ESR 4 Staging Death: Making a Difference

Giovanni Naccarato

This research endeavour delves into the realm of pagan verse epitaphs originating from the Northern African provinces of the Roman Empire, encompassing Africa Proconsularis, Numidia, and Mauretania Caesariensis.

Spanning the temporal spectrum from the 1st to the 3rd century C.E., this epoch witnessed the prolific production of numerous poems in Latin across the expanse of the Roman Empire, their transmission facilitated by the medium of epigraphy.

While metrical epitaphs (traditionally called carmina Latina Epigraphica) constitute a small subset of the broader domain of inscriptions, they hold a prominent position for their special features and have garnered notable attention from philologists in previous years. Epitaphs are the most represented category among carmina, even if they constitute the minimum part of the numerous standard funerary inscriptions. However, the time has come for a fresh inquiry that adopts a socio-anthropological framework, delving into the dimensions beyond the purview of philological and literary analyses.

This contemporary vantage point aspires to unravel a plethora of inquiries: which individuals chose to immortalize their tombstones with a poetic text? To which social classes they belong ? What images of themselves they used to convey and for what purpose ? The scope of this study transcends conventional philological and literary paradigms, aspiring to illuminate the experiences of individuals who resided in the periphery of mainstream literary and historiographical discourse.

Emerging from backgrounds estranged from the echelons of the ruling elite, these individuals harnessed the potency of literature to meticulously craft affirmative portrayals of both themselves and their families. In so doing, they exploited literary artifacts as conduits for the display of their beliefs, identities, and interpersonal relationships, thereby articulating their distinct attitudes towards death. In this activity of self-representation they also employed rhetorical strategies occasionally evincing nuances of sophistication that warrant meticulous scholarly scrutiny.

Expected Results
A doctoral thesis on the objectives mentioned above to build up a general expertise about Roman funerary culture and North African cultural heritage consolidated by work field, and professional skills in historical, philological and archaeological analysis.

Host Institution

Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté


Prof. Dr. Sabine Lefebvre


Prof. Dr. Marietta Horster (Mainz)


At Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, with Dr. Alexander Czmiel, the director of Digital Humanities, and Dr. Ulrike Ehmig, managing director of Carmina Latina Epigraphica, as supervisors (April–May 2022).