TOMBSTONE OF LONGINUS
COLCHESTER, ESSEX
ENGLAND
43-49 CE
STONE
COLCHESTER MUSEUM

This tombstone of an auxiliary horseman was discovered face down and overgrown with weeds on the side of a road outside of Colchester. In a sense it is an irony of history, since the savage destruction which Boudicca and her clan inflicted upon this small cemetery actually helped to preserve the tombstone. When Boudicca captured Colchester, they came across this small cemetery with a few upstanding tombstones. They defaced them and tipped them over, causing them to go undiscovered for years.

This tombstone was to commemorate the life and death of a Roman cavalryman, Longinus Sdapezematygus from the district of Sardica (Dudley and Webster, 106). The detailed carvings on the face of the stone remain crisp since it had gone unweathered. It depicts a typical Roman theme; a soldier riding a horse over his enemy. At the top of the stone there is a pair of lions with a snake in their claws, as well as a sphinx; two common classical symbols of death. The figure of Longinus sits with extreme confidence atop his horse. He is wearing a tunic with scale armor, while the horse has a highly ornate saddlecloth, possibly indicating some Celtic influence. The entire face of Longinus has been smashed, presumably by a heavy blow from one of Boudicca’s rebels. Cowering underneath the horse is a naked barbarian with wild locks and a full beard. This tombstone is different from others in that the horse is in a static position rather than galloping in triumph over his foe. While some see this depiction as a Roman soldier supreme over his conquered, inferior enemy, it can also serve as a representation of death and ultimate victory.

 

Clayton, 26

Dudley and Webster, 23

Dunnett, 35

Webster, pl. 15

Webster and Dudley, pl. VI