Euthenia Fellowship

Each academic year (October - September), the BCDSS awards a six-month fellowship to benefit from the Library of Ancient Slavery (LAS) for a research project on slavery and dependency. The library, one of the largest in the world on the subject of ancient slavery, was formerly the centerpiece of the Mainz Academy of Sciences and Literature project Forschungen zur antiken Sklaverei  ('Research on Ancient Slavery') and is now located in Bonn, where it is available to the students, fellows, and faculty members of the BCDSS. The fellowship program is named after a woman called 'Euthenia,' who lived in Roman Bonn. 

Uncovering the Life of Euthenia and Gemellus

In 1958, a Roman gravestone was unearthed in Bonn at the corner of today’s Adenauerallee and Erste Fährgasse, near the Rhine riverbank. The limestone stele, which is now on display in Bonn’s LVR-LandesMuseum, is inscribed with an epitaph which tells us about the deceased and about the person who set up the memorial. This is how we know some details about the life of Euthenia.

According to her epitaph, she died when she was 35 years old. She probably lived during the second half of the first century CE, soon after the first legionary fortress was constructed in Roman Bonna. There is no year on the gravestone, but we can date it approximately by the style of the decorative motifs engraved on it, and by the wording of the text. This dating also reveals that Euthenia was among the first inhabitants of the civilian settlements that sprang up near the military area, the vicus and the canabae legionis. The inscription tells us that she did not live alone in Bonna: the stele was set up by her life partner Gemellus, who probably composed the text of the epitaph that commemorates not only Euthenia, but also himself. Gemellus praises her devotion to her family (l. 3: pia in suis) and hopes that the earth may be light upon her body (l. 4: s(it) t(ibi) t(erra) l(evis)).

The expressions used in the text are highly formulaic and can’t really give us a glimpse of the genuine feelings of the couple and of their life together. But Gemellus’ choice of words does tell us how he wanted to present Euthenia and their relationship to passers-by and to posterity. Roman gravestones were put up in public places, where as many people would see them. In this way, the dead lived on in the memories of others. Moreover, the expressions chosen by Gemellus can disclose his geographical origin: the phrases quoted above (l. 3: pia in suis, l. 4: h(ic) s(ita) e(st) and s(it) t(ibi) t(erra) l(evis)) are typically found in epitaphs from Roman Spain, in particular from the province of Baetica in southern Spain. For this reason, scholars believe that Gemellus may have moved to the Rhineland from Spain.

By contrast, we have only one piece of evidence for Euthenia’s country of origin: her Greek name, which means “abundance” or “prosperity”. It might point at an eastern homeland in that part of the Roman world where Greek was the everyday language. An Egyptian origin has also been suggested, because a goddess named Euthenia was worshipped in Roman Egypt. However, in Roman times Greek names were fashionable and not necessarily connected to the birthplace of the individuals who bore them. This was especially true for lower-class people, and particularly for slaves.


From Margins to Memory

This brings us to the final questions posed by this epitaph: who were Euthenia and Gemellus? What was their status? And why did they move to Lower Germany, presumably from other parts of the Roman Empire? The most plausible answer we can infer from the inscription is that both the deceased Euthenia and the bereaved Gemellus were slaves. This hypothesis is based on the fact that both only had a single, individual name. According to the Roman naming system, personal names were the only names slaves could bear. In addition, the term contubernalis (ll. 6-7), used to describe the relationship between Gemellus and Euthenia, denotes that they were partners in a contubernium, a quasi-marital union that was not a formal marriage acknowledged by Roman law. The contubernium was the only union that slaves (or a slave and a free individual) could enter into, and only with the consent of their master(s).

Considering all these elements, it seems reasonable to assume that Euthenia and her partner were fellow slaves who probably came to Bonna accompanying their owner, whose name is not mentioned. We do not know who he (or she) was: a soldier, or one of the merchants and craftsmen who conducted business along the northern border of the Roman Empire, exploiting the opportunities offered by the presence of the army, or even one of the women who lived in the civilian settlements around the legionary camp? But there is no indication of their identity, whether intentionally or not.

However, it is noteworthy that, despite being in the most disempowered and marginalized category in Roman society, the slaves Euthenia and Gemellus were able to leave behind a mark of their lives. Gemellus managed to arrange the burial of his wife, as he will have thought of her, and to commemorate her, her qualities, and their relationship. And so, after the passage of twenty centuries, we can still read her name and infer some details of her story, which was unique and, at the same time, similar to the millions other stories of her unknown fellow slaves in Roman times. But Euthenia is still remembered and, through her epitaph, has been given a voice.

About the Fellowship

Each academic year (October - September), the BCDSS welcomes one "early career researcher" to work with the Library of Ancient Slavery for six months.

Eligible are: 

  • doctoral candidates
  • postdoctoral researchers (including non-tenured postdocs and tenure track assistant/associate professors). 
Library of Ancient Slavery (LAS)
© Alina Gläser

The Fellowship Comprises

  • a monthly stipend of € 1,550 for doctoral fellows,
  • a monthly stipend of € 2,400 for (non-tenured) postdocs (up to four years after their doctorate),
  • a monthly stipend of € 3,000 for senior postdocs (more than four years after their doctorate, including tenure track assistant/associate professors),
  • travel allowance (outward and return journey),
  • basic accommodation,
  • a working space including a desktop computer at the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies,
  • support in organizational matters upon arrival,
  • support in finding day care for children.

Application Procedure

Please find the current call here. The deadline for applications is 15 May 2024.  

Please send your complete application documents in English, combined into one single PDF file to


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Sarah Dusend

Head of Research and Study & Deputy Managing Director

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