Dedication of a public building in Pompeii (CIL X, 810, 811)

Dedicatory inscription recording the building of a chalcidicum, crypt and portico by a prominent citizen Eumachia, and her son Marcus Numistrius Fronto. 

Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Original Location/Place: 
‘Eumachia’ building, Pompeii, regio I.
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
in situ
27 BCE to 43 CE
Physical Characteristics: 

The same dedication was recorded twice on the building. One inscription (CIL X, 810) above the back entrance of the ‘Eumachia’ building on the Via dell’Abbondanza, Pompeii. The other, much grander version of the text (CIL X, 811) which survives only in fragments, was incorporated above the portico facing the Forum.

CIL X, 810 and 811
This dedicatory inscription was found in two places on the largest structure to flank the Forum of Pompeii, the ‘Eumachia Building’. The inscription above the portico of the main entrance of this public building survives only in a fragmentary state (CIL X, 811) but its reconstruction was made possible by the survival of a second copy of the text (CIL X, 810), at the back entrance of the building from the via dell’Abbondanza. The inscription recorded the dedication of a chalcidicum – or deep porch – a crypt and a portico, and was, on the Forum side, placed on the frieze above the Doric columns of the building’s facade, below a presumed second order of Ionic columns (Zanker, Pompeii, p. 93). The function of the building has been much debated, but it is unlikely that it served a single use, and was rather employed for a range of purposes, including meeting-space and business transactions, perhaps in a similar manner to a basilica (Laurence, Roman Pompeii, p. 28). The most striking feature of the Eumachia building, aside from its impressive size, is that it was donated to the town by a woman. Eumachia, a public priestess (sacerdos publica) dedicated it to Concordia Augusta and Pietas in her name and that of her son, Marcus Numistrius Fronto, in an act of public benefaction and euergetism. Eumachia was born into a wealthy and well-respected Pompeian family whose economic ties to the tile and ceramics industry has been demonstrated by stamps on tiles and pottery from the town (e.g. CIL X 8042.47a-b, 47d-f, 47h-i, 47k-s). Following the death of her father she inherited a sizeable fortune, and her role as a public priestess is further indication of her elite social status. As Alison Cooley has stated, although Roman women were barred from holding political office, from the second half of the 1st century BCE they began to emerge in the post of sacerdos publica in the cults of Ceres and Venus (particularly in Campania), which permitted their participation in civic life in a manner analogous to that of their male counterparts (Cooley, “Women Beyond Rome”, p. 25). Her donation of the building should therefore be understood as an example of direct self-promotion. Zanker has further suggested (in an argument contested by Dobbins, “The Forum and its dependencies”, p. 165-7) that the Marcus Numistrius Fronto named as her son may be the same man named in CIL X, 892 as the duumvir of 3 CE, meaning that this large gift to the town may have been made in the context of his election campaign (Zanker, Pompeii, p. 93).
The most important feature of the inscription, however, is the dedication to Concordia Augusta and Pietas, the keystones of Augustan social and political ideology which focused on the peace that Augustus had brought to the Roman world, and his devotion to traditional religious rites and harmony. Concordia Augusta came to be promoted in connection with the imperial cult, as did the quality of pietas, which was celebrated in art and literature through the revival of ancestral values and customs, used to popularise loyalty and allegiance to Augustus and the imperial family.  In 7 BCE Livia and Tiberius had dedicated the porticus Liviae, built by Augustus in his wife’s name, in a densely populated area of Rome. Like the Eumachia building, the porticus Liviae had many functions, and housed a shrine to Concordia Augusta that Livia dedicated just a few months after the building was completed. By making such a similar dedication in Pompeii, it can be suggested that Eumachia was imitating the actions of the empress (Moeller, “The date of dedication of the building of Eumachia”; Richardson, “Concordia and Concordia Augusta. Rome and Pompeii”), and calling to attention Livia’s civic-mindedness and piety (Zanker, Pompeii, p. 97). Further comparisons have been drawn based on the similarity of the acanthus leaves carved on the door frame of the building with those found on the Ara Pacis (Zanker, Pompeii, p. 95), and the discovery in 1818 of a headless female statue, holding a cornucopia, in the large apse at the rear of the Eumachia building, along with several other marble hands. The statue has been interpreted either as the personification of Concordia, with the features of Livia (Mau, Pompeii. Its Life and Art, p. 112) or more recently as a statue of Livia herself, flanked perhaps by Concordia and Pietas (Richardson, “Concordia and Concordia Augusta,” p. 268). Immediately behind this apse, in the crypta of the building, was excavated a marble statue of Eumachia herself, dedicated to her by the fullones (the cloth fullers and dyers), dressed in the garb of a priestess, with her head covered and in the idealised style of the classical period. The implication of the placement of Eumachia’s statue on a seemingly deliberately parallel axis with that of the statue of Livia is clarified when considered alongside the text of the inscription, which dedicated the building as a joint benefaction with her son; just as Livia and Tiberius had dedicated the porticus Liviae, Eumachia and her son were consciously demonstrating their civic responsibilities and ambition. As John. J. Dobbins has stated, they used the “same architectural, familial and religious language enjoyed by the most prominent woman in Rome” (Dobbins, “The Forum and its dependencies”, p. 166). Eumachia’s dedication of the building is therefore representative of the adoption of imperial ideology by members of the local elite in communities outside of Rome, who used the language and style of the ruling family to communicate both their own piety, directed here at the imperial family, as well as their ambitions. By using the language and form of the imperial household, familiar to the inhabitants of Pompeii from statues of and dedications to the imperial family, Eumachia’s own status was similarly ennobled, and demonstrates the extent to which the “new visual symbolism of the Roman state was absorbed and reworked on different levels” (Zanker, Pompeii, p. 101).
Alison Cooley, however, has recently cautioned against such a direct reliance of Eumachia upon Livia. Although the porticus Liviae contained a shrine to Concordia Augusta, she states that it was not until 10 CE that Tiberius re-dedicated the temple of Concordia in the Roman Forum, when he modified the cult to represent the specific Concordia Augusta. The cult of Concordia Augusta may not, therefore, have been sufficiently established at Rome to provide the model for Eumachia’s building (Cooley, “Women beyond Rome”, p. 36).  Nonetheless, it is clear that the combination of Concordia Augusta with Pietas in the dedication of the building was an innovation of Eumachia herself, and represents the adoption of imperial ideology by individual members of the local aristocracy, who reshaped them to fit their own interpretation, without waiting to see how the trend developed. Cooley therefore suggests that rather than viewing Eumachia as a ‘slavish’ imitator of Livia, she should rather be viewed as an “active agent in disseminating and further developing ideas only slowly emerging in Rome” (Cooley, “Women beyond Rome”, p. 36). 

Keywords in the original language: 

Bibliographical references: 

"The Forum and its dependencies"

Dobbins, John J., article-in-a-bookThe World of PompeiiJohn J. Dobbins, Peter W. Fossp. 150-183"The Forum and its dependencies"London; New YorkRoutledge2007
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