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Plate 10.


p. 24

Two Little Votive Columns

No. 1.--Height, 22 5/25 inches. NO. 2.--Height, 26 15/25 inches.


THESE votive columns, in the form of a phallus--strange monuments of a shameful worship--each bear an inscription in the Uscan language and character.

The Uscans were a people of Campania, between Capua and Naples they were so much given to sensual pleasures that their corruption became proverbial throughout Italy. This people instituted highly indecent games, and represented in Atella, one of their towns, certain plays, in which the recklessness of debauchery reached its culminating point; but the Romans, already very depraved themselves, gradually adopted these licentious performances, and called them from the name of the town, Atellania. The degradation of Uscan morals was not without its influence on the Greek language, which formed the basis of the vernacular of Campania: thus the Latins used Osce loqui to express both licentious language and obsolete phraseology. From the Latin Osoi, or Opsi, Obsci, is derived the word OBSCENE.

According to Silius Italicus, the country of the Uscans comprehended all the towns along the coast, between Terracina and Cumæ. The principal

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town was Capua, afterwards so famous for its pleasures, or rather debaucheries. This nation was destroyed, and the remnants of it became amalgamated with the neighbouring peoples; but for a long time the Uscan language was used in Rome for the obscene plays. All knowledge of this language has now entirely disappeared from the memory of man, and therefore the Uscan as well as the Etruscan inscriptions are for the most part indecipherable. Several antiquarians, among them the learned Montfaucon, have given their attention to the various transformations of the Greek characters from their Phœnician origin to their entire annihilation among the peoples of Italy. This, however, they could not do with the language. It would be in vain to find anything like pure characters in the Etruscan or Uscan inscriptions through the aid of Greek palæography, because the interpretation of the words would not the less, in most cases, be impossible.

Figure 1. represents merely two words; having regard to a certain resemblance of characters, we might perhaps there recognize the inscription To the Son of Maia. This is therefore most likely a votive monument to Mercury, but we do not desire to overrate the weight of this hypothesis. It appears, however, that the second word begins with ΓΕΗ, derived from γῆ, earth, root of generation; to engender, to produce, γείνομαι.

Next: Plate: XI: Drillopota