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I have found several inscriptions in Latin that include the phrase „fecerunt/fecit pedes“

E.g. in the Basilica Sant‘Eufemia in Grado, Italy:

Martini/anus et Simplicia / cum fili/is suis / f(ecerunt) p(edes) C

(image)

In this inscription, fecerunt pedes is abbreviated as f. p. In the same Basilica, there’s also an inscription without these abbreviations that says:

Honora/tus cum / suis fe/cet pe/des XXV*

Both of these appear to be Founder‘s inscriptions. I would translate the first one as “Martinianus and Simplicia made the/ these feet with their sons“. However, that doesn’t make any sense as there is no relation with feet at the place of the inscription. Therefore, I‘d like to know if there is any additional meaning to the word pes, or another possible translation. On a side note: I don’t really understand why the second inscription says “Honoratus (…) fecet pedes“, when it should be (as far as I know) “…fecit pedes“

Thank you in advance!

1 Answer 1

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In afraid you shouldn't have glossed over the numerals so easily. The first inscription does not, in fact, say

M. and S. made the/these feet

but in fact:

M. and S. made 100 feet

The foot was used as a unit of length in former times (among certain primitive peoples it still is), so it stands to reason that this inscription says a certain stretch of the building, 100 feet in length, was made by the people mentioned. Often fecit refers to the artist or craftsman who really made something, but in this case it is probably fair to assume they simply donated the necessary funds. The idea of a family with children physically building a stretch of a church, but no more, seems unrealistic.

How long a foot would be exactly is difficult to say, but the ancient Roman foot, judging by several standards that have been preserved, was around 30 cm.

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    I found a few sources (including this one) that think this refers to square feet, generally of a mosaic. I'm not sure if that's universal, but it makes more sense to me than talking about length.
    – brianpck
    Sep 7, 2023 at 17:39
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    'among certain primitive peoples it still is', hahaha, I'd +1'd just for that
    – Rafael
    Sep 7, 2023 at 18:22
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    @brianpck True, it does appear to refer to mosaic area, so it should probably be read as "square feet". Here are the mosaics from Grado: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/… Sep 7, 2023 at 21:19
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    @NeilG Interestingly, while filii technically means "sons," it is sometimes used for children in general; and the ablative plural filiis used here is ambiguous and could just straight away mean "daughters" anyway. I should add that contracting out the work of decorating churches to professional artisans gave us some of the very finest art in Christendom and does not seem particularly unmanly to me. In any event, the website of the city of Grado says "inscriptions commemorating the benefactors." Sep 8, 2023 at 16:07
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    @NeilG You're right, Sebastian referred to a modern people (e.g. Americans). I was responding to his joke by jokingly pointing out that if using the foot as a unit of length meant people were primitive (as his comment suggested), then that would imply that the Romans were primitive too. (Same could be said of the Greeks and many others.)
    – LarsH
    Sep 11, 2023 at 21:02

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