The Tomb of Cartilius Poplicola, an important citizen of Ostia in the first century BC, was built in the years 25-20 BC. Poplicola means "friend of the people". The cognomen was probably conferred by the Ostians, in recognition of his services to the city. The tomb was originally a freestanding structure; the surrounding buildings were erected in the Hadrianic period. Like all tombs it is situated outside the city wall, in this case outside the Porta Marina, near the ancient sea-shore. One other tomb has been found in this area, the large Monumento Funerario (III,VII,2), the tomb of another leading citizen from the first century BC, whose name we do not know.
The front of the tomb was the west side, facing a road that has disappeared. The monument has a square base (6.20 x 6.20 m.), with travertine revetment. The upper part measures 4.70 x 4.70 m. The front was decorated with marble, the sides had travertine revetment, the back tufa revetment. On the front is the following inscription (one fragment emerged in Rome in 1776!):
"This monument was erected with public money. For Caius Cartilius Poplicola, son of Caius, eight times mayor, three times censor, leading citizen, and for his wife and children and descendants, this monument has been dedicated by decree of the members of the city council and with the agreement of the colonists, for his merits, and thanks was given to him who deserved it. He, present or absent, was elected eight times mayor and three times censor by decision of the colonists. For his love towards all, the cognomen was given by all. To Humania, daughter of Marcus."
Humania must have been the wife of Poplicola. Sixteen bundles of rods are flanking the inscription, two for each time Poplicola was mayor (duovir). The bundles, by the way, are not fasces, because the axe is missing, which means that the duoviri could not pass sentence of death: in Ostia the lictors carried bacilli. Above the inscription is a frieze, depicting a scene of war. To the left is a row of armed soldiers, guided by a somewhat larger person. To the right is a ship with the head of Minerva on the prow. On board is a soldier about to throw a lance, but another person seems to hold his arm.
The soldiers to the left may be Ostians, led by Poplicola, defending themselves against a naval attack, perhaps that of Sextus Pompeius in 39 BC (Florus, Epitome, II,18,2). We encounter the same Poplicola in the Tempio di Ercole (I,XV,5).
Plan of the tomb. After SO I.