Dis Manibus

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Abbreviation "D M" on an ancient tombstone (Rome, 3rd century)

Dis Manibus ( Latin for the spirits of the dead ), abbreviated D • M or DD • MM , is an epigraphic formula that appears in funerary inscriptions from Roman antiquity . It often appears with the addition of sacrum , then abbreviated D • M • S or S • D • M , "consecrated to the spirits of the dead".

According to the results of the investigations by Santoro, it did not appear before the time of Augustus and was only in general use in the post-Augustan period, then also in an abbreviated form.


The formula can appear as an inscription without any further addition and then generally designates a place as a grave site, but as a rule it only forms part of a grave inscription with the name of a deceased person, mostly it is then at the beginning, sometimes followed by the name of the deceased or placed at the end of the inscription, and in individual cases the letters D and M appear separately to the left and right above the name inscription.

Linguistic interpretation

The dative Di (i) s Manibus is understood to mean that with this formula the tomb is consecrated to the di manes , the dead or ancestral spirits identified by manes as 'good, gracious', whereby the dedicatory character of the inscription is also clearer Formulations can be expressed. If it is linked to the name of a deceased person, this is either in the genitive , dative or nominative case . The formula DM + genitive is understood in such a way that the dedication is not to the spirits of the dead in general, but specifically to the ancestral spirits of the deceased, or that despite the plural form with the manes of the deceased, the spirit of the deceased, despite the abbreviation only presumed whose soul is meant as the recipient of the dedication. The construction DM + dative , on the other hand, is a dedication to the spirits of the dead or ancestors and the deceased themselves, as it can be even more clearly indicated if, in addition to and differentiated from the manes, the spirit of the deceased is considered genius (for women as juno ) and the recipient of the dedication is named. Finally, in the construction DM + nominative , DM is a mere introductory formula that prefixes the dedication to the manes to the name of the deceased without syntactically connecting them.

DM in Jewish and Christian grave inscriptions

The pagan formula, according to its origins, also appears in abbreviated form in inscriptions for Jewish and Christian deceased, whereby those for Christian deceased sometimes also have Christian formulas or Christian symbols, while with allegedly Jewish DM inscriptions mostly only from the name or location and only in comparatively few cases are it possible to draw conclusions about religious affiliation from an addition to a name such as Iudea . Attempts have been made to explain this finding in such a way that the formula has become incomprehensible, syncretistically appropriated or reinterpreted as Deo Magno or Deo Maximo , or that it could have been gravestones or tombstones with a prefabricated inscription. In some cases, by placing the formula on the back of the plate or on the basis of processing marks, Rutgers was able to make plausible that a plate previously used as a pagan was reused for a Jewish deceased.


Individual evidence

  1. Fundamental to this day, even if many details have been overtaken, is Beniamino Santoro, Il concetto dei Dii Manes nell'antichità romana , in: Rivista di filologia e di istruzione classica 17 (1889), pp. 1-62; the oldest evidence is usually the inscription CIL I² 1273, the dating of which is, however, very uncertain, cf. Maria Letizia Caldelli, Nota su D (is) M (anibus) e D (is) M (anibus) s (acrum) nelle iscrizioni cristiane di Roma , in: Ivan DiStefano Manzella (ed.), Le iscrizioni dei cristiani in Vaticano. Materiali e contributi scientifici per una mostra epigrafica , Quasar, Città del Vaticano 1997 (= Inscriptiones sanctae sedis, 2), pp. 185–187, pp. 339–341, here p. 339 ff.
  2. ^ Ferdinand Becker, The pagan consecration formula DM (DIIS MANIBUS sc. SACRUM) on early Christian tombstones. A contribution to the knowledge of Christian antiquity , A. Reisewitz, Gera 1881, p. 9; Steuding, Art. Manes , Col. 2317 f.
  3. ↑ For example, “hunc locum monumentumque dis manibus do legoque” ( CIL V 2915.2), cited by Sandys 1927, p. 62; further examples in Steuding, Art. Manes , Sp. 2318
  4. Steuding, Art. Manes , Col. 2318
  5. a b c Sandys 1971 (1927), p. 62 f .; Keppie 1991, p. 107; see. also Lothar Wierschowski, stranger in Gaul, "Gauls" in a stranger. The epigraphically attested mobility in, from and to Gaul from the 1st to the 3rd century AD , Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2001 (= Historia, 159), p. 9
  6. ^ "Manibus et genio P. Vatri Severi" ( CIL V 246); "DMM Antoni M. f. Earini et genio eius ”( CIL IX 5794); quoted by Steuding, Art. Manes , Col. 2319; further with Laura Chioffi, 'Genius' e 'iuno' a Roma. Dediche onorarie e sepolcrali , in: Miscellanea greca e romana 15 (1990), pp. 165-234
  7. Becker 1881, p. 13, p. 48, p. 52 and ö.
  8. Ross. S. Kraemer, Jewish Tuna and Christian Fish: Identifying Religious Affiliation in Epigraphic Sources , in: Harvard Theological Review 84 (1991), pp. 141-162, p. 156 f .; see. also David Noy, Jewish Inscriptions in Western Europe , Vol. 2, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1995, p. 489 ff. ( Appendix 2: Dis manibs in possibly Jewish Inscriptions ), here p. 495 (No. 612)
  9. Overview and critical discussion of the explanatory attempts in Leonard Victor Rutgers, The Jews in Late Ancient Rome: Evidence of Cultural Interaction in the Roman Diaspora , Brill, Leiden [ua] 1995 (= Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, 126), p. 269–272 ( Appendix: Dis Manibus in Jewish Inscriptions from Rome ), and Joseph S. Park, Conceptions of Afterlife in Jewish Inscriptions , Mohr, Tübingen 2000 (= Scientific studies on the New Testament, II, 121), p. 16 ff. ( The DM Inscriptions )