Relatively few inscriptions survive from the Roman Republic; the vast majority belong to the Imperial period—that is, from the time of the first emperor Augustus
(27 B.C.–14 A.D.) until the third century A.D. The number of inscriptions set up in the late Roman period (fourth–sixth century A.D.) was much reduced but still much larger than in the following early medieval period (the so-called Dark Age). It is impossible to estimate the number of surviving Roman inscriptions, although this must run into the hundreds of thousands, and, of course, archaeologists and chance finds are continually bringing yet more to light. This ever-growing corpus of epigraphical material provides information about many different aspects of life in the Roman world. The inscriptions are thus valuable historical documents, shedding light on the political, social, and economic realities of the past and speaking directly to the modern reader across time.
READ MORE: Roman Inscriptions | Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art