A recently discovered human skeleton has been described as being the best preserved remains that has ever been found in Pompeii. And that’s not the only astonishing fact about the skeleton as he was a former slave who ended up rising through the social ranks prior to his death.
The partially mummified remains, that included bones and fragments of fabric, were discovered in a tomb at the necropolis of Porta Sarno (one of the main entrance gates into Pompeii). The excavations are a joint project between both the Pompeii archaeological park and the European University of Valencia. It is believed that the tomb is decades older than when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD which means that this individual was already deceased when Pompeii was destroyed by the volcano.
The individual in the tomb has been identified as being Marcus Venerius Secundio who died when he was approximately 60 years of age. His remains were so incredibly well preserved that a portion of his ear was still visible as well as his white hair.
Mr. Secundio had a very interesting but very hard life as he was a slave as well as a custodian of Pompeii’s Temple of Venus. However, when he was eventually freed from slavery, he joined the Augustales (college of priests who oversaw a type of emperor worship). It’s very interesting that Mr. Secundio’s body was buried in a tomb as adults during the Roman times were normally cremated, which indicates that after he survived slavery, he had a very successful time climbing the social and economic ranks.
He may have even been associated with organizing ancient theater as the marble slab on the top of his tomb mentioned Greek performances. The inscription on the slab was “the first clear evidence of performances at Pompeii in the Greek language” as explained by Gabriel Zuchtriegel who is the director of the Pompeii archaeological park, adding, “That performances in Greek were organized is evidence of the lively and open cultural climate which characterized ancient Pompeii.”
Also found in his tomb was a glass urn that had the name Novia Amabilis on it – she may have been the second wife of Mr. Secundio.
Pictures of the tomb and the remains can be seen here.
The story of how Mr. Secundio rose up from being a slave to climbing the social ranks is very significant and while he died decades before Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroying Pompeii, the inscription on his tomb mentioning the theater performances is a reminder of the better times the city once had.