Eumachia was the public priestess of Venus Pompeiana in Pompeii in the 1st century CE as well as the matron of the Fullers guild. She is known primarily from inscriptions on a large public building which she financed and dedicated to Pietas and Concordia Augusta.
History and significanceEdit
Eumachia was the daughter of Lucius Eumachius, who possibly had amassed a large fortune as a manufacturer of bricks, tiles and amphorae. She married Marcus Numistrius Fronto, who may have held the important office of duovir. The Numistrii were one of Pompeii's oldest and most powerful families, and it is possible that when Numistrius died he left his wealth to Eumachia and their son. All that is certain is that Eumachia was able to use her wealth and social standing to obtain the position of public priestess of the goddess Venus Pompeiana (the city's patron goddess), and she became a successful patronus of the economically significant guild of fullers, the guild which consisted of tanners, dyers and clothing-makers.
Eumachia is important as an example of how a Roman woman of non-imperial/non-aristocratic descent could become an important figure in a community and involved in public affairs. She is seen as representative for the increasing involvement of women in politics, using the power of a public priestess, the only political office able to be held by a woman for social mobility.
Building of EumachiaEdit
The building of Eumachia, the largest building near the forum of Pompeii, is commonly broken down into three parts, the chalcidicum, the porticus and the crypta. The chalcidicum encompasses the front of the building and is an important part of the continuous portico running along the east of the forum. The porticus is a four sided colonnade surrounding a large court yard. Finally the crypta is a large corridor behind the porticus on the north east and south sides, separated from the porticus by a single wall that has windows that were probably once shuttered, in earlier descriptions there were even cisterns, vats, basins, and stone tables in the courtyard. In the center of the court yard, that is said to have been paved of stone slabs, there is a stone block with an iron ring that covered an underground cistern. The dating for the building is somewhat vague, coming in somewhere between 9 BC and 22 CE. A Marcus Numistrius Fronto had a post-mortem inscription dedicated to him on the building, he held the office of duumvir in 3 CE, for this reason it is believed that he was more likely to have been Eumachia's husband rather than her son, at the same time there is a idealized statue of Eumachia dressed in a tunic, stola and cloak in a niche toward the back of the building.
The actual purpose of the building is unknown, with some of the likely theories in no meaningful order, being: 1. A market place for goods, especially those sold by the fullers' guild of which Eumachia was the matron. 2. A headquarters for the fullers' guild, where they washed, stretched and dyed wool. With the actual Fulling done off site because of the smell. 3. A headquarters for the fullers guild, where they did everything involved with the fulling process, with the idea that smells were of little concern in an ancient city before the invention of modern sewage.
The building as a whole is dedicated to Augustian Concord and Piety, thought to be in the image if Livia. In front of the building there are bases of what were once statues of Romulus and Aeneas. Paintings of the street of Abundance, where the building is located, show Aeneas leading his family from Troy and Romulus holding a Spolia opima.
By using her immense wealth to finance a large public works project, Eumachia was engaging in the socio-political phenomenon of voluntary gift-giving known as euergetism, which exerted an influence on the wealthy people of her time period. In the early Roman empire, wealthy citizens increasingly donated their wealth to groups in their communities in return for public honors.
In response to her generosity, and symbolic of her power and social status, the fullers built a statue depicting Eumachia in the veiled form of a priestess. They inscribed into its foundation a dedication. The rough translation of this inscription is: "to Eumachia, daughter of Lucius, public priestess of Pompeian Venus, from the fullers." See Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum: "EVMACHIAE L F SACERD PVBL FVLLONES,".
A copy of the statue is in Pompeii while the original is at the Naples Archaeological Museum.
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