Strange advertising...

Epitaph of Blandinia Martiola
Epitaph of Blandinia Martiola Epitaph of Blandinia Martiola © Lugdunum

Before you leave life, you must enjoy it. The time to behave yourself is when you're not far from the grave. André Chénier.

Lugdunum, second century A.D. Next to the road, an inscription calls to passers-by: "You who read these lines, go to the baths of Apollo". Did advertising already exist in Roman times?

To make sure, let's read the inscription from the beginning. "To the Manes deities and to the eternal memory of Blandinia Martiola, a young and innocent woman." What does this mean? Since the Manes were the spirits of the dead in Antique Rome, we can infer that Blandinia has died.

This stele was ordered by the husband of the deceased woman. Greatly affected by her death, he expresses his feelings for her. Isn't this rather inappropriate for a roadside setting? Not for Roman citizens! It was very common to see monuments like this on the outskirts of cities.

Sometimes, death itself calls to the passer-by: "May my voice, which is preserved by these lines in marble, live again in your voice, passer-by, whoever you are, as you stop to read this." Death during Antiquity was much less taboo than it is today. Every individual confronted it daily.

Far from depressing, these steles also recall a very simple message: carpe diem, "seize the day". In other words, before ending up six feet underground, you must take advantage of every moment. So these tombstones really do advertise...they advertise life! 

By Artips