversary. The winning photo will, with permission, appear on the BHO homepage.