A female citizen

Augusta Raurica - a female citizen - drawing Bernard Reymond, Yverdon

“My name is Maria Paterna; I am a Roman lady of Celtic extraction, as is obvious from my name. My ancestors were local people who were granted Roman citizenship. I am dedicating an altar to Apollo, the god of healing, to thank him for helping my son Nobilianus to recover from illness. That was the promise I made to the gods when he was so gravely ill! I sourced the ashlar that was used to make the altar from the quarries in the Birs Valley and a skilled sculptor added the inscription – it was all very costly, as a gift to the gods should be.”

Maria Paterna is known from an inscription:

Augusta Raurica - Votive altar to Apollo from the Grienmatt sanctuary. Height: 102 cm; AD 50-250. Photo Susanne Schenker, Augusta Raurica






V(otum) S(olvit) L(ibens) M(erito)

To Apollo. Maria Paterna has gladly and duly fulfilled her vow for the health of her son, Nobilianus.

A peek into the clothes chest

Maria Paterna is wearing an undertunic and a long-sleeved tunic made from chequered cloth. The inspiration for this reconstruction came from a female Roman burial at Martres-de-Veyre (F), where a blue patterned fabric was preserved inside a lead coffin. Bonnets and cloaks wrapped around the body in the Roman fashion are often seen on funerary monuments. This was what female citizens would have worn outside the home. The jewellery was found at Augusta Raurica.

Oberhaslach (F), funerary stela. Foto Musée Archéologique Strasbourg (F)

In public, women usually wore headdresses such as bonnets or veils. Gallo-Roman funerary stela of a couple from Oberhaslach (F). Late 3rd century AD. Now at the Musée Archéologique Strasbourg (F).