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Te, lapis, obtestor…: le vicende di un distico sepolcrale

Matteo Massaro    Università degli Studi di Bari «Aldo Moro», Italia    



All the approximately 30 inscriptions which exhibit the elegiac couplet Te, lapis, obtestor, etc., or its varied and derived forms (CLE, 1470-1475 and others) are listed and carefully compared here. From its likely original pattern Te, lapis, obtestor, leviter super ossa residas / ne nostro doleat conditus officio, which is the most documented since the first century AD, especially in Rome, a new one sprang later. Probably documented earlier in Italy (late first century) than in Rome, this new form was characterized by a quite different pentameter such as ne tenerae aetati iam gravis esse velis (CLE, 2138) and related variations. Another couplet dating back already in the first part of the century and entreating terra instead of lapis, preserves some keywords or word-strings of the original pattern. Some related questions are then discussed, such as the proper meaning and the emotional source, and the poetic features of the couplet(s); the single Greek epigrammatic evidence of a comparable couplet in AP, 7, 554 by Philip; the geographical spread; the comparison between the literary (particularly Virgilian) and the epigraphic technique of variation, and so on.

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