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Are there preserved inscriptions or other such texts from ancient Rome that contain a prohibition? I would prefer original signs that have survived, but mentions in the literature are also interesting. I am looking for something like "don't walk on the grass" or "do not enter"; it should be a prohibition, not an order ("return dishes here") nor a warning ("beware of the dog").

  • Does a private grave inscription count, or do you have something more official in mind (from a business, gov't officials, etc.)? My sense is that 'official' prohibitions that were posted tended to be phrased not as simple 'Don't x' statements but in the form 'Whoever does x will face punishment y' – e.g., Petronius Sat. 28: 'quisquis servus sine dominio iussu foras exierit accipiet plagas centum.' Or, although the meaning is uncertain, the inscription on the Lapis Niger is generally believed to start with some sort of prohibition in this same form. – cnread Aug 16 '17 at 18:28
  • @cnread It doesn't have to be official. I was just curious about how a prohibition sign would be worded in Rome. A grave inscription would make a good answer, and so would pointing out that prohibitions were often worded as threats instead if that is indeed the case. – Joonas Ilmavirta Aug 16 '17 at 18:33
  • The Twelve Tables contained some, if that counts. – kkm Aug 16 '17 at 19:03
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    @kkm Perhaps the Twelve Tables are more of a written form of legislation than prohibition signs like my two examples, but it's difficult to draw an exact line. In the end, I will have to leave it to the answerer's (and voters') judgement to decide what a sign is. – Joonas Ilmavirta Aug 16 '17 at 19:19
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I don’t think there is any attestation of a direct prohibition of the no smoking type for the classical period. The closest I could find is CIL VI, 2357, from Rome, but it is not a prohibition, it is a kind request:

HOSPES AD HUNC TUMULUM NI MEIAS OSSA PRECANTUR TECTA HOMINIS SET SI GRATUS HOMO ES MISCE BIBE DA MI

NI=ne, SET=sed, MI=mihi

Passerby, the buried bones of a man ask you not to piss on this tomb, but if you are a well-mannered man, pour, drink, and give me (wine).

The interesting fact is that the very same text from HOSPES to PRECANTUR is repeated in CIL IV, 8899, from Pompeii, followed by obscene jokes: it might be a direct reference to this specific inscription, but it might also be some kind of well known set phrase. In this case, we would have an idiomatic way to express a specific prohibition.

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A famous Greek example: Plato supposedly put a sign over the door to his school reading

ἀγεωμέτρητος μηδεὶς εἰσίτω,

“May no one ignorant of geometry enter here”

“Geometriae ignarus nullus ingrediatur”.

The story is apparently apocryphal (see: https://www.persee.fr/doc/reg_0035-2039_1968_num_81_384_1013).

  • The sign over the door of Plato’s Academy might have never existed, but the article you link to mentions examples of Greek inscriptions of the type No {female/male/slave/infidel} admitted which were actually found at temples. Very good lead! – Dario Jul 19 at 6:59

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