Epaphroditus (freedman of Nero)

Epaphroditos, Tiberios Klaudios Epaphroditos or Tiberius Claudius Epaphroditus or Epaphroditus (Greek: Ἐπαφρόδιτος; born c. 20–25 – died c. 95), was a freedman and secretary of the Roman Emperor Nero. He was later executed by Domitian for failing to prevent Nero's suicide.

Funerary inscription for Epaphroditos, Museo Epigrafico, Rome


His name originates from the Greek language and means "lovely, charming" combined with the name Aphrodite. This is preceded by the Greek preposition 'ep' which simply means 'for' thus indicating that this man was named with the intention of his life being dedicated to or for the Greek goddess Aphrodite.[1] The Romans often gave slaves of Greek origins illustrious names from Greek mythology and culture, for example Claudius's freedman Narcissus, Nero's freedman Polyclitus and Antonia Minor's freedwoman Caenis.


We do not know for certain who Epaphroditus' master was, but it is likely that he was freed by the Emperor Claudius (41–54). Because freedmen usually accepted the name of their former master, as an Imperial freedman, the official name of Epaphroditus was Tiberius Claudius Epaphroditus, to which Augusti libertus ("freedman of the emperor") could be added.[2] Epaphroditus was an Imperial freedman and secretary (a libellis), which means that he drafted the Emperor Nero's replies to petitions. He is mentioned as apparitor Caesarum, which means that he was some sort of servant of the Imperial Family, but his duties are not mentioned. As viator tribunicius he must have served someone with the powers of a Tribune, and this can only have been the Emperor.[2]

In 65 AD, according to Tacitus, Epaphroditus learned that a group led by the senator Gaius Calpurnius Piso had organized a coup. Epaphroditus immediately reported it to the Emperor and Piso and the others were arrested. After the conspirators had been executed Epaphroditus received military honours. He was now a wealthy man and owned large gardens on the Esquiline Hill, east of the Domus Aurea ("Golden House"), which Nero had started to construct after the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD.[2]

During the conspiracy which put an end to Nero's rule, Epaphroditus accompanied his master in his flight, and when Nero attempted to kill himself, Epaphroditus assisted him (June 9, 68 AD).[3][4] For this service, however, he had afterwards to pay with his own life, for Domitian first banished and afterwards ordered him to be put to death (c. 95 AD), because he had not exerted himself to save the life of Nero.[5][6][7] It is likely that this execution is one of the main reasons that, about a year later, Domitian was assassinated by court officials.[8]

Epaphroditus was the owner of Epictetus of Hierapolis, a Stoic philosopher taught by Musonius Rufus.[9][10]

He is probably not the Epaphroditus to whom Josephus dedicated his Antiquities of the Jews, who may have been a freedman of Emperor Trajan;[11] it is disputed whether he may have been the Epaphroditus mentioned by St. Paul[12] in the Epistle to the Philippians in the New Testament.[13][14]


  1. ^ Behind the Name: Meaning, Origin and History of the Name Epaphroditos
  2. ^ a b c [1] Tiberius Claudius Epaphroditus on livius.org
  3. ^ Romm, James (11 March 2014). Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero (Paperback) (First ed.). New York: Vintage Books. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-307-74374-9. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  4. ^ Bunson, Matthew (2009). Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-1438110271. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
  5. ^ Tacitus, Annals, xv. 55.
  6. ^ Suetonius, Life of Nero, 49; Life of Domitian, 14.
  7. ^ Dio Cassius, lxiii. 27, 29; lxvii. 14.
  8. ^ Wikipedia, Domitian
  9. ^ Epictetus, Discourses, i. 26.
  10. ^ Suda, Επίκτητος.
  11. ^ "It is generally believed that Josephus is speaking of one Epaphroditus who lived in the reign of Trajan and was a freedman and procurator of this emperor." Schmitz, Leonhard (1867). "Epaphroditus". In William Smith (ed.). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 2. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. p. 24. Archived from the original on 2009-06-20.
  12. ^ St. Paul, Epistle to the Philippians, ii. 25, iv. 18.
  13. ^ "At the very least these involved his own intimate associate 'Epaphroditus', by whom he sends greetings 'especially to those in Caesar's household' (Phil. 2:25 and 4:18). It would be difficult to conceive that this Epaphroditus could be anyone other than Nero's own secretary by the same name, later blamed by Dominitian for killing or, at least, helping Nero to kill himself." Eisenman, Robert. James the Brother of Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls. p. 192. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ "From all these persons of the name of Epaphroditus, we must distinguish the one whom the Apostle Paul mentions as his companion." Schmitz, Leonhard (1867). "Epaphroditus". In William Smith (ed.). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 2. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. p. 24. Archived from the original on 2009-06-20.


External linksEdit