Greek in Italy

Project Research Blog

Hail fellow, well MET: a follow up to ‘Gambling in Greek’

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Another thing I saw in the Museum at Naples was the originals of the tavern frescoes from Pompeii that I wrote about James writing about some months ago (here). It’s a bit hard to find good pictures of these, so I’ve put some photos up here (all left-to-right in the original).


In the fourth one (close up directly below), which once showed two fighting drinkers being ejected by the barman, the painted figures have been mostly lost, but their words largely remain. The latest reading for the words on the left is NOXSI. / A ME / TRIA. / ECO / FVI ‘You cheat. 3 was thrown by me. I was (the winner)’. At this time the letter E was often written as two vertical strokes, like this: II. You can see this at the beginning of the fouth line, where ego is written IICO. But in the photo, especially if you zoom in, the second line looks pretty clearly like AMIII: there’s one too many strokes. This is backed up by the early drawings of the inscription, which you can see in Mary Beard’s blog here and here and which pretty clearly also show three strokes.

So what to make of these? The first two letters are pretty clearly AM, but there is no plausible Latin word AMIE or AMEI. James has an excellent suggestion, which is that the last stroke is really the vertical of a T, with the crossbar lost in the damage to the plaster. That would give AMIIT = A MET, still meaning ‘by me’, with the old-fashioned ablative form of the first person pronoun normally spelt med (uncertainty whether to spell final -d in words like sed ‘but’ with -D or -T is common in writing from at least the first century AD). Probably no-one had said med for a good two hundred years by this point, but this use of the old-fashioned form would fit in with the other old-fashioned features I noted in my previous post, like C for G. Seems pretty convincing to me!

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One thought on “Hail fellow, well MET: a follow up to ‘Gambling in Greek’

  1. Thanks for these great pictures! I’ve not had an opportunity to see this close up.

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