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Freeborn. Pompeii and Herculaneum- social structure; Men and Women. Freed. Slaves. Katherine Young. Freeborn(Men and Women).
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The male Freeborn class included the wealthy Patricians, landowners, commercial men, local privileged as well as those of lower status who were workers or businessmen. Freeborn male citizens made up the populus of the towns and had political rights allowing them to vote. These men could gain social status through memorials, client bases, houses and also politics. Wealthy Freeborn men may have held political roles while poorer freeborn men may have owned businesses .
Wealthy Women could own properties, run businesses or be educated however they had no political rights and could not stand for political office. Wealthy freeborn women may have been priestesses or businesswomen while poorer freeborn women may have worked as laundresses, fish-sellers, butchers, weavers or in some other occupation.
The differences in social status between men and women can be seen through the following sources:
The slaves of Pompeii and Herculaneum made up around 40% of the population. Male and Female slaves were part of the household and worked in workshops, the home, owners shops and in agriculture. Educated slaves held higher positions and may have worked as personal attendants or secretaries while those who were less privileged were labourers. Male slaves may have worked in their owners business (see fresco of carpenter) while female slaves may have been cooks, cleaners, prostitutes, wet nurses or fulfilled other household jobs.
The men and women who were slaves made up the lowest class of Pompeii and Herculaneum’s society. They had no rights, little wealth and were treated as objects in business transactions.
Freedmen in Pompeii and Herculaneum ranged from wealthy to poor as did every other social class. Although Freedmen could not hold positions as high as some freeborn citizens, they could raise to a certain level of power through public office if they wished. Generally, this class which was made up of former slaves was the working class, however many became extremely wealthy such as the Vettii brothers.
Much of this class consisted of men who ran businesses with wives who assisted in shops such as bakeries (perhaps in the case of Terentius Neo). It can be said that within Pompeii many women worked in different occupations and some freedwomen were quite wealthy, although usually with the assistance of men.
Eumachia was a wealthy businesswoman and Priestess , she is one of the most recognisable women of Pompeii.
The building and statue of Eumachia in the forum of Pompeii are representative of the highest level of social status for women. An inscription located on the building notes that Eumachia herself funded the building and the statue was dedicated to Eumachia from fullers.
This source informs us that women could hold a high status and be significant members of society and weren't only limited to jobs of a housewife as was common in many cities.
This picture is of the statue of Marcus Nonius Balbus and the alter dedicated to him located near the Suburban baths in Herculaneum. Marcus Nonius Balbus was an extremely powerful and influential figure of Herculaneum and this source indicates his importance and social status .Not only was he named patron of Herculaneum but upon his death he was honoured. The altar being located in such a central location notes his importance as well as that of wealthy freeborn men within society.
Julia Felix was an extremely wealthy woman of Pompeii who owned a villa which took up a block of the city. It can be understood through inscriptions that after the earthquake, Julia Felix earned money to repair damages by renting out parts of her villa which included shops, apartments, public baths as well as a tavern. Julia Felix is an example of a woman who was wealthy with little interference from men and was at a high level of social status within society.
The theatres in both Pompeii and Herculaneum are examples of the social structure between men and women. The theatres were divided into three separate parts which were based on social structure. The lower rows were reserved for those who held important political positions while behind them sat ordinary citizens and finally women on the top rows. The slaves however had to stand, this illustrates the distinct social class as well as the position of women within society.
Although this Fresco was originally believed to be of Paquis Proclus and his wife it is now thought to be of the baker Terentius Neo and his wife. It is located on the wall of a house in Pompeii and depicts a female holding a wax tablet and stylus with her husband standing beside her holding a piece of papyrus.
This painting suggests that literacy was present in the higher class of freewomen and men of society. It is also an example of middle to high class in social structure for men and women.
The house of the Vettii was owned by the two Vetti brothers who were successful freedman. This source illustrates how freedman could rival the elite of Pompeii and be extremely wealthy despite their origins. It is an example of the highest level of freedman and of the social structure of men within society.
This is another example of how a richly decorated and complex house reflected wealth and status within society.
This is the tomb of Naevoleia Tyche,
Who was according to inscriptions on the tomb a freedwoman of Lucius. Tyche. Naevoleia funded the tomb for her freewomen and men which informs us that freedwomen could have a number of slaves or freedmen or women themselves. This tomb informs us that a wealthy woman who was not freeborn could still be quite wealthy and also assists in understanding social structure.
The size and detail of tombs is reflective of the status and position of men and women within society.
This Fresco in the house of the Vettii depicts a carpenter at work. It reveals that freedmen could own slaves who would usually work in their workshops. This fresco illustrates the way many poor slave men would be occupied through the business of their master.
It is an example of a low member of male social strucure.
Many female slaves as well as some freed women worked as prostitutes in Brothels. Prostitution was common and seen as an everyday part of life, these images are from the largest brothel in Pompeii owned by Africanus which contained 10 rooms. The lower classes would visit brothels and those who worked there would usually be slaves.
This building an example of the lowest women in social structure and the conditions in which they spent majority of their time.
This fresco is an example of Freewomen who made up the lower class. These women may have taken jobs in businesses of some description such as in this fresco which pictures a woman who may have worked in the tavern. This was located in the tavern of Salvus located in Pompeii on a busy corner and gives rare insight into the lower class of society.
Marcus Caecilius Jucundus was known as an important businessman and recognised freeborn of Pompeii. Around 150 wax tablets were found within his house which acted as receipts, some of these tablets had witnesses who signed the tablet in the order of social structure. Jucundus was extremely wealthy, this is because he rented and sold land as well as businesses, slaves and properties. This can be seen through the tablets found in his house recording many transactions. He is also known to have lent money
This is another example of a wealthy freeborn citizen. His wealth is again reflected through his housing.
The letter written to Gallus by Pliny as well as the archaeological remains of buildings in Pompeii and Herculaneum outline the living areas of slaves. Pliny notes that his slave quarters are hidden away from public view and also reveals the relationship he has with his slaves. The male and female slaves would have slept in slave quarters such as the ones in the house of the Vettii which is also hidden away from public view.
This written source along with the slave quarters of various buildings present the living conditions of some men and women within society.
“the rest of this wing is reserved for the use of my slaves and freedmen, but most of the rooms are elegant enough to house guests…at the end of the terrace is a suite of rooms. When I am there I feel that I have got away from the rest of the house…for in this way I don’t disturb my slaves’ enjoyment and they don’t interrupt my work.”- Pliny’s letter to Gallus