History Podcasts

Ancient Roman Marble Used As A Step Is Worth Thousands

Ancient Roman Marble Used As A Step Is Worth Thousands

A carved Roman marble slab that was used as a step to mount a horse for twenty years is expected to fetch up to £15,000 ($20,400) at auction this February. The 25 inch (63.5 cm) high slab of marble was originally dug up two decades ago from an old garden rockery in the village of Whiteparish, Wiltshire. Now, an archaeologist has identified the slab as dating to the 2nd Century AD and when auctioneers Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury sell it in February it is expected to generate a price of £15,000.

Image of English country garden showing where Roman slab was discovered. ( Woolley & Wallis )

How Did the Slab Reach Its Final Resting Place?

If the auctioneers and the local archaeologists’ theory is correct, how then did the slab end up beneath a garden with no apparent Roman ruins nearby? It is thought that the artifact might have been kept in either Cowesfield House, Broxmore House and Paulton's Park, the later two having been demolished in 1949, while the house at Paulton's Park was destroyed by fire in 1963. A Salisbury Journal article says the slab may have been found among rubble at one of these three sites and taken to its present location.

  • Archaeologists reveal lost medieval palace beneath prehistoric fortress at Old Sarum
  • Was the Massive Stone Circle of Avebury In Honor of a Humble Neolithic House? [New Report]
  • Ancient Ceremonial Site 10 Times Bigger than Stonehenge Hits the Archaeological Spotlight

Will Hobbs is an antiquities specialist at Woolley & Wallis. He told the Daily Mail that artifacts of this type often came into England as the result of Grand Tours in the late 18th and 19th century, when wealthy aristocrats would tour Europe learning about classical art and culture. This being the case, the inscription was likely visible at this later date. Hobbs added that his team “assume” that is how the stone entered the UK, “but what is a complete mystery,” he says, is how it ended up in a domestic garden.

The artifact is a stunning find. ( Woolley & Wallis )

Wiltshire: A Roman Treasure Chest

The discovery of an ancient Roman slab in Wiltshire isn’t all that surprising. While it was transported there in modern history, this county is a virtual treasure chest of ancient Roman artifacts from when Rome conquered what is today England and managed the territory as their outpost, Britannia. The most famous finds made in Wiltshire are exhibited at the Wiltshire Museum and include an island copper alloy Colchester derivative developed T-shaped brooch. Quite a mouthful, I know, but this unique lead inlaid treasure dates back to the Roman heydays of 75-200 AD.

An ornate decorated copper alloy Roman penannular bracelet dating to 43-99 AD and a hoard of 2,384 Roman copper-alloy coins were discovered in Pewsey, consisting of mostly 4th century (330 – 348 AD) nummi. And now, when this slab is sold in February it might join these treasures at the Wiltshire Museum, if their pockets are deep that is. For this stone is attracting serious attention.


    Woman's garden 'stepping stone' turns out to be an ancient Roman artifact

    A seemingly dull marble slab, used for 10 years as a stepping stone in an English garden, is actually a rare ancient Roman engraving, a new analysis finds.

    The discovery surprised its owner, who learned that the 25-inch-long (63 centimeters) slab — a stone she had previously used as a stair while mounting her horse — dated to the second century A.D. and was worth about $20,400 (£15,000).

    However, no one knows how the marble masterpiece ended up in England. It was likely carved in Greece or Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), according to a statement from Woolley and Wallis, a U.K auction house that is handling the sale of the slab.

    Some of the stone's history is known: It was unearthed from a rock garden in Whiteparish, a village in southern England, about 20 years ago, according to Woolley and Wallis. Then, the woman who owns the stable used the mud-covered stone for a decade as a mounting block until, one day, she noticed a laurel wreath carved on its surface. An archaeologist who assessed the slab revealed that it was a rare find. Its inscription reads, "the people (and) the Young Men (honor) Demetrios (son) of Metrodoros (the son) of Leukios," The Daily Mail reported.

    Although the ancient Roman Empire extended into the British Isles, this slab wasn't made locally it was likely brought to England about 300 years ago, according to Woolley and Wallis.

    "Artifacts of this type often came into England as the result of Grand Tours in the late 18th and 19th century, when wealthy aristocrats would tour Europe, learning about classical art and culture," Will Hobbs, an antiquities specialist at Woolley and Wallis, said in the statement. "We assume that is how it entered the U.K. But what is a complete mystery is how it ended up in a domestic garden, and that's where we'd like the public's help."

