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  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: September 2011

16 - Slavery and the Roman family



In the early first century ad as one left the centre of Rome along the via Labicana heading south-east in the general direction of Praeneste (modern Palestrina), one would pass by the vast suburban estate of the Statilii Tauri, a distinguished senatorial family. These Horti Tauriani (‘Taurian Gardens’) had been developed by one of Augustus' most trusted generals, T. Statilius Taurus, consul in 37 bc and again in 26 bc. They eventually attracted the avaricious attention of the younger Agrippina, wife (and niece) of the emperor Claudius, and when in ad 53 T. Statilius Taurus (consul in ad 44) committed suicide after being charged with treason, the property passed into imperial hands. The marriage of Statilia Messallina, niece of the consul of 44, to Nero in 66 rehabilitated the family, who regained control of their luxury gardens, but this was to be short-lived; for once Messallina's marriage came to an end with Nero's suicide in 68, the estate reverted irrevocably to the imperial fisc. In the far south-east corner of these horti, near to where the Porta Maggiore now stands, the family constructed under Augustus or Tiberius a large funerary monument to house the remains of the many slaves and freed slaves who had been owned by the various members of the gens Statilia. During the family's political renaissance under Nero, further chambers were added.