Epaphroditus: Nero’s assassin, Josephus’ protector

The Roman courtier and patron of the arts, Epaphroditus, is an intrigueing man – or perhaps we must use the plural, Epaphroditi. Our sources mention two people:

  1. An influential courtier during the reign of Nero, who eventually helped the emperor commit suicide, retired, was patron of the philosopher Epictetus, and was killed by Domitian;
  2. A grammarian named Marcus Mettius Epaphroditus, who founded a library and several schools in Rome during the reign of the Flavian emperors.

Because the second man becomes “visible” in our sources when the first one disappears, it is possible that they are identical. The issue has some importance, because an Epaphroditus was patron of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. The interpretation of his splendid Against the Greeks depends partly on the identification of the correct Epaphroditus.

You can find more information here; the little statue is in the Palazzo Altieri in Rome, opposite the San Gesù. Officially, it is not accessible, but the people at the gate are kind and will allow you to come in.


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