Stone marker (cippus) delimiting the area of the tomb of the consul Aulus Hirtius, who died in the battle of Mutina fighting against Mark Antony (43 BCE)
ILLRP 419.
43 BCE. Copy.
Height 1.05 m, width 0.374 m, depth 0.2 m, height of the letters 6—7 cm.
Inv. No. MCR 228.Rome, Museum of Roman CivilizationPhoto by Olga Lyubimova

Stone marker (cippus) delimiting the area of the tomb of the consul Aulus Hirtius, who died in the battle of Mutina fighting against Mark Antony (43 BCE).

ILLRP 419.
43 BCE. Copy.
Height 1.05 m, width 0.374 m, depth 0.2 m, height of the letters 6—7 cm.
Inv. No. MCR 228.

Rome, Museum of Roman Civilization
(Roma, Museo della civiltà romana).

Original is found under the north-western corner of Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome in 1938, now in Palazzo della Cancelleria (Inv. No. 39016), plaster cast in Galleria Lapidaria in the Vatican Museums.
ILLRP. 419

A(ulus) Hirtius / A(uli) f(ilius)

Aulus Hirtius, son of Aulus

p.237 419. Tres cippi mensuris diversis ex lapide Tiburtìno inserti muro qui cingit sepulcrum A. Hirtii. Effossi a. 1938 Romae sub aedibus della Cancelleria Apostolica exstant in museo Vaticano (B. Nogara, Monumenti romani scoperti negli anni 1938—1939 nell’area del Palazzo della Cancelleria, Istituto di Studi Romani, 1941, pp. 12 et 15 cum im. phot.; Ann. épigr. 1941, n. 102).

A. Hirtius | A. f.

419. Est consul a. 43, qui eodem anno in proelio ad Forum Galiorum cecidit. Publice sepultum eum esse p.238 cum C. Vibio Pansa collega in Campo Martio (cfr. n. 421) iam constabat (Liv., Per. CXIX; Vell. II 62, 4; Val. Max. V 2, 10; cfr. Cic., Ad M. Brut. I 15, 8).

A. Degrassi


p.145 In 1938 the tomb of A. Hirtius was found under the northwest corner of Palazzo della Cancelleria in Campo Marzio1. The name is given by three identical inscriptions and the owner has been positively identified as the consul of 43 BCE, who fell in battle, together with his colleague C. Vibius Pansa, in the fighting against M. Antonius that year. Both consuls were honoured with state funerals, and buried in the Campus Martius2. Since this sepulchre has, until now, been believed to be the earliest securely dated building with opus testaceum (or structura testacea) in Rome3, it has been considered of great significance for the study of the development of brick architecture4. However, it can be argued that the construction found under Palazzo della Cancelleria may not be the original tomb of A. Hirtius and, therefore, perhaps should not be attributed to the year of 43 BCE, but should rather be given a somewhat later, probably Augustan, date.

The remains of A. Hirtius’ tomb were found at a depth of 7.82 m below ground level and consisted of two considerable fragments of a square walled precinct, divided by the massive foundations of the Palazzo della Cancelleria (Figs. 1—2). The west section was destroyed shortly after its discovery and only two inscribed corner-stones were salvaged (now in the Vatican Museum; Fig. 3), but the east section is still visible in situ (Figs. 4—5). The main part of this wall, 1.55 m high and 0.60 m thick, is built of fired bricks, covering a thin, concrete core. It stands on a socle of brownish tufa blocks, 0.70 m high, and is topped by a row of travertine blocks, 0.39 m high and 0.91 m wide. The cap-stones project from the brick surfaces on either side by about 15 cm. The total height of the wall is 2.64 m and the length along the east side 5.72 m (6.02 m if measured along the travertine coping blocks)5. The length of each side, thus, corresponded roughly to twenty Roman feet. Possibly the socle was situated partly below ground, functioning as a foundation-course6. The bricks are made of roof-tiles7, and the five-stone brick-module measures 23.3 cm on average8. In each corner of the square structure, oblong travertine slabs with a curved upper end were embedded in the wall. Their main dimensions are9:

No. 1: 1.05 × 0.375 × 0.20 m (Fig. 3)

No. 2: 0.72 × 0.47 × 0.21 m (Fig. 3)

p.147 No. 3: 1.07 × 0.42 × 0.20 m (Fig. 5)

No. 4: 0.84 × 0.42 × 0.17 m (Fig. 6)

Three of them (nos. 1, 2, 4) carry the inscription A. Hirtius A. f.10, whereas the fourth (no. 3), still in situ, has no visible inscription. These corner-stones differ considerably in size and have an awkward shape for their position. The blocks were clearly not cut to present symmetrical faces at a 90 degree angle. Instead of having a similar appearance on both sides of the corner, as might have been expected, they display a wide, inscribed front on one side and only a narrow flank on the other. Also, instead of a flat top for supporting the brick courses above, they have a curved upper end, which makes the brick continuation difficult (Fig. 4). In comparison with the well-cut and highly serviceable coping-blocks on top of the wall, the corner stones seem out of place.

