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Bill Thayer

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Roman Tombs

A man in his sixties, with his back to the camera, standing on a two-lane asphalt road holding his bicycle, and looking at an inscribed stone marker by the side of the road. It is a scene on the Via Appia near Rome, and the stone marker is a Roman tombstone.

As I prepared to take my photo of this tomb on the Via Appia, a modern Roman bicyclist stopped to ponder it, oblivious to the camera, but presumably mindful of the fragility of life.

I'll gradually pat this stuff into shape, but for the moment, rather than a coherent site, let me propose to you this collection of resources:

General Resources


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[ 3 pages, 5 woodcuts, 1 photo ]

Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1875) includes a very good article on the Roman funeral, and a couple of much smaller related articles.


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[ 4/17/01: 8 pages, 3 photos ]

Among the articles of Platner and Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome you will currently find pages on a number of tombs within the city of Rome: the so‑called Sepulcretum (protohistoric tombs in the Roman Forum), the Pyramid of C. Cestius, the Tomb of the baker Eurysaces, the tomb of Caesar's daughter Julia, the Mausoleum of Augustus, and the ustrina where the bodies of the emperors were cremated; but also the puticuli (the graves of the poor). Other articles are also useful: Trajan's tomb is covered under the Forum Trajani, for example.


[image ALT: A decorative entrelacs of laurel and a cross, taken from the cover of the printed book.]

[ 4 long webpages, at least 27 images ]

Rodolfo Lanciani's book Pagan and Christian Rome contains an enormous amount of often fascinating information on Roman tombs, especially in Late Antiquity. Four full chapters of it, well over a hundred pages in the print edition, are devoted to the tombs of the emperors, the tombs of the popes, and the tombs of ordinary people both pagan and Christian.


[image ALT: A fragmentary Roman inscription set in a wall.]

[ 2/23/01: 14 pages, 15 photos ]

If you're chiefly interested in tombstones and the inscriptions on them, the Latin Inscriptions section of LacusCurtius includes good readable photos of a number of them, fully transcribed and translated, and usually with additional commentary: you also have the choice of looking at the raw photo as a test, then checking your skills against the "solution" page.

The site also includes a couple hundred transcribed inscriptions (of varying reliability, I fear); you can ask me to put the corresponding photo online: most of these inscriptions are of course funerary.


[image ALT: zzz]

[ 17 pages of print, 4 photos ]

The Roman Era in Britain, a book by John Ward (1911), includes the interesting chapter Sepulchral Remains: a survey of burial practices, inhumation vs. cremation, grave goods, the then recent finds, museum holdings, and funerary inscriptions.


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[ 11/15/07: 8 pages, 30 photos ]

I have a separate subsite for Etruscan Tombs which currently includes material on tombs, columbaria and necropoli in Chiusi, Orvieto, Perugia, Roselle, Sovana and Vetulonia.

Specific Tombs Not Included Above

These thumbnails, by the way, are a good reminder that Roman tombs, sarcophagi and funerary inscriptions are often found in very diverse places, including many churches:


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Rome:
Tomb of Bibulus

1 page, 1 photo

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Castelnuovo
near Assisi

1 page, 2 photos + closeup

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Collepino
near Spello

1 page, 1 photo + closeups

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Gaeta:
Plancus' Mausoleum

1 page, 1 photo

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Gubbio:
Roman Mausoleum

1 page, 6 photos

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Milan:
Tomb of Stilicho

2 pages, 5 photos + closeups
[Onsite link]
Via Appia
near Rome

1 page, 1 photo

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Via Flaminia
near Foligno

2 pages, 7 photos


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Site updated: 2 May 08