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University of Washington Honors Program in Rome

The Evolution of a Monumental Space: The Baker's Tomb and Porta Maggiore
Section Three 3 of 7

The Baker’s Tomb was intended to serve a variety of different functions both proximate and ultimate. As a funerary monument, the short-term purpose of the Baker’s Tomb was to honor Eurysaces through the remembrance of his achievement as a provider of bread. The tomb’s location is in close proximity to the intersection of the Via Labicana and the Via Praenistina, two ancient roads. Although no wall originally towered over the tomb, it was surrounded by a multitude of other tombs and an above ground aqueduct.

Eurysaces’ tomb competed a great deal, therefore, with neighboring tombs, some of which were large enough to house the remains of hundreds of individuals (Petersen 241). His tomb was most definitely designed to captivate onlookers (242). Despite its ancient identity, the tomb was rich with features pleasing to the eye. The frieze provided an alternative way of knowing Eurysaces’ story to illiterate viewers, while the three-name inscription reveals—even boasts—his status as a Roman citizen (245). Bread making represented an integral part of Roman society for its products were the staple of the people (249). The circular forms most likely represent the kneading machines used by bakers, perhaps the actual tools Eurysace utilized in his business. The monument in no subtle way would have revealed Eurysaces’ profession.

Petersen comments on the emotional reaction of viewers evoked by the tomb as they pass it. While the elite may have been disgusted by its garish style and obnoxious declaration of new money, non-elite witnesses may have appreciated its celebration of an ex-slave’s ability to achieve greatness through veritable hard work (248). One probable function of the tomb was to inform the public of Eurysaces’ enterprise and thereby ensure the reputation of his descendents. The author quotes art historian Penelope Davies when she says that this funerary monument “ ‘has meaning only through those who look at it. It may speak, but is always dependent on the passerby to read it aloud’ ”(241).

Porta Maggiore was also built for a variety of functions. The most obvious function of the gate was to proclaim the grand entrance of two of the world’s greatest aqueducts into Rome. The arrival of water from remote locations was a true cause for celebration, as it would accommodate Rome’s growing population. The double triumphal arches would easily inspire awe in the viewer as he or she may have once strictly associated such a structure with emperors. Another service provided by the gate was to acknowledge Claudius as a dependable ruler who took seriously the needs of the people. After contemplating the amount of thought and energy invested in the provision of clean water, citizens of Rome would be assured of their emperor’s devotion.