One possible explanation for this anomaly is that the corner-blocks originally had a different use. According to the present author, the four stones once constituted, or belonged to, a group of inscribed cippi, which had previously marked the sepulchral precinct of A. Hirtius, by themselves11. In p.148 shape they are strongly reminiscent of boundary-stones12, and the variation in height would probably have been concealed if they were set directly in the ground. This use of markers for the delineation of sepulchral areas was recognised by B. Götze, who suggested it for the cenotaph of C. Julius Caesar in the Forum Romanum13. The Mausoleum of Augustus was also surrounded by a row of freestanding cippi, similar in shape to those embedded in the tomb of A. Hirtius14 In some tumuli and cylindrical tombs the outlying row of cippi appears to have been substituted for stylised altar-blocks, crowning the retaining wall. In both cases we are dealing with free-standing markers, providing a visual delimitation of the sepulchral area and enclosing the central monument. The cippi inscribed with the name of A. Hirtius probably served a similar purpose. At some stage, however, they must have been removed from their original position and integrated with a new brick-wall construction, p.149 representing a restoration or aggrandisement of the original tomb15.

In my view, the old cippi were not included in the wall for constructive purposes16, nor because of the inscriptions, but rather in order to transmit the sanctity, i. e. the status as locus religiosus, of the original tomb to the new one. It is quite probable that the fourth slab also carries an inscription, although it was set carelessly, facing inwards. Furthermore, it is possible that the brick surface was once coated with plaster, perhaps stuccoed in imitation of an ashlar wall17. Although often laid bare today, opus testaceum is repeatedly shown to have been originally covered with wallplaster18 and, in this case, the original presence of plaster would also explain the wide projection of the coping stones beyond the width of the brick wall. If this assumption is correct, none of the inscriptions would have been visible and their existence would have been quite pointless, unless the cippi had had a previous use19.

1Early reports on the excavation: Colini 1938, 269; Van Buren 1939, 508; Magi 1939, 205; Nogara 1939; Fuhrmann 1940, 261—263; Lugli 1940, vol. 3, 19—20; Nogara 1941, 12—15; Degrassi 1942—1943, 389—396; Magi 1945. The first report by M. E. Blake (1947, 155) is fraught with misunderstandings.

2Livy Per. 119; Vell. Pat. 2. 62. 4—5; Val. Max. 5. 2. 10. Cf. also Cic. ad Brut. 1. 15. 8.

3Opus testaceum is the modern archaeological term for the Roman method of facing concrete walls with a layer of brick masonry. It served the twofold purpose of providing a form to cast within and a protective surface for the concrete. Structura testacea is the term which Vitruvius (2. 8. 17) used to designate walling of this sort, although it may indicate that broken tiles were employed both as aggregate and facing. This construction technique was introduced during the 1st century BCE, probably in Campania.

4See, e. g., Lugli 1957, I, 533—534; Blake 1959, 161; Eisner 1986, 210; Hesberg 1992, 65; Coarelli 1999a.

5All measurements from Magi 1945, 46.

6Colini 1938, 269.

7Lugli 1957, 533; Blake 1959, 161.

8The module can be calculated from photographs on the basis of published measurements (infra n. 9).

9Magi 1945, 45—47.

10CIL VI 40899—40901; ILLRP 419.

11The corner-stones are called cippi by most writers who have reported on the tomb and in one case the word “boundary-stone” is used (Van Buren 1939, 508).

12Cf., e. g., ILLRP 488 (Imagines 1965, no. 209). This cippus, which defined a private road, is almost identical to the cornerblocks of Hirtius’ tomb and even has similar dimensions: 0.87 × 0.42 × 0.25 m.

13Götze 1939, 13—14, fig. 19. Cf. Hesberg 1992, 95.

14Hesberg & Panciera 1994, 31.

