Rhetorics of Land and Power in the Polla Inscription (CIL I2 638)

in Mnemosyne
No Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


The famous inscription from Polla reporting a Roman magistrate’s management of problems and opportunities in Italian and provincial contexts is a perennial tease: its information is rich but contradictory. In this paper we accept a second century bce date for the inscription and the events it reports but leave the much discussed question of the dedicator’s identity aside in order to focus on the inscription’s rhetoric: by looking at the grounds on which the magistrate claims the esteem of his audience, rather than at how the information he provides ‘is consistent with’ some other set of facts, be it an individual career or a war or a political movement, we gain a clearer understanding of his message and intended audience or audiences. What emerges, we suggest, is a magistrate presenting himself as the ‘face’ of Roman hegemony in southern Italy and Sicily, and in the process revealing the complex processes of cooperation and domination, negotiation and concession that were fundamental to Roman hegemony in that period. More particularly, we argue for the relevance of our magistrate’s actions in Sicily to his reception in Lucania, despite the different status of the two areas vis-à-vis the Roman state.

Rhetorics of Land and Power in the Polla Inscription (CIL I2 638)

in Mnemosyne



  • Angeli BertinelliM.G. Un titulus inedito di M’. Acilio Glabrione, da Luni mefra 1993 105 7 31

  • BadianE. Foreign clientelae (264-70 b.c.) 1958 Oxford

  • BarrandonN.KirbihlerF. Administrer les provinces de la République romaine: Actes du colloque de l’Université de Nancy II 4-5 juin 2009 2010 Rennes

  • BelochK.J. Der italische Bund unter Roms Hegemonie: Staatsrechtliche und statistische Forschungen 1880 Leipzig

  • BelochK.J. Römische Geschichte bis zum Beginn der punischen Kriege 1926 Leipzig

  • BloyD. Greek War Booty at Luna and the Afterlife of Manius Acilius Glabrio maar 1998/9 43 4 49 61

  • BraccoV. L’elogium di Polla raan 1954 29 5 38

  • BraccoV. Ancora sull’elogium di Polla raan 1960 35 149 163

  • BradleyK.R. Slavery and Rebellion in the Roman World 140 B.C.-70 b.c. 1989 Bloomington

  • BradleyK.R. ‘The Regular, Daily Traffic in Slaves’: Roman History and Contemporary History cj 1992 87 2 125 138

  • BrennanT.C. The Commanders in the First Sicilian Slave War Rivista di filologia e istruzione classica 121 1993 153 184

  • BrennanT.C. The Praetorship in the Roman Republic 2000 2 vols. Oxford

  • BruntP.A. Italian Manpower 225 b.c.-a.d. 14 1971 London

  • BurckhardtL.A. Herzig HeinzE.Frei-StolbaE. Gab es in der Gracchenzeit ein optimatisches Siedlungsprogramm? Bermerkungen zum Elogium von Polla und den vi]asiei vicani aus dem Ackergesetz von 111 v. Chr Labor omnibus unus. Gerold Walser zum 70. Geburtstag dargebracht von Freunden Kollegen und Schülern 1989 Wiesbaden 3 20

  • BurdeseA. Studi sull’ager publicus 1952 Turin

  • CampbellB. The Writings of the Roman Land Surveyors: Introduction Text Translation and Commentary 2000 London

  • Canali di RossiF. Due note di epigrafia tardo-repubblicana Acta XII Congressus internationalis epigraphiae graecae et latinae 2007 Barcelona 231 240

  • CarlsenJ. CarlsenLo Cascio Land Labour and Legislation in Late Republican Italy 2009 303 315

  • CarlsenJ.Lo CascioE. Agricoltura e scambi nell’Italia tardo-repubblicana 2009 Bari

  • ClementeG. YogiT.DoiM. Sicily and Rome: The Impact of Empire on a Roman Province Forms of Control and Subordination in Antiquity 1986 Leiden 105 120

  • CoarelliF. GiardinaSchiavone La Sicilia tra la fine della guerra annibalica e Cicerone 1981 1 18

  • ColivicchiF. Local Cultures of South Italy and Sicily in the Late Republican Period: Between Hellenism and Rome 2011 Portsmouth, R.I.