    The rock garden in Whiteparish is part of a house built in the mid-1960s, and the auctioneers are hoping that someone might recall details or people involved with its construction.

    "There are several possibilities of where the stone might have originated," Hobbs said. English country houses known as "Cowesfield House and Broxmore House were very close to Whiteparish and were demolished in 1949 after having been requisitioned by the [British] army during the war," he said. "But we also know that the house at what is now [family theme park] Paultons Park was destroyed by fire in 1963, and so possibly rubble from there was reused at building sites in the area shortly afterwards."

    Previously, Woolley and Wallis planned to auction off the slab this February, but the auction house has since changed the time frame to spring.


    Portus, Rome's Imperial Port

    Photo 1: A 16th century fresco in the Vatican Palace shows an idealized reconstruction of Portus’ grand architectural and engineering features.

    Twenty miles southwest of Rome and now some two miles from the Mediterranean shoreline, obscured by agricultural fields, woodlands, and the modern infrastructure of one of Europe’s busiest airports, lies what may be ancient Rome’s greatest engineering achievement, and arguably its most important: Portus. Although almost entirely silted in today, at its height, Portus was Rome’s principal maritime harbor, catering to thousands of ships annually. It served as the primary hub for the import, warehousing, and distribution of resources, most importantly grain, that ensured the stability of both Rome and the empire. “For Rome to have worked at capacity, Portus needed to work at capacity,” says archaeologist Simon Keay. “The fortunes of the city are inextricably tied to it. It’s quite hard to overestimate.” Portus was the answer to Rome’s centuries-long search for an efficient deepwater harbor. In the end, as only the Romans could do, they simply dug one.

    Photo 2: One of the quays of Claudius' harbour. The grass was water.

    Although it had previously received little attention archaeologically, over the last decade and half Portus has been the focus of an ambitious project that is rediscovering the grandeur of the port, its relationship to Rome, and the unparalleled role it played as the centerpiece of Rome’s Mediterranean port system. Keay, of the University of Southampton, is currently director of the Portus Project, now in its fifth year, but has been leading fieldwork in and around the site since the late 1990s. He is part of a multinational team investigating Portus’ beginnings in the first century A.D., its evolution into the main port of Rome, and, ultimately, the complex dynamics of the port’s relationship with the city and the broader Roman Mediterranean. The multifaceted project involves a number of institutions, including the United Kingdom’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British School at Rome, the University of Cambridge, and the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome.

    One of the difficulties the team has faced in addition to the site’s enormous size is its complexity. Portus encompasses not only two manmade harbor basins, but all of the infrastructure associated with a small city, including temples, administrative buildings, warehouses, canals, and roads. Archaeologists have taken many approaches to investigating Portus 3 . “Methodologically, the strategy has been to combine largescale, extensive work using every kind of geophysical and topographic technique, with excavation reserved for relatively focused areas,” says Keay. “The aim is to try and understand a key area at the center of the port, which could provide a point from which to understand how the port worked as a whole.” The current archaeological research is offering a new understanding of just how Portus’ construction enabled Rome to become Rome.

    Photo 3: Still visible today, Portus' hexagonal basin and its adjacent canal facilitated the transfer of goods up the Tiber River to Rome. The red lines are the locations of the two moles with the lighthouse island in the middle.

    Glimpse into early Rome
    By the dawn of the first century A.D., just before Portus was conceived, Roman territory stretched from Iberia to the Near East, enveloping all the coastal land bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Romans considered the Mediterranean such an innate part of Roman life that they often referred to it simply as Mare Nostrum, or “our sea.” However, paradoxically, as it was located nearly 20 miles inland, Rome was without a suitable nearby maritime port. This obstacle had periodically inconvenienced the city over the course of the previous millennium. In a sense, Rome’s growth had always relied on its capacity to connect with everbroadening Italian and Mediterranean trade networks. The more Rome expanded, the more it turned to outside resources to feed its population.

