City Life in Roman Italy: Eumachia

Answers to some key questions about Eumachia, her building and in particular the dedicatory inscription (Cooley and Cooley E42)

Cooley and Cooley E42

Eumachia, daughter of Lucius, a public priestess, in her own name and [in the name of] her son, Marcus Numistrius Fronto, built at her own expense the chaldidicum, the porticus, and the crypta, and dedicated them to Concordia Augusta and to Pietas.

· Chalcidicum = The front zone/porch (between the forum collonade and the entrance)

· Porticus = The covered collonade around the open central area

· Crypta = Private corridor behind the porticus

· Concordia Augusta = Harmony of the Emporor

· Pietas = Piety/virtue/grace

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Who is Eumachia?

Eumachia is describes herself firstly as the daughter of Lucius. This makes her seem very respectable and pious because girls and women were expected to worship their father (because it was a male dominated society). Then she says that she is a public priestess, she was probably a priestess for the cult of Venus, one of the most important deities in Pompeii. She wanted to remind us that she was religious because this also makes her seem respectable plus it was one of the few ways in which women could gain status. The statue of herself positioned at the rear of the Eumachia building reminds us again that she is a priestess because she is wearing priestess’s robes and veil as if she is about to carry out a sacrifice.

The statue was dedicated by the fullers as shown by a dedicatory inscription. This might suggest that Eumachia had some involvement in the cloth trade but this is the only evidence for that.

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Why is her son, Marcus Numistrius Fronto, included

One reason is because Eumachia is proud of being a mother. She is boasting because she has carried out her duty as a woman (to have a son). Eumachia has risen through the ranks in a man’s world but she isn’t trying to emulate a man, in fact she is proud that she is a woman (again this is reinforced by her statue where her breasts and hips are emphasised).

Also because she is trying to help her son further his career in politics. Eumachia appears to have been one of the most important and influential women in Pompeii yet women could never have a very successful career in politics therefore she uses her influence to help her son. This mirrors the actions of Livia, the wife of Augustus, who similarly set up a portico in Rome and dedicated it in the name of herself and her son. Finally, she may be trying to remind people that she doesn’t only care about business but about her family as well otherwise she may have been criticised because they might have felt that a woman’s first priority is her children.

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Why is the expression “at her own expense” include

Similar to the letters from Pliny the Elder about the statue, Romans liked to donate gifts in order to make them popular (in essence there was a selfish reason behind it). This may have been because Roman’s generally didn’t live for very long so they were desperate to be remembered once they died. Therefore, Eumachia wants to make it clear that it was her who paid for this building, especially because it was such a prominent building (the largest building in the forum!) so that she would be rewarded for it in praise and recognition, and so people would remember her for her “kindness”.

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