  • CrawfordM.H. Roman Statutes 1996 2 vols. London

  • CrogiezS. Les stations du cursus publicus en Calabrie: Un état de la recherche mefra 1990 102 1 389 431

  • DegrassiA. Inscriptiones Italiae XIII.1. Fasti et elogia 1963 Rome

  • Di GiuseppeH. Colivicchi Hannibal’s Legacy and Black Glaze Ware in Lucania 2011 57 76

  • Di LietoM. Colivicchi The North Lucanian Area in the Roman Republican Period 2011 44 56

  • FentressE. Toynbee’s Legacy: Southern Italy after Hannibal jra 2005 18 2 482 488

  • FracchiaH. Lo CascioStorchi Marino The Romanization of the Ager Buxentinus 2002 55 73

  • FracchiaH.GualtieriM. Colivicchi The Countryside of Regio II and Regio III (300 B.C.-A.D. 14) 2011 11 29

  • FranciosiA. FranciosiG. La romanizzazione del Vallo di Diano in età graccana e l’elogio di Polla La romanizzazione della Campania antica 2002 Naples 195 228

  • FrankT. ‘Dominium in Solo Provinciali’, and ‘Ager Publicus’ jrs 1927 17 141 161

  • FrankT. On the Migration of Romans to Sicily AJPh 1935 56 1 61 64

  • FraschettiA. GiardinaSchiavone Per una prosopografia dello sfruttamento: Romani e Italici in Sicilia (212-44 a.C.) 1981 51 77

  • GiardinaA.SchiavoneA. Società romana e produzione schiavistica L’Italia. Insediamenti e forme economiche 1981 Vol. 1. Bari

  • GualtieriM. La Lucania romana: Cultura e società nella documentazione archeologica 2003 Naples

  • GualtieriM. de LigtNorthwood Lucanian Landscapes in the Age of ‘Romanization’ (Third to First Centuries bc): Two Case Studies 2008 387 413

  • HinrichsF.T. Der römische Strassenbau zur Zeit der Gracchen Historia 1967 16 162 176

  • HinrichsF.T. Nochmals zur Inschrift von Polla Historia 1969 18 251 255

  • HirschfeldO. Kleine Schriften 1913 Berlin

  • InglieriR.U. “Elogium” di Manio Acilio Glabrione, vincitore di Antioco il Grande alle Termopili Notizie degli scavi di antichità 1952 6 20 25

  • IsayevE. Lo CascioStorchi Marino The Role of the Indigenous Centers in Lucania and Their Collapse in the III century B.C 2002 107 128

  • IsayevE. Inside Ancient Lucania: Dialogues in History and Archaeology 2007 London

  • JehneM. EilersC. Diplomacy in Italy in the Second Century BC Diplomats and Diplomacy in the Roman World 2009 Leiden 143 170

  • JehneM.PfeilschifterR. Herrschaft ohne Integration? Rom und Italien in republikanischer Zeit 2006 Frankfurt am Main

  • LinkeB. JehnePfeilschifter Bürger ohne Staat? Die Integration der Landbevölkerung in der römischen Republik 2006 65 94

  • LintottA.W. Judicial Reform and Land Reform in the Roman Republic: A New Edition with Translation and Commentary of the Laws from Urbino 1992 Cambridge

  • LaunaroA. Peasants and Slaves: The Rural Population of Roman Italy (200 BC to AD 100) 2011 Cambridge

  • LaurenceR. The Roads of Roman Italy: Mobility and Cultural Change 1999 London/New York

  • de LigtL. RosensteinMorstein-Marx The Economy: Agrarian Change during the Second Century 2006 590 605

