The following is the epitaph of Allia Potestas, a Roman freedwoman who lived during what is believed to be the 3rd century CE. This funerary inscription is important for numerous reasons. The length of the inscription reveals the wealth and status of her patron, as well as her impact on her community. The compliments written on her behalf reveal gender roles that were in place at the time period. Furthermore, the open admission of her polyamorous relationship reveals social acceptance within her community.
Note: One and a half lines of this inscription are omitted here [excessive physical description that may not be suitable for the classroom]
Alliae A. L.
Hic Perusina sita
est, qua non pretiosior ulla
femina de multis
vix una aut altera, visa.
parva tam magna teneris.
rector duraque Persiphone,
diripitis exuperantque mala? 
cunctis, iam respondere fatigor:
animi signa benigna sui.
tenax, insons, fidissima custos,
munda domi, sat
munda foras, notissima volgo,
sola erat ut
posset factis occurrere cunctis .
delapsa fuit, eadem ultima lecto
se tulit ad
quietem positis ex ordine rebus,
lana cui manibus
numquam sine causa recessit,
nulla moresque salubres. 
Haec sibi non
placuit, numquam sibi libera visa.
luminibus pulchris, aurata capillis,
et nitor in facie
permansit eburneus illae,
nullam habuisse ferunt; 
Atalantes status illi comicus ipse. 
Anxia non mansit,
sed corpore pulchra benigno
duris fuerit, culpabere forsan;
nil illi placuit
nisi quod per se sibi fecerat ipsa. 
Nosse fuit nullum
studium, sibi se satis esse putabat.
infamis, quia nil admiserat umquam.
Haec duo dum vixit iuvenes ita rexit amantes,
fierent similes Pyladisque et Orestae;
capiebat eos unusque et spiritus illis. 
Post hanc nunc
idem diversi sibi quisq. senescunt;
struxit talis, nunc puncta lacessunt.
Troiam, quid femina fecerit olim!
Sit precor hoc
iustum, exemplis in parvo grandibus uti.
Hos tibi dat
versus lacrimans sine fine patronus 
amissae, cui nuncquam es pectore
amissis munera grata dari,
nulla cui post te
femina visa proba est:
qui sine te
vivit, cernit sua funera vivos.
Auro tuum nomen
fert ille refertque lacerto 
potest: auro conlata potestas.
tamen praeconia nostra valebunt,
versiculis vives quandiucuque meis.
Effigiem pro te
teneo solacia nostri,
sancte sertaque ulta datur, 
cumque at te
veniam, mecum comitata sequetur.
Sed tamen infelix
cui tam sollemnia mandem?
extiterit, cui tantum credere possim,
hoc unum felix
amissa te mihi forsan ero.
Ei Mihi! Vicisti:
sors mea facta tua est. 
Laedere qui hoc
poterit, ausus quoque laedere divos.
insignis credite numen habet.
To the Shade of
Allia Potestas, freed slave of Allius:
Here lies the lady of Perusia;
No other woman is as precious as this one;
Out of the multitude
of women, maybe one or two could be better than her.
Such a busy lady held in such a tiny urn!
Persephone, cruel and harsh mistress of fate,
Why do you take away good people and leave the bad ones
Everybody asks about her, and I’m tired of telling them of
Their tears are evidence of her good heart.
She was strong.
She was pious.
She was courageous.
She was faultless.
She was the most faithful housewife,
Efficient at home,
Efficient enough in public,
Well loved by everybody,
She was the only one who could meet any challenge. 
She kept her mouth shut & stayed blameless.
She was the first one out of bed,
She was the last one to go to bed, & only when everything
She kept her hands busy with her wool-working, never putting
it off with an excuse,
No one surpassed her in character & work ethic. 
She never got cocky, never took time for herself to relax.
She was pretty, --pretty to look at—with golden hair,
The ivory-smoothness of her face remained ‘till the end,
The kind that they say doesn’t happen among mortal women…
What about her legs? She looked like an actor playing
She didn’t worry about her beauty, but Mother Nature was
kind to her body…
Perhaps you could criticize her rough hands,
But she wasn’t satisfied unless she did the work herself. 
She wasn’t an extrovert, but thought her own company was
No one really talked
about her, because she didn’t do anything to make attention for herself.
As long as she lived, she lived with her two lovers in such
That they were like the relationship of Pylades &
They shared a single home
And a single heart. 
But after her death, they have grown apart, and now they
grow old apart;
What one woman has built, was destroyed in a brief moment.
Look at the example of Troy***, to see what a woman can do!
Let this big example showcase a smaller one.
Your patron, who has ever kept you in his heart,
gives this poem in never-ending
As a gift to the deceased woman,
Who will appreciate this gift.
Your patron will never find another woman pleasing now that
He lives without you, and now suffers a living death.
He carries your name, carved in gold, and looks to it often,
as much as he can,
Preserving Ability / Potestas [pun on her name] in gold.
As long as my influence lasts,
You will live on in my words.
I hold your image as a comfort for my grief,
Which I treasure, and adorn it with wreaths, 
And whenever I visit your tomb, I will bring it with me.
But, overcome in such misery, can I properly grieve you with
the proper ceremony?
If I can find another to entrust this ceremony,
Perhaps I can be happy in this one thing after losing you.
Oh no! You have won! My fate has become yours .
If someone is capable of harming this memorial,
also capable of harming holy ground.
Believe that this tomb also contains a god.
* Atalanta: According to Greek myth, Atalanta was the
fastest runner of her generation
** Pylades and Orestes shared a deep and loving bond that some authors
saw as friendship and others saw as a romantic relationship
***this is a reference to Helen of Troy as a cause of the
Date: 3rd Century CE
Funerary Inscription of Allia Potestas
Little is known about the author of this
poem, but the inscription was found in Perusia, Italy and is thought to be from the 3rd century CE.
AGE OF CONFLICT