Some 1600-1800 years ago, six men decided to commemorate the fact that they had just enjoyed the pleasures of a local spring. They did so by engraving their names on the rock face above the spring. Having tracked the inscription down on a hot July day in Sicily, and stood in the spring in order to read it, I can share their feelings!
Finding texts of this sort tends to rely on local knowledge, and it’s only thanks to Angela Merendino and her colleagues at the Adrano Museum that I found the text, at the Le Favare spring in Contrada Polichello (Google map of location), above the River Simeto and below the modern town of Adrano (ancient Hadranum).
Precisely because of the difficulties both of finding the text and in turn of actually getting close to it and reading it (the water’s very cold, the shaded spot is beloved of mosquitos, and the lighting is very hard to modify), this inscription provides a very good example of textual traditions and transmission, and the sort of chinese whispers they can involve. The earliest report is in the 1624 edition by George Walther:
Walther (Gualtherus in his Latinised form) reports it as being 12 stades from Hadarnum, incised on rock at a spring. Note that while he accurately reports the variety of lunate and four-barred sigmas, several of the ligatured letters cause him problems, meaning that the various names are rather uncertain.
Gabriele Lancillotto Castello, prince of Torremuzza (1727-1794), in his edition of 1769 reported a text based on the edition of Walther:
It’s worth noting already that Torremuzza has omitted reference to the spring, changed one of the sigmas, and has replaced Wlater’s attempts to render what he could see on the stone with the various ligatured letters with his own assumptions. Unlike Walther, he has offered a translation of the last word.
There are a number of other reports in the subsequent century and a half, but things improve considerably with the visit of the indefatigable Paolo Orsi on 2 April 1898 (recorded in Taccuino (notebook) no. 38), who made his own transcription, recorded in the Notizie degli Scavi di Antichita of 1900:
Orsi is faithful to what he can see, almost to a fault, so the second (ΛΑΛΟC = Lalos) and third names have become Allios Bophos (instead of Lalos and Rouphos, see below); but he is the first to get ΕΥCΕΒΗC (Eusebes) right on line 2, and the first to read the Θ in the last word and so to translate the verb correctly (‘they enjoyed themselves’).
As with so many Sicilian inscriptions, Giacomo Manganaro offered the first modern and accurate edition (Parola del Passato 16 (1961), 132), but he didn’t make explicit what the text looked like on the stone, simply offering a fully edited text (he republished more fully in 1992; while Antonio Ferrua republished it in 1989, but simply repeated an earlier, inaccurate text).
The inscription is not easy to reach or photograph, and my own transcription, done at speed, turns out to be deficient in its reading of ΕΥCΕΒΗC (Eusebes)when checked against the photographs (Orsi’s version above is the right one).
The text reads:
Κελαδιαˬνὸς, Λάλος, Ῥοˬῦφος,
Παυλˬε<ῖ>νος εὐφράνθησαν (palma)
The ˬ symbol indicates that the two letters have been joined together in a ligature, such as Æ. The text can be translated as:
“Keladianos, Lalos, Rouphos (Rufus), Pheseinos, Eusebes and Pauleinos enjoyed themselves”
Three of these have Greek names (Lalos, Pheseinos and Eusebes), while the others have Roman names. Their status is uncertain, given the use of single names (which means they could be slaves, or just non-citizens), but the choice is complicated by the difficulty of dating such a text. There has been a tendency to suggest it is of the ‘Christian’ period, or ‘epoca tarda’, all of which suggest somewhere from the third to fifth century AD. More recently, Manganaro has suggested it might be of the second century AD, and certainly there is nothing about the letters and the text that requires it to be later.
Sadly not every inscription is in such a good spot for a picnic. But with modern mapping and imaging, such remote ‘rupestral’ texts can increasingly be more easily located and recorded.