    Photo 4: Temple of the god Portunus, protector of all ports
    at the Forum Boarium 4

    Throughout its history, Rome’s size and potential always seemed to be commensurate with — and limited by — its port capabilities. During the first half of the first millennium B.C., the early Roman settlement relied on a small river harbor at the foot of the Capitoline, Palatine, and Aventine Hills, where a near 90-degree bend in the Tiber River created a small plain and natural landing for boats. Known as the Forum Boarium and the Portus Tiberinus, the site was also where two important ancient Italic trade routes crossed. This river port was, at this early juncture in Rome’s history, the heart of its supply, communication, and redistribution activities. Archaeological evidence found there, among the earliest ever discovered in Rome, indicates that even during the city’s early days, Romans were interacting with foreign travelers and importing goods from across the Mediterranean. By the fourth century B.C., as Rome was expanding beyond the site of the original seven hills and into central Italy, it began to outgrow its limited river port. Although Rome was connected to the sea via the Tiber River, seagoing ships and boats of substantial size could not safely maneuver up the river’s course to the city.

    Photo 5: Ostia seen from the north.

    A significant step was taken in 386 B.C. when Rome founded the colony of Ostia at the Tiber’s mouth, some 20 miles away, not only to help supply the growing city with grain and other foodstuffs, but to enhance its connections with the Mediterranean 5 . While Ostia eventually became a significant Roman city and played a major role in imperial Rome’s multifaceted port system, it proved insufficient as the city’s sole port. Although adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea, the site had geographical drawbacks. “Ostia could never handle massive numbers of ships,” says Keay. “It’s a river port, and the river itself is no good. It floods, it’s treacherous at the river mouth, and it’s not really deep enough.”

    Photo 6: Painting of a view over Puteoli 7

    Still limited by its lack of a deepwater maritime port, the Romans began to look southward. By the second century B.C., Rome controlled most of the Italian peninsula, as well as parts of Iberia, Greece, and North Africa. Roman ships were now bigger and were sailing farther abroad more frequently. The river port of Rome, Portus Tiberinus, even when combined with Ostia, couldn’t meet the increasing demands of an expanding Mediterranean-wide trade network. The establishment of Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli) on the Bay of Naples formed part of the solution 6 . At Puteoli, the Romans finally had a natural maritime harbor that could accommodate ships of all sizes as well as increased traffic. Puteoli evolved into the principal port of the Roman Republic, and remained so for two hundred years. But Puteoli itself was not without its limitations: Rome’s greatest commercial harbor was located more than a hundred miles south of the capital. Goods arriving on large ships had to be offloaded at the Bay of Naples and carted up to Rome overland, or transshipped onto smaller boats and ferried up the coast to Ostia, a threeday sail away. “It’s not ideal,” says Keay, adding, “The Romans realized this and toyed with the idea of building a port closer to Rome, an anchorage that would speed up the whole process and make it more efficient.”

    By the beginning of the empire at the end of the first century B.C., the population of Rome and its environs had reached well over a million people. The lack of a nearby maritime port was beginning to make supplying the city a nearly impossible task. With its territory now spread from one end of the Mediterranean to the other, resources from every region sailed to Rome. Olive oil, wine, garum (a popular fish sauce), slaves, and building materials were shipped from places such as Spain, Gaul, North Africa, and the Near East. However, the most important responsibility of the Roman emperor was ensuring the steady and continuous flow of grain. Grains and cereals were the staple of the Roman diet, either consumed in bread form or served as a porridge. It has been estimated that a Roman adult consumed 400 to 600 pounds of wheat per year. With a population of more than a million, this required Rome to stock a staggering 650 million pounds annually. Throughout Rome’s history, shortages in the grain supply led to riots. The city’s food supply was frequently interrupted by storms and bad weather, and grain ships could be lost at sea. Any such delay or loss created civil unrest.

    Photo 7: The Grandi Horrea - one of the largest grain warehouses
    in Ostia

    From the second century B.C. onward, the Roman government took an increasingly active approach to monitoring and controlling the grain supply. First, the government began to regulate and subsidize the price, ensuring that grain remained affordable to the masses at all times. By the Augustan period, the emperor was doling out as much as 500 pounds of grain per head to as many as 250,000 households. The emperors realized that the key to Rome’s stability was keeping its population well fed.

    Yet, by the first century A.D., Rome could no longer be sustained by Italian harvests alone. It began to exploit its newly annexed fertile provinces, especially North Africa and Egypt, which soon became the largest supplier of Roman grain. It took as many as a thousand ships, constantly sailing, just to support the demand for grain in the city. With large grain ships typically capable of hauling more than 100 tons, and sea transport at least 40 times less expensive than land transport, Rome desperately needed a deepwater port close to home.

