It is easy to forget while studying and reading about the splendors of the Roman Empire how tough, and fragile, life would have actually been for the average Roman.

Infant and child mortality was extremely high, as was the rates of death during child birth. About half of all Roman children would have died before the age of 10. The average life expectancy was between 20-30 years of age -however, if you made it over 10, then your age expectancy would have gone up to more to 45-50.

Child death was an unfortunate, ever-present reality of Roman life, as it was with most ancient civilizations. The work illustrating this post stands as a testament to this. Shown is a molded death mask of a young Roman girl from Gaul. Its epitaph reads:

To the manes and in the memory of Claudia Victoria, dead at the age of 10 years old, one month and eleven days; Claudia Severina, her mother, raised this tomb to her beloved daughter when she was still alive, to herself and dedicated it under the ascia.”

Artefact courtesy of & can be viewed at the Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilization, Lyon, France. Photo taken by Rama via the Wiki Commons.

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