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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds We’re here at the tombstone of Aurelia Aureliana, displayed today in the Great North Museum in Newcastle, but originally found, actually, at Gallows’ Hill in Carlisle. And looking at a classic example of third century women’s dress, in this case we’re at Aurelia Aureliana in a woven gallic cloak reaching down to her ankles. She is actually carrying a bouquet of poppies, that’s part of the funerary symbolism that we have here, a reference to the afterlife. Something that’s also picked up, actually, with the pine cones. Pine cones are very frequently associated, also, with funerary art.

Skip to 0 minutes and 49 seconds The dedication here which, makes no explicit reference, interestingly enough, of any military personnel starts with the classic D M, dis manibus, gives us a name, Aurelia Aureliana, not, one might think, the most imaginative of names. And it tells us how long she lived, an interesting bit of Latin spelling here. In this case, v, i, x, s, i, t, ‘vixsit.’ Now, on the next line, we come to age at death, annos. We find various combinations of this formula, sometimes abbreviated a double n, sometimes an expansion, annorum, here annos, and then Roman numerals. Four X’s for forty, and a downward stroke, to make it 41.

Skip to 1 minute and 34 seconds We then hear it is her husband, Ulpius Apolinaris, who actually sets up the tombstone in her name. Very important, in Roman tombstones, as we know, to make sure the dedicant’s name is recorded. And he sets this up to his coniugi to his wife, carissime, his most beloved wife. And there we finish off with posvit. So, coniugi carissime posuit. And that is the memorial to Aurelia Aureliana.

The couple from Carlisle

In this step a tombstone from Gallows Hill, Carlisle, at the western end of the Wall, provides a glimpse of a frontier couple. They stand to remind us of the many ordinary families in the frontier zone who are often overlooked in discussions of the Wall.

A conspicuous aspect of Roman frontier society was its emphasis on memorialisation and the written word. Soldiers are disproportionately well commemorated in tombstones that survive from Roman Britain, but it is clear that the desire to document and to be documented in stone was not restricted to the fighting men. A large proportion of the surviving Romano-British epitaphs recording non-combatants come from the Wall zone too.

In this video we discuss the tombstone of Aurelia Aureliana (RIB 959), erected by her husband Ulpius Apolinaris sometime in the early third century AD. Interestingly, Apolinaris makes no reference to any military affiliations on the epitaph, something that serving soldiers and veterans alike tended to do, so it is quite possible that he was a civilian too.

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Hadrian's Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier

Newcastle University

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