Abstract: Resurrecting Dead Romans: Reconstructing the Lives of Slaves and Freedmen from their Tombs and Epitaphs

Scholars in the field of Roman studies have witnessed significant developments in recent years, one of the most important being the interdisciplinary examination of slaves and former slaves.  References to the non elite in ancient sources provide us with an insightful perspective on the ways in which privileged Romans regarded the lower echelon of society.  Additionally, there are large numbers of epitaphs from the city of Rome commemorating slaves and freed persons, as well as tombs in which they were interred by family members, patrons, and colleagues.

My presentation will focus on the funerary art of Rome’s slaves and freed persons, in particular tombs and epitaphs dated to the first and second centuries CE.  Beginning with a discussion of the positions of slaves and freed persons within the Roman family, I will narrow my scope to an examination of a specific collection of inscriptions which were removed from non elite tombs in Rome in the late 19th century and which, since 1929, have been in the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.  After presenting an overview of the Speed’s collection, I will consider a few epitaphs which identify slaves, former slaves, and members of their families and consider the ways in which this epigraphic material enhances our understanding of the non elite in early imperial Rome.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

Bradley, K., Slavery and Society in Rome (Cambridge University Press, 1994)

Clarke, J.R., Art in the Lives of Ordinary Romans:  Visual Representation and Non-Elite    Viewers in Italy, 100 B.C. – A.D. 315 (University of California Press, 2003)

Dixon, S., The Roman Family (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992)

Hackworth-Petersen, L., The Freedman in Roman Art and Art History (Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Hope, V.M., Death in Ancient Rome:  A Sourcebook (Routledge, 2007)

Dig Deeper

Email the AIA Facebook Instagram YouTube Twitter
Subscribe to the AIA e-Update

Sign Up!