PAINTED INSCRIPTIONS ON THE AMPHORAE FROM BAETICA

Five Wrecks...

Because they often bear, in the genitive case and in black ink at the base of the neck, the names of traders who owned cargoes during their transportation,66 amphorae from Baetica provide evidence that is less readily available in other cases. So it is that five wrecks, which have been investigated with different degrees of thoroughness, have revealed the names of the traders who either hired out or loaded the ships.

The oldest of the wrecks was lying in shallow waters near a beach on the island of Ventotene, off the coast of Gaeta. It would appear to date from the second quarter of the first century AD. Though dispersed and much looted, the contents include twenty-five amphora fragments with inscriptions; they are mostly from amphorae that held garum or salted fish (Dressels 8 and 9), with a few that held oil (Dressel 20). On the former, the names, often commercial activity in Egypt. However, the most recent interpretations of the Vienna papyrus SB XVIII 13167, by Rathbone (2000) and especially Morelli (2011), shed the clearest light to date; if the 25% customs duty was paid in kind, alabarchs such as Annius Plocamus were also the traders who sold a quarter of the goods arriving from India.

65 See pp. 6-7. 66 Liou and Tchernia (1994: 134-7).

incomplete, of nine different traders can be read; and on the latter, the names of two.[1]

The Port-Vendres II wreck foundered on reefs between ad 41 and 48 while seeking refuge in the harbour at Port-Vendres. Although it was in a poor state of preservation, excavation of the wreck retrieved several hundred amphorae of four different types, which had contained oil, wine, reduced must (defru- tum), and salted fish. Ingots of tin, copper, and lead were also found. And here, too, the names of eleven different traders figured on the amphorae: eight on oil amphorae, two on salted fish amphorae (Pompeii VII), and the name of Q. Urittius Revocatus on three types of amphorae, for oil, for reduced must (Haltern 70), and for wine (Dressel 28).[2] I shall come back to these.

The most recently discovered (2002) is the one at Albufereta near Alicante. It has been partially excavated and dates either from the reign of Nero or the early years of the Flavian dynasty. The only amphorae to have been brought up so far are Dressel 20s; but the cargo also included copper ingots. On the amphorae there are five different names painted. Two of them belong to associates, co-owners of their amphorae, C. Atilius Secundus and C. Iunius Eutrapelus, who were no doubt a freeborn man and a freedman, respectively. The D. Caecilii, to whom we shall soon turn our attention, figure in two forms: one D. Caecilius by himself, and a family association, the Decimi Caecilii. Altogether, the inscriptions give us five groups of amphorae belonging to five separate entities.[3]

The uses to which the wreck known as ‘Pecio Gandolfo’, off Almeria in Spain, has been put are inauspicious: first, it was looted; then the materials that could be recovered were studied more for their typology than for the painted inscriptions on them. Bernard Liou and Emilio Rodriguez Almeida did, however, come into possession of photographs of ten inscribed amphora fragments. The inscriptions also specify contents: tuna; a different fish, colias Saxitanus, probably of the same family; garum; liquamen; and the names of four different traders, two of which are repeated twice.[4] The typology of these amphorae dates the wreck to the end of the first century ad.

The fifth wreck was explored in the Gulf of Fos; it dates from the middle of the second century ad.71 Not very much of the cargo was found; it was heterogeneous, with wine amphorae from Gaul and a basket full of glass unguentaria, alongside Baetican amphorae for oil and for salted fish or fish sauces. Of the twenty-two amphora fragments with painted inscriptions, sixteen give the names of five traders: one is on an amphora presumably for garum, and four on oil amphorae (L. Antonius Epaphroditus, twelve times;

L. Antonius Melissus and L. Antonius Peregrinus together twice; and Q. Vinisius Serenus once). It is noteworthy that L. Antonius Epaphroditus was trading oil from two different estates, one of which, according to an inscription from Monte Testaccio, also sold its oil to Q. Vinisius Serenus. No single trader was appointed by an estate.

It can be concluded from this examination that, as a general rule, the cargoes on ships from Baetica belonged to several different traders, usually quite a lot of them. To the names found on the amphorae in the Port-Vendres II and Albufereta wrecks should be added those of the owners of the ingots of copper, lead, and tin that were also part of the cargo. The major Baetican ships wrecked, such as Sud-Lavezzi 2 and Sud-Perduto 2, were carrying both metal ingots and several types of amphorae.[5]

The fact that one cargo was split among several different traders should not be taken to mean that this was a practice generally adopted in the sea trade. The costly Indian cargo on the Hermapollon seems to have had a single owner.[6] From the papyrus P. Bingen 77, we know the names of the owners of nine cargoes brought to Alexandria in the second century AD, only two of which are shared by two or three individuals.[7] Against that, in connection with Dressel 1 amphorae and Italian wine at the end of the Republic, Antoinette Hesnard and Piero Gianfrotta had earlier noted the ‘shared chartering of ships for one voyage’.[8] The jurists Paulus and Callistratus, studying the problems of apportionment of contributions posed by the law of jettison and some particular cases of shipwreck, mention that plurality of traders was common.[9] Not that this was standard practice, but we can see strong trends in some branches of commerce and in some regions. With multiple owners of a cargo, the risks were spread more widely; and the effect was similar to that of the collective that Cato foisted upon his borrowers. This conduct was motivated by security concerns. It required numerous participants and numerous transactions.

  • [1] Arata (1993, 1994)
  • [2] Colls et al. (1975); Liou, in Colls et al. (1977: 49-93); Colls and Lequement (1980).
  • [3] Fernandez Izquierdo etal. (2008). 4 Liou and Rodriguez Almeida (2000).
  • [4] 71 Liou and Gassend (1990: 163-219).
  • [5] Liou and Domergue (1990); Bernard and Domergue (1991). Cf. Bang (2008: 195).
  • [6] See pp. 7-8. 3 Heilporn (2000).
  • [7] 75 Hesnard and Gianfrotta (1989: 404). 5 Dig. XIV. 2, 2, 2; 4, 1-2; XIX. 2, 31.
  • [8] 77 Etienne and Mayet (2002: 214-18; 2004: 163-76). Three of the traders were engaged in
  • [9] more than one activity, which explains the total given in my subheading.
 
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