Note the realistic (“veristic”) manner in which the faces have been rendered. The relief would almost certainly have originally been painted, which must have rendered them even more lifelike. Note the creases in Publius’ forehead, as well as his moles and other imperfections. He has lost most of his hair and looks like he was at least 60 years old. His wife, Aiedia, is clearly younger, but she too has been rendered in a realistic fashion.
However, these people are not patricians. In the inscription, the man is identified as P Aiedius P L (with the nickname Amphio). P stands for Publius, but of importance here is the L: it stands for libertus or freedman. P L in this case means that he is Publius’ freedman, whose name (Publius Aiedius) he was given upon release. His original slave name was Amphio, which is Greek in origin, and used as his cognomen or nickname.
His wife, too, is a freedwoman. The inscription reads Aiedia P L / Fausta Melior, where again the P L means she was Publius’ freedwoman; her original name was Fausta Melior.Show Literally, her name means “Fausta the Better”: one wonders if Publius Aiedius owned another female slave that he referred to as “Fausta the Worse”? Perhaps she and Amphio met each other while still in their master’s employ.
Despite their status as former slaves, the couple clearly managed to acquire some status for themselves. They are both depicted in the manner of upstanding, relatively well-off Republican citizens. Amphio wears a toga, which is reserved for use only by free citizens. His wife wears two rings on her left hand as a symbol of their wealth.
It seems as if the couple is peering outside from behind a window. The relief may originally have been part of a larger funerary monument. It might have been a structure reserved solely for them, but it’s also possible that their remains were interred within their former master’s mausoleum, with this relief placed in one of the walls. In ancient times, cemeteries were located along major roads into towns, so that travellers to a settlement would come face to face, sometimes almost literally, like here, with that place’s former inhabitants.