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Amazing Roman discovery from the 15th century

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

A drawing by Bartolomeo Fonzio (from the 15th century) showing the  uncovered body of a Roman girl dating back 1500 years
Drawing by Bartolomeo Fonzio (from the fifteenth century) showing the exposed body of a Roman girl from 1500 years ago.

In April 1485, there was an amazing discovery along Via Appia, near Rome. Namely, the corpse of a Roman girl was extracted in a great condition – dating back nearly 15 centuries. Italian intellectual Bartolomeo Fonzio from the Renaissance describes the find in a letter to his friend in Florence.

As described, some manual workers were carrying out excavations at the base of the tombs in search of marble – about 6 miles from Rome, on Via Appia. To their surprise, they came across a marble chamber. After opening it, it turned out that in the middle there is a body lying face down, covered with a layer of bark about 5 cm. What’s more, everything that was inside the coffin was covered with a strange substance, with a sweet odour.

After turning the body over, it turned out that the buried girl still had snow-white skin, as if she had just been buried. She had long and dark hair, which were formed into braids, covered with a silk mesh, interspersed with gold. The girl had small ears, a low forehead, dark eyebrows, and her nose wasstill flexible when pressed. Red lips, white teeth, crimson tongue. Everyone was amazed by the beauty of the dead body.

Fonzio emphasized to a large extent that the preserved body looked as if it belonged to a still-alive person. What’s more, it certainly belonged to the person from the nobilitas layer. Additionally, Fonzio made his letter more attractive by drawing a girl’s body.

We have more information about the discovery thanks to a certain Daniele da San Sebastiano who in his letter claimed that the sweet smell of the mixture covering the girl’s body resulted from the ingredients: myrrh, incense and aloe. The girl was said to be so beautiful and charming that it was hard to believe that she was about 1500 years old.

An amazing discovery caused many curious people to come to the area. The body was exposed to public view, and the artists created portraits of a girl.

However, the girl’s name and inscription have not been preserved. According to some legends, it was said that the body belonged to his beloved daughter Cicero – Tullia. According to another, there was an inscription on the side of the coffin: “Here lies Julia Prisca Secunda. She lived twenty-six and one months, and made no mistake, except the death of “1.

After the discovery, the body was transferred to Rome. However, the fate of the amazing find is not entirely clear. Some supposedly claimed that Pope Innocent VIII – dissatisfied with the excitement of the crowd with an ancient body – ordered to take the corpse out of the city walls and secretly bury him. Others, in turn, believed that the body was simply thrown into the Tiber.

Footnotes
  1. Own translation.
Sources

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