Plaque Inscriptions


Go Back to Step 9: The Inscription     Return to the Project Overview        Move on to Step 9: Columbarium Epitaphs

You will need to write an inscription for your monument.  The following is a guide to help you decide what to put on it.  Since you cannot write an autobiography, your tomb inscription will need to tell the future why you were important and made a difference.

Invocation to the Spirts of the Dead: Most inscriptions include the Latin phrase "Dis Manibus", "to the Spirits of the Dead".  You can include this as well.  You can abbreviate it "D M" as well.  You can also use "Rest in Peace", (requiescat in pace) which also appears on inscriptions.  It is abbreviated R.I.P.

Names of the people involved: the general formula is "to [person's name]; [second person's name] made this for his/her father/mother/brother/sister/child, etc."  You can also show that the stone is made for both people: "to [person's name]; [second person's name] made this for his/her father/mother/brother/sister/child, etc. and for himself".  You can also have multiple people mentioned, "To [first person], [second person], [third person], and [fourth person]; the gens [family name] made this monument for themselves."  Inscriptions also usually include what is called the "filiation", the listing of the name of the person's father, e.g. "Titus Livus Andronicus, son of Gaius".

Virtues and epithets: in order to show how they fit with the traditional view of a good Roman, funerary inscriptions usually included reference to virtues or epithets.  For example, "loyal", "obedient", "well-deserving", "brave", etc.  These would usually appear after the name.

Municipal career: it is expected that an aristocrat would list the municipal offices held, or at least the last office held.  For example, "duovir, quaestor, aedile".  Usually they would list the last held first (so that the most prestigious office would be closest to the person's name.  It is also important to include any prestigious titles like "patron of the colony" or the priesthoods.  It might also be good to include the information about your position in your guild. 

Noteworth information on life: you might also want to include other interesting information about your life, like details about your games.

Size of burial plot: Romans frequently say on their tombstone how large the burial plot was.  They say something like "X feet in width and Y feet in depth" where "width" (in fronte) refers to how wide the plot is along the road and "depth" (in agro) refers to how far back away from the road the plot runs.

The following are some examples of inscription plaques to give you some ideas on the visuals:

A small, simple plaque 

A large plaque commemorating the public career of an important member of the equestrian aristocracy 

A small plaque with extensive decoration and a very small space for the inscription

A plaque with two side-by-side inscriptions on a single plaque 
A Columbarium with the inscription plaque over the door

A double inscription plaque commemorating a husband and a wife 

A decorated plaque commemorating a boy aristocrat from Pompeii

A cippus commemorating a Christian woman 

Inscription from a funerary altar commemorating a freedman

Closeup of a plaque from the front of a columbarium; the tomb plot dimensions are given on the bottom

A large plaque from the front of a tomb on the Via Appia in Rome 

A semi-circular plaque from a tomb in Pompeii 

Inscription listing three people beneath the portraits of the three people

A medium plaque commemorating a gold clothing maker

A medium plaque from a tomb in Rome 

A small plaque dedicated to four people