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The Personal Roman Virtues

The Religion, Broterhood oh Mithraism


Letters of Lucius Pomonianus #3

Roman Town House

Roman Foodstuffs

Latin: Lesson #4




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Lesson #4


Caecilius lived in Italy during the first century A.D,. in the town of Pompeii. This town had a population of aout 20,000, and was situated at the foot of Mount Vesuvius on the coast of the Bay Of Naples. Caecilius was a rich Pompeian banker. His business accounts, which were discovered when his house was dug up, tell us that he was also an auctioneer, tax-collector, farmer, and moneylender.

He inherited some money from his father, Lucius Caecilius Felix, but he probably obtained most of it through his own shrewd and energetic business activities. He dealt in slaves, cloth, timber, and property. He also carried on a cleaning and dyeing business, grazed herds of sheep on pastureland outside of town, and he sometimes won the contract for collecting the local taxes. He may have owned a few stores as well, and probably lent money to local shipping companies wishing to trade with countries overseas. The profit on such trade was often very large.

We can disover more about Caecilius by studying his full name, which was Lucius Caecilius Iucundus. Only a Roman citizen would have three names. A slave would have only one, such as Clemens or Grumbio. As a Roman citizen, Caecilius not only had the right to vote in elections, but also was fully protected by the law against unjust treatment. The slaves who lived and worked in his house and in his businesses had no rights of thier own. They were his property and he could treat them as well or as badly as he wished. There was one important exception to this rule. The law did not allow a master to put a slave to death without showing good reason. Caecilius' first name was Lucius. This was the personal name of Caecilius hmself, rather like a modern first name. His second name was Caecilius and this shows that he was a member of the "clan" of the Cacilii. Clans or family groups were very important, and strong feelings of loyalty existed within them. Caecilius' third name , Iucundus is the name of his own family and close relatives. The word "iucudus"means "pleaant," just as in English we find surnames like Merry or Jolly. Whether Caecilius was in fact a pleasant character, you will have to find out from the stories that you read about him.



Caecilius' wife Metella , like many Roman wives and mothers, had an important position in her home. She was responsible for the management of the household, and had to supervise the work of the dometic slaves. Much skill in organization and a good deal of shrewdness were necessary if she was to keep everything running smoothly at home. She would also prepare carefully for social occasions and help to entertain guests.

Although the lives of married women were mainly centered in thier houses, they would go out and about in the town. to visit friends, to shop, and to attend public events. Occasionally they managed their own businesses, although this was not common. A Pompeian woman named Eumachia, who donated the cost of the meeting hall of the cloth merchants on the southeast side of the Forum, successfully took over her father's pottery business after his death.

Metella was shown with a distaff and spindle for spinning wool. In the centuries before Metella's lifetime most women would have learned how to spin and weave cloth for the clothes worn by their families. This skill was highly rergarded and was sometimes mentioned on tombstones as one of the woman's virtues, as these lines from an inscription show:

She loved her husband in her heart.
She bore two sons; of these she leaves one on earth, the other she placed beneath the earth.
She looked after the house, she spun wool.

According to the historian Suetonius, the Emperor Augustus considered spinning and weaving activities worthy of women at the highest level of society (although ths was probably already an old-fashioned notion by his time).

In bringing up his daughter and granddaughters , Agusus even made them get used to spinning----except on special occasions, the Divine Augustus always wore ordinary clothes mae for him by his sister, wife, daughters, or granddaughters.

Metella certainly did not need to make clothin for herself and her family, as she could purchase it ready made from the merchants in Pompeii. Nevertheless, she would very likely have learned as a girl the arts of spinning and weaving and might have pursued them as a traditional pastime, much as people today enjoy knitting or sewing.

Words and Phrases Checklist

You have now metthe following words three times or more. Check that you are able to translate them.

  • Atrium = atrium, reception hall;
  • canis = dog;
  • coquus = cook
  • est = is
  • filius = son;
  • hortus = garden;
  • in = in, on;
  • laborat = works, is working;
  • mater = mother;
  • pater = father;
  • sedet = sits, is sitting;
  • servus = slave;
  • via = street
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