15The tomb of C. Publicius Bibulus in the south-east corner of Campus Martius provides a close parallel: it was built by senatorial decree and soon restored (Frischer 1982—1983, 68; Wesch-Klein 1993, 109).

16In some early Roman brick-walls, stone masonry was used as ‘reinforcement’ or ‘frames’ (quoins) at corners and around openings. More often, though, we find brick quoins in concrete walls faced with opus incertum or opus reticulatum. In both cases, the two materials are firmly bonded to each other with interlocking courses. The cippi of A. Hirtius’ tomb are exceptionally ill suited as quoins for two reasons. Firstly, they do not bond with the brick construction; secondly, none of them covers the full height of the corner, another fact which indicates a secondary use.

17The fact that ancient graffiti were painted directly on the brick wall may put this hypothesis into question, but does not exclude it. The dipinti are dated to the end of the first century CE or the beginning of the second. However, the sepulchre was probably abandoned as early as the beginning of the first century CE and quickly became dilapidated (Degrassi 1942—1943, 395—396; Magi 1945, 138—140). The first stage in this process would have been the loss of plaster or stucco coating.

18See, e. g., Blake 1947, 292.

19It may be argued that that the plaster/stucco only covered the brickwork and the joints around the inscribed blocks, thus leaving the inscriptions clear and visible. However, it is difficult to envisage how this could have been done at the lower part of a corner in a practical and aesthetically pleasing way.

H. Gerding
Colini A. M. Sepolcro di Aulo Irzio // BCAR. Vol. 66. 1938. P. 269.
Van Buren A. W. New items from Rome // AJA. Vol. 43. 1939. P. 508.
Magi F. Notiziario: Zona della Cancelleria // BCAR. Vol. 67. 1939. P. 205—206.
Nogara B. Adunanza del 1º dicembre 1938 // RPAA. Vol. 15. 1939. P. 3—4.
Fuhrmann H. Archäologische Grabungen und Funde in Italien und Libyen (Tripolis und Kyrene), Oktober 1938 — Oktober 1939 //AA. Bd. 1940. S. 460—464.
Lugli G. I monumenti antichi di Roma e suburbio IV. Supplemento. Vol. 3. Roma, 1940. P. 19—20.
Luce S. B., van Buren A. W. Archaeological News and Discussions // AJA. Vol. 44. 1940. P. 377; fig. 1.
AE 1940, 41.
Nogara B. Monumenti romani scoperti negli anni 1938—1939 nell’area del Palazzo della Cancelleria. Roma, 1941. P. 12, 15.
AE 1941, 102.
Degrassi A. Le iscrizioni dipinte del sepolcro di Irzio // RPAA. Vol. 19. 1942—1943. P. 389—396.
CIL. VI. 40899.
AE 1945, 140.
AE 1947, 5.
AE 1948, 42.
ILLRP. 419.
Gerding H. Reconsidering the Tomb of Aulus Hirtius // Opuscula. Vol. 1. 2008. P. 145—149.
Carignani A., Spinola G. Materiali archeologici rinvenuti negli anni Trenta nell’area di Palazzo della Cancelleria // L’antica basilica di San Lorenzo in Damaso / Ed. Chr. L. Frommel, M. Pentiricci. Vol. II—I materiali. Roma, 2009. P. 533, nr. 51.
AE 2010, 204.
Blasi M. Strategie funerarie: onori funebri pubblici e lotta politica nella Roma medio e tardorepubblicana, 230—27 a. C. Roma, 2012. P. 89—90.
Blasi M., Porcari B. Il Campo Marzio fra monumenti sepolcrali e ideologia
politica // Scienze dell’Antichità. Vol. 19. 2013. P. 167 nt. 60.
© 2009. Photo: O. V. Liubimova
© Text of the inscription, commentary: Eagle. Electronic Archive of Greek and Roman epigraphy.
© Commentary: ILLRP. 419.
© Commentary: Gerding H. Reconsidering the Tomb of Aulus Hirtius // Opuscula. Vol. 1. 2008. P. 145—149.
Keywords: epigraphia epigraphy inscription iscrizione epigrafia epigraphik epigrafik inschrift épigraphie roman romano romana romani römisch römische romaine gravestone funerary inscriptions epitaph in pietra tombale epitaffio grabstein-inschrift de pierre épitaphe aulus hirtius auli filius consul mutina mutine war cippus tomb tombstone marker corner-stone illrp 419 inv no mcr 228