We’ve recently found a fragment of stamped Roman tile from an excavation on the outskirts of Gloucester. The stamp is sadly not complete, but comparison with other examples allows us to restore what it originally said.
The letters RPG are clear enough as these stand for R[es] P[ublica] G[levensium], which we can translate as ‘Product of the Gloucester City Council Municipal Tileworks’. In the second line you can see the letters PAF which we can restore from other tiles as P[ublius] A[elius] Finitus. Publius was one of the two civic magistrates of Gloucester (they were called duoviri and were elected annually). Aelius was the family name of the emperor Hadrian and this shows that one of Publius’ ancestors (most likely his father or grandfather) became a Roman citizen during his reign of Hadrian (AD 117-138) – it was a tradition to adopt the name of the emperor’s family when you were made a citizen. The tile was therefore manufactured around the middle of the 2nd century AD.
Tiles stamped with the names of civic magistrates are not at all common in Britain, so this is a lovely find. We even know where the city tileworks was located – underneath the site later occupied by St Oswald’s Priory, near to the original course of the River Severn. The tile provides us with the name of a citizen of Gloucester who lived 1,900 years ago. If Publius hadn’t become a magistrate and had a proportion of the tiles produced during his year in office stamped with his name, we would never have known of him.
Neil Holbrook (Chief Executive)