  • de LigtL.NorthwoodS. People Land and Politics: Demographic Developments and the Transformation of Roman Italy 300 BC-AD 14 2008 Leiden

  • Lo CascioE.Storchi MarinoA. Modalità insediative e strutture agrarie nell’Italia meridionale in età romana 2002 Bari

  • LuzzattoG.I. Nota minima sul cosiddetto Elogium di Polla (CIL I2 638 =X 6950) Studi in onore di Emilio Betti III: Storia del diritto e diritto romano 1962 Milan 375 398

  • MazzaM. GiardinaSchiavone Terra e lavoratori nella Sicilia tardo-repubblicana 1981 19 49

  • MarzulloA. L’elogium di Polla la via Popilia e l’applicazione della lex Sempronia agraria del 133 a.C. 1937 Salerno

  • MouritsenH. Italian Unification: A Study in Ancient and Modern Historiography 1998 London

  • MouritsenH. JehnePfeilschifter Hindsight and Historiography: Writing the History of Pre-Roman Italy 2006 23 37

  • MouritsenH. de LigtNorthwood The Gracchi the Latins and the Italian Allies 2008 471 483

  • NicoletC. L’inventaire de monde: Géographie et politique aux origines de l’Empire romain 1988 Paris

  • PanebiancoV. L’attività di ricerca archeologica a cura della Direzione dei Musei Provinciali del Salernitano Apollo iii-iv 1963-1964 3 38

  • PellingC. PowellA.SmithC. Was There an Ancient Genre of ‘Autobiography’? The Lost Memoirs of Augustus and the Development of Roman Autobiography 2009 Swansea 41 64

  • PitimadaL. Sull’elogium di Polla Archivio storico per la Calabria e la Lucania 1956 25 489 493

  • PittiaS. Prag Les données chiffrées dans le de Frumento de Cicéron 2007 49 80

  • PobjoyM. RosensteinMorstein-Marx Epigraphy and Numismatics 2006 51 80

  • PragJ.R.W. Auxilia and Gymnasia: A Sicilian Model of Roman Imperialism jrs 2007a 97 68 100

  • PragJ.R.W. Sicilia Nutrix Plebis Romanae: Rhetoric Law and Taxation in Cicero’s Verrines 2007b London

  • PragJ.R.W. BarrandonN.KirbihlerF. Provincial Governors and Auxiliary Soldiers Les gouverneurs et les provinciaux sous la République romaine 2011a Rennes 15 28

  • PragJ.R.W. García RiazaE. Provincia Sicilia: Between Roman and Local in the Third Century BC De Fronteras a provincias: Interacción e integración en Occidente (ss.III-I aC) 2011b Palma de Mallorca 83 96

  • RathboneD.W. AubertJ.-J. The Control and Exploitation of ager publicus in Italy under the Roman Republic Tâches publiques et entreprise privée dans le monde romain: Actes du diplôme d’études avancées Universités de Neuchâtel et de Lausanne 2000-2002 2003 Geneva 135 178

  • RoselaarS.T. de LigtNorthwood Regional Variations in the Use of Ager Publicus 2008 573 602

  • RoselaarS.T. CarlsenLo Cascio Competition for Land and the Privatization of ager publicus 2009 281 301

  • RoselaarS.T. Public Land in the Roman Republic: A Social and Economic History of ager publicus in Italy 396-89 B.C 2010 Oxford

  • RosensteinN.Morstein-MarxR. A Companion to the Roman Republic 2006 Malden, Mass.

