This is an ancient Roman funerary stone, with an epitaph, of Aurelius Hermia and his wife Aurelia Philematio, from c.80BC. The original is housed in the British Museum.
This couple were former slaves who were Roman citizens by the time they died. Although the wife died at age 40, before the husband, both share the same stone. The left-hand side is the epitaph for the husband, Aurelius Hermia. The right-hand side is for the wife, Aurelia Philematio. The epitaph describes the man as a butcher, and his wife as chaste, modest, and “not gossiped about”.
Upon first glance, this is a very sweet epitaph of a husband to his wife, depicting a loving couple. It also showcases a very common Roman event (which is uncommon in modern slavery) – the freeing of slaves by their owners.
However, the epitaph also raises the possibility that Philematio was a child bride. The epitaph states that they met when Philematio was only 7 years old (the line: “septem me naatam annorurum“) and that the husband, depending on the translation “took her on his lap”, “took her onto his knee” or “took her into his bosom” (the word: “gremio”).
Amazing how the translation of one word can completely change the meaning of an entire artefact.