Archaeologists in Pompeii have discovered, during an excavation east of the ancient city, a tomb containing a well-preserved skeleton. On the tomb, there is a plate with a name written on it: Marcus Venerius Secundio. The remains would be those of a man; a slave who would have freed himself from this status to climb the social ladder. He would have been the author of scenic performances in Greek and Latin. This discovery allows us to know more about the past cultural life of the ancient city, before its destruction by a volcanic eruption in 79 AD. A surprising discovery because most adults were usually cremated at that time.
According to tradition, the bodies of adults were always cremated in Pompeii, the city destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 BC, but the discovery by researchers of the University of Valencia of a magnificently preserved tomb with the partially mummified body of a man has upset archaeologists: why did Marcus Venerius Secundius want to be buried?
The excavations were carried out as part of the project investigating the archaeology of death in the necropolis of Porta Sarno under the scientific direction of Luana Toniolo, an archaeologist working at the Pompeii Park, and Llorenç Alapont, a researcher in the Department of Prehistory, Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Valencia.
In the marble slab of the pediment of the tomb you can read an inscription commemorating the late Marcus Venerius Secundius, but also also throws details that in the theater of Pompeii also performed performances in Greek, something that had never before been directly attested.
The tomb, presumed to be from the last decades of the city’s life, consists of masonry on whose façade traces of painting are preserved: green plants are glimpsed against a blue background.
The character of Marcus Venerius Secundius appears in the archive of wax tablets belonging to the Pompeian banker Cecilius Jucundus, owner of the domus of the same name on the Via Vesuvius and was a public slave and guardian of the temple of Venus who once freed had achieved a certain social and economic status, as shown by the rather monumental tomb and also, as can be deduced from the inscription.
He became Augustal, that is, a member of the college of priests dedicated to the imperial cult, as the epigraph recalls, “Diede ludi of Greek and Latin for four days”. The deceased was buried in a small cell of 1.6 x 2.4 meters behind the main facade, while in the remaining part of the enclosure, two incinerations of urns were found, one of them in a beautiful glass vessel belonging to a woman named Novia Amabilis, who could be the wife of Marcus Venerius.
The organic remains of the tissue found and other elements of the corpse of Marco Venerio Secundio will be studied in the ArchaeChemis unit, Chemical Analysis unit of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of Gianni Gallelo, researcher of the Department of Prehistory, Archaeology and Ancient History of that center.