    Photo 8: Mosaic depicting grain measurers (Ostia, Aula dei Mensores (I,XIX,1.3))

    At about this same time, Roman engineering was beginning to manifest its unparalleled capabilities. The emperor Claudius concluded that the time was right to build an artificial port within Rome’s environs, one large enough to accommodate the demands of an evergrowing city. Portus was built from scratch, a couple of miles north of Ostia, along a coastal strip on the Mediterranean near the mouth of the Tiber River. It would become the linchpin in a new imperial port system that enabled Rome to be continuously and efficiently supplied for the next 400 years.

    The enormous engineering project was begun by Claudius around A.D. 46 and took nearly 20 years to complete. It was the largest public works project of its era. At its center was an artificial basin of nearly 500 acres, dug out of coastal dunes. A short distance from the mouth of this harbor were two extensive moles, or breakwaters, constructed to protect it from the open sea. A small island with a lighthouse stood between the two moles and guided ships as they approached. With a depth of 20 feet, the Claudian basin was large enough, deep enough, and sheltered enough to provide ample anchorage for large seafaring ships heavily laden with as much as 500 tons of cargo.

    Photo 9: The darsena of the harbour of Claudius

    In addition to the large basin, this early stage in Portus’ construction involved other facilities such as a smaller inner harbor known as the darsena, and various buildings associated with the registration, storage, and distribution of goods. The harbor complex was connected to the Tiber River two miles to the south via a network of canals, the largest of which measured nearly 100 yards wide. This greatly expedited the whole process of bringing goods from cargo ships to Roman households. Enormous warehouses were built at Portus that were capable of storing many months’ worth of grain. Portus became not only the place through which foodstuffs entered Rome, but also where they were stored.

    The construction of Portus brought great renown to Claudius and, later, to his successor Nero, who saw it to completion. Portus was commemorated on coins issued by the emperors and on a monumental arch erected by Claudius at the site. “There is an element to the port of Claudius that makes it clear that it is a vanity project,” says Keay, “and there is also an element that reflects the rhetoric of empire. The emperor is the great provider, who overrides nature in order to feed his people.”

    Photo 10: Remains of buildings in the port of Claudius.

    The establishment of Portus by Claudius was just the first step in a process that led to the continual expansion and enhancement of the site over the next two centuries. In the early second century A.D., as Rome grew to its greatest territorial extent, the emperor Trajan was responsible for a massive enlargement and reorganization of Portus. Trajan, whose building projects were transforming the city of Rome, turned his architects toward the redevelopment of the existing harbor. As with many Trajanic projects, the goal was not only to provide new functional facilities, but ones that also symbolically celebrated the power and glory of his empire.

    At the heart of Trajan’s new harbor was another artificially dug basin just east of the existing Claudian basin. Its hexagonal shape, which has become Portus’ most iconic feature, survives today as a private lake for fishing on the estate of Duke Sforza Cesarini. The unusual design, which had no precedents in Roman harbor construction, provided increased functionality, as well as a unique aesthetic signature. The hexagonal basin not only increased Portus’ overall protected harbor space by nearly 600 acres, but the six sides of the new basin expedited the docking and unloading processes. Each of its sides, at a length of almost 1,200 feet, provided ample quayside space for berthing ships and handling cargo.

    The process could not have been more streamlined. The new Trajanic harbor could accommodate about 200 ships, in addition to the 300 anchored in the Claudian basin. Rome had at last created a port suitable to its farreaching Mediterranean maritime empire. If Claudius’ Portus was a statement of Rome’s ability to alter natural topography, Trajan’s harbor was a celebration of Rome’s design and construction capabilities. Each side of the hexagonal basin was adorned with new monumental buildings designed so that any traveler sailing into the harbor would be immediately confronted with the grandeur and power of Rome. Sightlines from the harbor led straight to impressive porticoes, temples, warehouses, and even a statue of Trajan, all framing the waterfront. In addition to its functionality, Portus was designed to deliver the message that Rome reigned supreme. “Portus is a statement about imperial power — it controls not just the Mediterranean but nature itself. It’s really the only time that the Mediterranean has been controlled by a single political power, and this port played a key role in enabling its authority to be maintained; only the Ottomans come close,” explains Keay.

