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Funerary Inscription for Gnome CIL 6.9730, ILS 7419


CIL transcription

Gnome was a slave whose special duty was to dress hair, an ornatrix. Her mistress Pieris or perhaps her fellow slaves arranged for this small simple marker for her burial niche. The dedicator thought it important to date Gnome's death precisely (she died in 2 BCE), but gave no other personal information about her. The letters of her epitaph are rather crudely carved, but each incision is carefully decorated in red. Although Gnome may have been responsible for the hair care of the entire household, her primary concern would have been to arrange her mistress' hair. Even though women's hairstyles during the Principate were not as elaborate as they would become later, particularly in the Flavian period, nevertheless an ornatrix would have to be skilled at cutting and setting hair in various styles, with braids, buns, twists, and waves, at dyeing hair, and even weaving in locks of false hair. A clumsy or slow slave ran the risk of vicious reprisal from her impatient or outraged mistress (see Ovid, Amores 1.14. 15-18).

GNOME PIERINIS
ANCILLA ORNATRIX
ELATA EST A[nte] D[iem] V K[alendas] FEBRVARIAS
IMP[eratoris] CAESAR[is]
XIII M[arco] PLAVTIO SILVANO CO[n]S[ulibus]

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Ann R. Raia and Judith Lynn Sebesta
Return to The World of Work
March 2006