CAIRO – 1 September 2021: "Hic Habit felicitas" [Here lies happiness] - a phrase confidently engraved on a coin found in Italy nearly 2,000 years after the death of its owner, who might have died in the eruption of Vesuvius that devastated the Roman city of Pompeii in AD 79.
But what does happiness mean to this Pompeian baker whose coin was found beside him? How does thinking about the Roman view of happiness help our search for happiness today?
According to the American Ohio Journal, the Romans saw that happiness and luck are given by the gods who had temples in Rome, where those seeking the gods' favor could make offerings and vows.
Happiness as a concept is also depicted on Roman coins from the 1st century BC to the 4th century. This indicates that it is related to the financial prosperity of the state. Furthermore, the coins that the emperors used to mint associate their existence with happiness.
The Romans also viewed slaves as evidence of their masters' supreme status and the embodiment of their happiness. In this light, happiness appears to be a zero-sum game, intertwined with power, prosperity, and dominance.
Happiness in the Roman world had a price, and slaves paid it to give happiness to their owners.
It suffices to say that for the enslaved, happiness was not their lot in the Roman Empire, because happiness, according to documents and coins that were discovered later, was a supreme prize, that is, it was not a simple meaning as it is today, but rather was like a divine gift, and the prevailing belief was that only masters would win it when the gods grant them that gift.