  • SahinS.AdakM. Stadiasmus Patarensis: itinera romana provinciae Lyciae. 2007 Istanbul

  • SalwayB. AdamsC.LaurenceR. Travel, itineraria, and tabellaria Travel and Geography in the Roman Empire 2001 London 22 66

  • SolinH. Lucani e romani nella valle del Tanagro Les ‘bourgeoisies’ municipales italiennes aux 2e et 1er siècles av. J.-C. Centre Jean Bérard Institut français de Naples 7-10 décembre 1981 1983 Paris 411 414

  • SusiniG. Le lapis de Polla mawbl 1984 46 101 110

  • ToynbeeA.J. Hannibal’s Legacy: The Hannibalic War’s Effects on Roman Life 1965 2 vols. London/New York

  • VerbruggheG.P. Sicily 210-70 B.C. Livy, Cicero and Diodorus TAPhA 1972 103 535 539

  • VerbruggheG.P. The ‘Elogium’ from Polla and the First Slave War CPh 1973 68 23 35

  • WilsonR.J.A. Sicily under the Roman Empire: The Archaeology of a Roman Province 36 BC-AD 535 1990 Warminster

  • WisemanT.P. Viae Anniae Roman Studies: Literary and Historical 1987a [1964] Liverpool 99 115

  • WisemanT.P. Viae Anniae Again Roman Studies: Literary and Historical 1987b [1969] Liverpool 116 125

  • WisemanT.P. Roman Republican Road Building Roman Studies: Literary and Historical 1987c [1970] Liverpool 127 156

  • ZeviF. Considerazioni sull’elogio di Scipione Barbato Omaggio a Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli. Studi Miscellanei 15 1969-1970 Rome 63 73

  • ZeviF. SteinbyE. Sepulcrum (Corneliorum) Scipionum Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae IV 1999 Rome 284 285

  • 8

    Canali di Rossi 2007231with reference to Verbrugghe 1973 27. Wiseman (1987a 114) suggested the same thing earlier. Canali di Rossi of course dates this event much later than other scholars: in his view the fugitive slaves were remnants of the Marian cause that Pompey tracked down when he was in Sicily in the 80s. But his explanation of Italici reflects a common understanding of the term as used in our inscription. Brennan (2000 1:151-153) even suggests that Sicily’s praetor might have been operating in Italy.

  • 10

    Fraschetti 1981passim. For the preponderance of southern Italians among them see Frank 1935.

  • 17

    Prag 2007a2011a 2011b.

  • 21

    Cf. Clemente 1986105noting that “[e]ach time the island was called upon to play this role in a considerable measure she acquired a central position in the worries of the governing power and enjoyed periods of more intense activity while she remained in the background of social and economic development of the empire when this role decreased or when she was no longer vital to the government.”

  • 22

    Most of the attestations are late. E.g.Dig. 1.15.4 (on the duties of the praefectus vigilum ) fugitivos conquirere eosque dominis reddere debes ; 11.4.2 (in the section de fugitivis ) simplices fugitivi domino reddendi sunt etc.

  • 23

    Thus Fraschetti 198159noting that the unusual Sicilian practice of branding slaves with owner names would have facilitated the process (cf. D.S. 34/35.2.1 27 32 and 36 for references to branding in the context of the arrival ‘in droves’ ἀγεληδόν of slaves in Sicily after the second Punic war). For magistrates using lists cf. Liv. 39.17.4-6 and 39.41.6-7 on the suppression of the Bacchanalian conspiracy an episode that also involves Roman magistrates first delegating authority to local officials and then enforcing their will themselves.

  • 25

    Cf. e.g.Dig. (on the aediles’ edict) Aiunt aediles: “Qui mancipia vendunt certiores faciant emptores quid morbi vitiive cuique sit quis fugitivus errove sit noxave solutus non sit: eademque omnia cum ea mancipia venibunt palam recte pronuntianto”. For discussion see Bradley 1992 127-129.

  • 28

    See recently Franciosi 2002; Isayev 2007.

  • 40

    This was suggested earlier in Burdese 195299-102 and Bracco 1960 158-160 and is assumed without discussion in Pobjoy 2006 and Carlsen 2009.

