ESR 9 Sit tibi terra leuis. Funeral Epigrams between Pattern Book and Individual Design

The project will investigate the field of tension between traditional patterns and individual formulations in the funeral epigrams under qualitative and quantitative aspects. Especially the ancient sepulchral poetry is characterised by topoi and by formulaic, often recurring patterns. Among the Carmina Latina Epigraphica, the range is from completely stereotype specimens to thoroughly elaborated poems, often with detailed information about the deceased person or individual expressions of affection. These texts reflect different intentions as well as impact and levels of education that are to be distinguished regarding period, region and social context.

Earlier researchers rated formulaic phrases rather as a lack of originality and paid comparatively little attention to texts with a predominantly formulaic character; in the relevant collections (e.g. Bücheler, Dessau) they are often reduced to mere parallel references and are clearly underrepresented alongside the more elaborately designed texts. But even among the latter, there are quite a few cases where the use of proper names is accompanied by metrical errors, which raises the question whether these texts were also written ‘originally’ or whether a given text (or parts of it) has been more or less successfully adapted to the present requirements. The question of how these poems were composed, how topoi and formulations have migrated and spread and been transformed, is representative of our interest in reading and understanding the CLE as a reflex of the conditions of ancient civilisation.

The aim of the project is to shed more light on this field and to re-evaluate it in order to better reflect the actual practice of poetic epitaphs in different regions and periods of the Roman empire. With today’s significantly expanded and searchable text corpora, much better possibilities are available than when the CLE editions were created over 100 years ago. On this more reliable basis, even fundamental questions can be re-discussed and reconsidered, for example the old question of how these poems originated (the famous ‘mason’s manuals’ – a suitable metaphor?). Current studies on formulaic speech (as executed presently at the Trier Center of Language and Communication) offer, in addition, the opportunity of a comparatistic approach.

Expected Results
A doctoral thesis on the objectives mentioned above to build up a general expertise on the variations in the presentation of virtues, display of skills and emotional affection in different epochs, regions and social contexts, and a general understanding of publishing procedures.

Host Institution

Universität Trier


Prof. Dr. Stephan Busch


Prof. Dr. María Teresa Muñoz García de Iturrospe (Bilbao)
Prof. Dr. Gian Luca Gregori (Rome)


At BRILL publisher, a world-leading publishing house in the Netherlands, in the operation’s department. It will provide working experience in fields of production, desk editing and data managing for employment perspectives on the European job market (proposed date April–May 2022).