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Gaius Calpurnius Receptus | by Fawaaz Nuzeebun
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Gaius Calpurnius Receptus

The Chief Priest at The Roman Baths, Bath.


On his tombstone reads in translation: 'To the spirits of the departed; Gaius Calpurnius Receptus, priest of the goddess Sulis, lived 75 years; Calpurnia Trifosa, his freedwoman (and) wife, had this set up.'


As with all inscriptions, it contains a lot of information. We know that this man was a priest of the goddess Sulis who lived to a great age for the time. We then read in his tombstone that his freedwoman wife had it set up. Now this is fascinating, because clearly her name comes in part from his name, Calpurnius, which was his family name and Trifosa is a Greek word meaning delicious or dainty. It was common practice for slave sellers to give an attractive slave girl a name like Trifosa to try and attract buyers. So you can imagine the scene. The priest goes to the market on his day off and is persuaded by the slave seller to buy Trifosa, the delicious one. He buys her, takes her to work in his household and, we infer from his tombstone, they fall in love, get married and she gains her freedom. She also apparently remains faithful to him, because when he dies aged 75 she pays for a very elaborate and expensive tombstone to be set up in his memory. This rather charming story on a grey slab of stone gives a wonderful and tantalising glimpse into a relationship and into the society of Roman Britain.


Source: Curator's Choice: The Roman Baths Museum

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Taken on August 11, 2012