  • 41

    For a discussion of its extent see Mazza 198121-27. According to Rathbone 2003 151 Sicilian ager publicus unlike that in Italy in the pre-Gracchan era produced income for the state in the form of fees collected by publicani . Cicero offers elaborate financial figures for the profitability of the ager Leontinus in particular at Ver . 2.3.116; for discussion see Pittia 2007 60-62.

  • 45

    E.g. Carlsen 2009306.

  • 48

    Marzullo 193727 is followed by Bracco 1954 6-7 who makes a connection with the Res Gestae Divi Augusti and by Luzzatto 1962 377 with reservations. Panebianco (1963-1964 4) suggests that it belongs in a class of its own as an autoelogium . Susini (1984 103-109) gives the question of genre the fullest attention (see below). The Latin term for milestone occurs in both the neuter as above and the masculine form as in our inscription. In the latter it is adjectival modifying an understood lapis .

  • 49

    Published in Pitimada 1956.

  • 50

    See recently Crogiez 1990with discussion in Salway 2001 50.

  • 51

    Susini 1984110following Hirschfeld 1913 708-709. Susini’s point is developed and extended in Salway 2001 48-58 which connects the mileage list with late antique and epigraphic itineraries including the recently published stadiasmus Patarensis (Sahin and Adak 2007). But none of the texts Salway cites has a focus on one location (hinceheic ) comparable to that on our inscription. On the stadiasmus Patarensis for example distances are given from Patara and from other places as well. And like those on the later itineraries each item seems to be a stage (from X to Y from Y to Z etc.). Our mileages represent the total distance from Polla regardless of how long the trip would have taken. The stadiasmus serves better as a parallel for our inscription’s combination of mileages and cultural advance: erected by the φιλορώµαιοι καὶ φιλοκαίσαρες Lycians to mark the creation of the new province of Lycia under Claudius it celebrates among other things their release from stasis and lawlessness and banditry.

  • 53

    Susini 1984108. Franciosi (2002 195 n. 2) sees this eclecticism as indicative of a late 2nd century date.

  • 61

    As is observed in Bracco 19546-7; Luzzatto 1962 378; Susini 1984 103-104.

  • 67

    We see no reason to assume with Carlsen 2009304that the items are listed in chronological order.

  • 68

    Solin (1983) stresses the preponderance of Lucanian and Campanian individuals in the epigraphic record of the Vallo di Diano in order to counter large claims about Roman influence in the area: “Da questo corpus sembra emergere il ruolo secondario avuto dei Romani nell’urbanizzazione della valle e nella coltivazione delle sue terre” (413). But he makes almost no use of the Polla inscription or the substantial Roman interventions it mentions.

  • 71

    Thus Toynbee 1965244n. 2.

  • 72

    Mouritsen (1998; 2008473-474479). The state of the question is more fully explored in the essays contained in Jehne and Pfeilschifter (eds.) 2006. Note in particular Mouritsen 2006 for the disjunction between ancient and modern approaches to what he terms the ‘Italian question’. Mouritsen observes that modern scholars have tended to view interactions between Rome and the Italian allies as one long inevitable process of convergence and unification. This has imposed a false logic upon the ancient evidence which by contrast retains traces of a much messier more heterogeneous reality.

  • 73

    Jehne 2009162-166offering fuller references and discussion of embassies and envoys from the Italian allies in this period and arguing strongly that the Italian communities received no special treatment from Rome as against other more “foreign” envoys—in fact quite the opposite. On Italian cities and their Roman patrons Badian 1958 esp. 148-153 is still fundamental.

  • 77

    Isayev 2007176.

  • 78

    Fracchia 200263.

  • 79

    Franciosi 2002; Gualtieri 2008388. Also relevant here is a canal project possibly contemporary to the Gracchan termini that aimed to reclaim some of the marshy territory in the Vallo di Diano for agricultural purposes. See Franciosi 2002 221-222.

  • 84

    Cf. Isayev 2007176-177.


Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 66 66 22
Full Text Views 187 187 18
PDF Downloads 7 7 1
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0