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Lecture: Massimo Osanna (Soprintendenza Pompei/Università degli Studi di Napoli "Federico II")

Title: "Monument and Memory: A Newly Discovered Tomb in Pompeii"


A new monumental tomb has been discovered at Pompeii during renovation work on an early 19th c. public building in the Porta Stabia area. The tomb forms part of a little-known necropolis that developed alongside this important southern gate.

The still-ongoing excavation has brought to light a monumental tomb bearing a long inscription on its western side—a typology unparalleled at Pompeii. This tomb, built just before the eruption of Vesuvius AD 79 (as can be deduced by the exceptional state of conservation), reveals new and important data on Pompeii's final decades.

The sepulchral inscription, composed in the form of res gestae (though lacking the name and offices of the deceased), eulogizes in rich detail the life of the celebrated person and constitutes an unprecedented find at Pompeii. We learn of actions and activities carried out at important moments during this man's life, from his assumption of the toga virilis to his wedding. These events were celebrated with acts of great generosity: a public banquet, gladiatorial games, venationes of all kinds, grain subsidies, financial donations, etc. Moreover, thanks to the citation of topical events in the life of the deceased, we discover highly important information on the history of Pompeii that also appears in a famous Tacitean episode describing events in the city in AD 59. The biographical data recorded in the inscription allow us to tentatively identify the anonymous person celebrated in the elogium.

As we shall see, this newly-discovered epigraph undoubtedly constitutes the most significant discovery of the new millennium for Pompeian archaeology.