Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker, Porta Maggiore

Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker, Rome (Porta Maggiore)

The tomb of Eurysaces the Baker (in Italian: il sepolcro di Eurisace) is located near the Porta Maggiore in Rome and is believed to have been constructed between 50-20 BC. What is unique about this tomb is that it was constructed not by a Roman patrician but of a former slave (a freedman) who made his living selling bread and grain in Rome.

The tomb gives historians an insight into bread making in Rome which can be observed in the frieze that runs atop the monument. The baker must surely have loved his craft and his work to have paid to have such an expensive monument built in his honor.  The “politics” of grain and bread making were important in Rome as the city (and the Empire) suffered food shortages at regular intervals during its long history. One might postulate that Eurysaces had this tomb commissioned in order to show his contribution to Rome as well as establish a family lineage that would be remembered.

It wasn’t unusual for freedmen to build tombs, especially after acquiring wealth in some way. Anyone who bought and sold grain and assisted in the production of bread in a large city such as Rome would surely make large sums of money since the price of grain would fluctuate depending on how much of it was around at any given time. Considering the apparent ease at which grain production could be disrupted, it is no surprise that the price of grain too could reach staggering levels!

Of course, Eurysaces did not come up with this idea on his own.  The concept of commemorative art in Rome has a long history that started long before the baker’s tomb, and you can see many such commemorations around Rome today: such as Trajan’s Column, Ara Pacis and many others.