Courtesy of National Museums Liverpool, World Museum
Rectangular ash chest, decorated on three sides, the back is smooth. There are deep rectangular clamp holes at the top centre of both sides, the interior cavity is smooth. The inscription reads: DIS MANIBVS, SACRV
Dis Manibus sacru (m)/Tib(erio) Claudio Onesimo/ Actes lib( erto). Claudia Felicula coniugi suo/nbene merenti fecit/Vixit cum eo annis XXXI. Sacred to the Shades. To Tiberius Claudius Onesimus, freedman of Acte, Claudia Felicular made this for her well deserving husband. She lived with him for 31 years.
Claudius Onesimus, named on the inscription is a freedman of Acte. It is plausible that his wife who dedicated the ash chest, also an Actean and an imperial freedwoman, is the one known for being the mistress of the emperor Nero. In a similar inscription mentioning the freedwoman of Acte, the term Aug lib follows after her name, suggesting that it was indeed the mistress of Nero. In this example the term may had been omitted because of the lack of space. Onesimum's wife who dedicated this chest to her husband would also have been a freedwoman of the imperial household. The years Onesimus lived together with his wife are mentioned. It is not often to mention the length of the relationships in inscriptions. It could well be that Claudia felt that the years they have been together was a significant period.
The front and sides of the field of the chest have a frame of plain moulding of outer fascia and inner cyma. The frame of the sides has a large rosette with four petals. The inscription panel at the front is inside the frame in a way that a narrow strip of the background is visible all round it. The inscription panel has a moulded frame that is more elaborate than the one at the front: apart from the cyma there is band of twisted or spiral design between two narrow fasciae. the corners of the frame have a diagonal groove. The execution of the decoration is good but not as precise.
Dating precisely simple ash chests like this is difficult. From the inscription we can make that Claudius Onesimus died some time later than the middle of the 1st century, in Neronian or Flavian times, that is the third quarter of the 1st century AD.