Lucius Iucundus Caecilius
Business records and a portrait bust help us piece together something of the life of Lucius Iucundus Caecilius, a notable Pompeian banker or cofactor argentarius who was active during Nero’s era. We even know how Caecilius looked. In the atrium of his house, two portrait busts or herms were found, flanking the entrance to the tablinum. One of the herms, set up by his freedman Felix, was identified as Caecilius himself from the inscription below it. The true-to-life portrait spared no detail- right from the forehead lines down to the wart on Caecilius’s left cheek.
The majority of records detailing Caecilius’s business come from his own home. On the second floor of the house, he kept a large chest of 153 wax tablets of business transactions going back as far as 15AD. Although the wax has perished, parts of the writing survived etched into the wooden backboards. Some of these records related to Caecilius’s father, Lucius Felix Caecilius who founded the business. The name ‘Felix’ suggested that Caecilius senior started life as a slave who after gaining his freedom before making a very lucrative life for himself and his family.
Caecilius Iucundus was, therefore, a second-generation banker and freedman. However, this did not hold him back in any way. In fact, he seems to have been very successful in his own right. 137 of the tablets in his house relate to auctions where he acted as an intermediary between the buyer and the seller- one of the significant roles of the Roman banker. It was Caecilius’s job to collect the monies owing from the auction and deliver them to the seller. He also offered short-term credit deals of 100 days to cash-strapped buyers.
Caecilius also seems to have been regarded as highly reputable. One of his documents is the receipt from an auction at an encampment of the Praetorian Guard. Despite the fact that the camp was outside the neighboring town of Nuceria, Caecilius was called upon to oversee it- an indication that he had built up a considerable reputation in Pompeii and beyond. Caecilius may also have been collecting taxes for the town of Pompeii. One of his records is a receipt from a public slave noting taxes paid over by him relating to a leased fullery, farm and associated pasture owned by the city.
Of course, it could be that Caecilius was branching out and he had taken on the leases of the properties himself. Indeed the banker continued to flourish even after the devastating earthquake in 62AD. In the lararium of Caecilius’s house are two relief panels showing the damage to the forum and just outside the city during the quake. The reliefs were set up in the family shrine as a way of thanking the gods for keeping the Caecili interests intact.
Caecilius’s reputation may have outstripped any bankers in Nuceria. However, one of that town’s citizens made quite an impression on nearby Herculaneum.