Eponina (40–78 CE)

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Eponina (40–78 ce)

Heroine of conjugal affection . Wife of Julius Sabinus.

Eponina, who lived between 40 and 78 ce, captured the sympathies of the Roman people with heroic fidelity to her husband, even choosing to die with him when her efforts to save his life failed.

Eponina's husband Julius Sabinus, maintaining he was a descendant of Julius Caesar, laid claim to the throne and was defeated, putting his life in danger. To escape capture, he staged his own death by burning his house down, and taking refuge in a cave beneath the ruins. Eponina, away at the time of the fire, was so overcome with grief at the loss of her husband that she refused to eat, endangering her own life. When she was told that her husband was not dead, but hidden in the cave, she began visiting him at night, all the while keeping up the appearance of grief. She carried on her conjugal visits for nine long years before Sabinus was finally discovered and brought before the emperor Vespasian. When Sabinus was sentenced to die, Eponina pleaded with the emperor to spare her husband's life but failed to win a reprieve. She then chose to share her husband's fate. As the two were led to execution, Eponina faced death stoically. "Learn, Vespasian," she said to the emperor, "that I have enjoyed more happiness in the performance of my duties and in prolonging the life of your victim, though but in the rude recesses of an obscure cavern, than you will henceforth ever enjoy amidst the splendors that surround your throne."