A very special tomb, enclosure, with a facade decorated with green plants on a blue background and a burial chamber at a time when the bodies of adults were always incinerated in the city. But also a marble inscription from which comes the first confirmation that in the theaters of the Roman colony, at least in the last decades before the eruption of 79 AD, it was also recited in Greek. It is once again a fascinating and full of mystery story that comes from the last extraordinary discovery of Archaeological Park of Pompeii, brought to light thanks to an excavation campaign conducted together with the European University of Valencia. A find on which an interdisciplinary team of experts is working and from which a lot is expected – underline the director of the Park Gabriel Zuchtriegel and Llorenç Alapont of the University of Valencia – also for the conservation conditions of the deceased, who appears in part mummified, the head covered with white hair, one ear partially preserved, as well as small portions of the fabric that enveloped it. “One of the best preserved skeletons of the ancient city”, Zuchtriegel told ANSA. In fact, in short, a gold mine of scientific data. “Pompeii never ceases to amaze and confirms a history of redemption, an international model, a place where research and new excavations have returned” applauds the Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini, thanking “the many professionals of cultural heritage who with their work do not stop giving the world extraordinary results that are a source of pride for Italy”.
Built immediately outside Porta Sarno, one of the important access gates to the city, the tomb, which dates back to the last decades of Pompeii’s life, belongs to Marcus Venus Secundio, a freedman who in his life had first been the keeper of the Temple of Venus, a very important temple because the Romans had named the city to Venus, as well as minister of the Augustals and finally, certainly only after tampering, also Augustale, or member of a college of priests of the imperial cult. A former slave, therefore, who after the ransom had reached a certain economic ease, enough to be able to afford a level tomb in an absolutely prestigious place. And so much so that he can boast, precisely in the inscription of his sepulcher, of having given “Greek and Latin ludi for the duration of four days”, which could assimilate him to the higher and more educated social class of the town, because in that period, explains Zuchtriegel, in the Mediterranean area “the Greek language was a bit like English for us today”, very widespread, therefore , but not within everyone’s reach in Pompeii where, however, the wealthiest families went crazy for Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides.
So much the first tests on the body tell us that death has seized our already old man, “He must have been over 60 and had never done particularly heavy work,” the director anticipates. Data compatible with the characteristics of his name, which indicates him as a former ‘public’ slave, one of the many who carried out custodial or administrative work in Rome or in the provincial cities. But why be buried, choosing for oneself a rite that was used in much older times rather than in the Greek world but not in Pompeii where, with the sole exception of children, the corpses were cremated? Among the possible hypotheses, the general director of state museums reasons Massimo Osanna, that Marcus Venerius Secundio felt or was a stranger to the social body of the city, a foreigner in short, perhaps arrived from some other place in the Roman Empire or from Rome “where in that period some families continued to practice burial, what which will then become usual in the following century “.
The mysteries do not end here: in the enclosure of the tomb, behind the sealed cell in which the body of Secundio was laid, were found two urns, one of which in glass belongs to a woman called novia, and Jedidiah, perhaps the wife of the deceased, the archaeologists hypothesize, for which a more properly Pompeian rite would have been used. But why would the lady be treated differently? Not to mention the yellow of the partial mummification of Secundio’s corpse which could be due to the perfect closure of the sepulchral chamber, of course, but also to a practice of embalming: “We will be able to understand more from the analysis of the fabrics – Alapont tells us – from the sources we know that certain fabrics such as asbestos were used for ’embalming “. The professor opens his arms: “Even for those like me who have been involved in funerary archeology for some time, the extraordinary wealth of data offered by this tomb, from the inscription to the burials, to the osteological remains and to the painted facade, is an exceptional fact, which confirms the importance of adopting an interdisciplinary approach, as the University of Valencia and the Archaeological Park of Pompeii have done in this project “. In short, studies, analyzes and new researches will be able to shed light on this mystery and at the same time add many other precious pieces to the history of the city. Meanwhile, we are studying how to include the necropolis of Porta Sarno and the tomb of Secundio in the itinerary of the visits. “At the moment, unfortunately, it is not possible because the land on which it is located is beyond the Circumvesuviana railway, but it is only a matter of time – assures Zuchtriegel – we are working on a feasibility study”.