Archaeological Museum of Bologna

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Collections / Sections / The Epigraphic Collection

Stela of Vergilia Erotium

This simple stela, rounded on top and undecorated, commemorates the burial (hic umata) of a freedman of the gens Vergilia, which was rather widespread in northern Italy but is documented in Bononia in this case alone. The unusual exotic cognomen of the deceased – Erotium – seems to evoke the woman’s profession as a prostitute.

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The size of the burial area, a square, is also mentioned: the sides measured 20 Roman feet (approximately 6 metres). The shape of the tombstone and the characters of the inscription, carved by an unsure and inexpert hand, have made it possible to confirm this work as the oldest testimony of Latin writing in the Bologna area.

Provenance: Bologna, eastern necropolis, along the Via Aemilia
Datation: Late 2nd century–early decades of the 1st century AD
Material: Sandstone
Dimensions: height cm 12; width cm 42
Inventory #: 19052

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