Friendship & Betrayal in Ancient Rome

One of the gates leading in and out into the archaelogical town of Pompeii in Italy is called the Noceran Gate. Just outside this gate is a road (now called Via Nocera) leading out and on either side of these roads are tombs of ancient residents of the town. These tombs offer an interesting glimpse into the lives of people who lived and died over two thousand years ago.

Tomb of the Betrayed Friend Pompeii
Tomb of the Betrayed Friend Pompeii

Take for example the tomb of Publius Vesonius Phileros.  He constructed a tomb where he had plans to include his friend Marcus Faustus. But unfortunately some sort of falling out seems to have happened between them. The plaque at the bottom of the tomb talks about the betrayal by his friend and the irony of friendship.

Inscription on the Tomb
Inscription on the Tomb

“Stranger, stop a little while if it isn’t too much trouble and learn what to avoid. This man that I had hoped was my friend- it was he who produced accusers against me and started a court case. I thank the gods and my innocence that I was freed from all this trouble. May neither the household gods nor the gods below receive the man who lied about the affairs.” (Taken from Mary Beard’s Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town).

There were still three statues (the other one dedicated to his patron Vesonia- he was a slave who got freed) as knocking out one statue would have been expensive. It was cheaper to put in a scathing inscription.


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Lav says:

    That must have been some betrayal. To think that he let it stand for eternity…

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      He must have been stung- plus it was probably cheaper not to have the statue removed and hence a need for an explanation..

  2. ashokbhatia says:

    Goes on to show that human nature has not changed much over the centuries!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      That is true

  3. Nirmala says:

    Who needs enemies with friends like these?!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:


  4. Wow what a friend.
    Thanks for sharing this it really is humbling.

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thank you for the kind words

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