Funerary Inscription for Servia Cornelia Sabina CIL 6.16450

nurse Nurse with Medea's children
marble sarcophagus, 2nd century CE

Sabina was a slave during the 1st century CE in the prominent household of Servius Cornelius Dolabella Petronianus, a senator and co-consul with the Emperor Domitian in 86 CE. Sabina was a wet-nurse to the filiusfamilias, Servius Cornelius Dolabella Metilianus Pompeius Marcellus, either because it was expected that elite families would substitute a nutrix for a new mother weakened by labor (see Gellius on breastfeeding) or because Metilianus's birth resulted in the not uncommon death of his birth mother Metilia (citizen women's names). Sabina herself would have been lactating after the birth of her own child, whom she may have continued to nurse or lost, given the high mortality rate for Roman children of all classes. Her child’s father was possibly a fellow slave in the elder Dolabella’s household with whom she had some kind of a relationship (see contubernales, as marriage between slaves was not legal). It is not evident what Sabina’s duties were after her charge was old enough to be turned over to a tutor: she may have continued to nurse other children in the household or performed general tasks typical of female slaves within a large familia, such as cleaning, weaving, serving in some capacity. Sabina's name, "the Sabine woman," is not a typical slave name (see slave names). Rather than an indication of her birthplace in the Sabine territory, her name suggests a link to the gens Metilia, whose paterfamilias was the Roman senator Publius Metilius Sabinus Nepos (consul suffectus in 91 CE). Sabina may have been brought to the Dolabella home as part of her mistress's dowry when Metilia married Petronianus. While her lot was undoubtedly better than that of slaves who served outside the villa, she was still a slave, with little personal freedom or choice in her duties or relationships. At some point before she died, Sabina was officially manumitted by her master, the heir and paterfamilias of his family (see below: Ser[vi] L[ibertae] Sabinae). There is no record of when this occurred, but manumission may not have changed her life significantly, as she seems to have continued to live as a freedwoman in the Dolabella household. Sabina's monument, now lost, was found near the fifth milestone on the Via Ardeatina in the ager Romanus southwest of Rome, suggesting that Metilianus maintained his childhood nurse in his villa suburbana until her death. Metilianus's association with his nurse must have been a continuous and affectionate one, given his erection of her funerary monument on which he inscribed his citizen name (the full formal name of Sabina's successful foster child who became consul suffectus in 113 CE can be found in an honorary inscription (CIL 9.3154) awarded him as patron by the municipium of Corfinium; see also CIL 9.3152). The epitaph from her monument survives in a transcription made in 1842 (CIL 6.16450). For further information about female slaves and their work, see Harper, Harris, Joshel (2010), Murnaghan & Joshel, Pomeroy (1975), Weidemann (1981) in the Bibliography.

D[is]• M[anibus]

SER[viae]CORNELIAE • SER[vi] • L[ibertae]






B[ene] • M[erenti]F[ecit]

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