    Photo 11: The hexagonal basin of Trajan with part of the enormous warehouses on the foreground.

    Over the last few years, the Portus Project has been working on what would have been a thin isthmus of land between the Claudian and Trajanic harbors. There the team has uncovered the foundations of what Keay refers to as a shipyard — a massive warehousetype structure associated with the drydocking and maintenance of ships. The 780-by -200 foot building is believed to have stood nearly 60 feet high. Its facade was divided into a series of arched bays, some 40 feet wide, that opened onto the hexagonal basin. Keay thinks that the structure could also have some association with Roman naval activity. “Portus is the place from which the emperor sails out, and it’s the place from which new governors go out to their provinces,” he says. “There was a security issue at Portus, and it makes sense that there was a naval detachment here. I think our big building is part of that in some way.”

    Photo 12: Reconstruction of the shipyard 8 .

    There is also some evidence that the emperor himself maintained a presence at the site. Near the shipyard, the Portus Project has also investigated the socalled Palazzo Imperiale (Imperial Palace). This multifunctional complex covered nearly seven and a half acres, with prominent views across both basins. The threestory structure contained all of the appurtenances of a wealthy Roman villa — porticoes, mosaics, peristyles, and ornamental dining rooms, but also contained storerooms, offices, and production areas. Recently it was discovered that a small amphitheater was even added to the complex later in the third century. While the lack of epigraphic evidence makes it impossible to associate the building directly with the emperor, Keay believes it certainly would have been used by highranking government officials and representatives of the emperor who oversaw all aspects of port activity.

    At its height, Portus may have catered to a seasonal population of 10,000 to 15,000 people, although it was not primarily a residential site. Its bustling crowds would have consisted of merchants, shippers, dockworkers, administrators, and government agents, many of whom commuted from larger cities such as Ostia or even Rome. The traffic to and from the harbor is estimated to have been several thousand seagoing ships annually, as well as hundreds of smaller boats and barges that maneuvered around the various basins and canals and up the Tiber River. Once a ship entered Portus, it might temporarily anchor in either the inner or outer harbor basin as it awaited a berth quayside or for smaller boats to transship its cargo. After freight was registered and recorded, it was loaded into warehouses or onto smaller barges to be brought along the various canals and towed up the Tiber to Rome. Insight into the organization of the importation process and the procedures Roman officials followed has been uncovered at Monte Testaccio in Rome, where transport amphoras were discarded. Some of the amphoras bear small tituli picti — painted notations that record information about the type of product, its weight, origin, destination, merchant, or shipper. The tituli picti demonstrate how thoroughly each product was examined and the painstaking measures employed for each shipment of goods. “I think there’s an unimaginable complexity to the registration of cargo. The person responsible for the port needs to know where to assign ships, where particular cargoes belonging to particular merchants go, how material gets from one storeroom to another and then onto the boats that go up the Tiber,” says Keay. “It’s highly complex.”

    Ports all over the Mediterranean, including Carthage, Ephesus, Leptis Magna, and Massalia, as well as those in Italy such as Puteoli, Ostia, and Centumcellae, formed the extensive network that allowed the Romans to bring the resources of foreign lands to Rome. Many of the goods brought to Portus were destined for the capital, while others were immediately redistributed to other ports in the Mediterranean. Portus, as the primary port of Rome itself, was the cornerstone of that system.


    Contents

    Before sarcophagi Edit

    Inhumation burial practices and the use of sarcophagi were not always the favored Roman funerary custom. The Etruscans and Greeks used sarcophagi for centuries before the Romans finally adopted the practice in the second century. [9] Prior to that period, the dead were usually cremated and placed in marble ash chests or ash altars, or were simply commemorated with a grave altar that was not designed to hold cremated remains. Despite being the main funerary custom during the Roman Republic, ash chests and grave altars virtually disappeared from the market only a century after the advent of the sarcophagus. [11]

    It is often assumed that the popularity for sarcophagi began with the Roman aristocracy and gradually became more accepted by the lower classes. [10] However, in the past, the most expensive and ostentatious grave altars and ash chests were commissioned more frequently by wealthy freedmen and other members of the emerging middle class than by the Roman elite. [12] Due to this fact and the lack of inscriptions on early sarcophagi, there is not enough evidence to make a judgment on whether or not the fashion for sarcophagi began with a specific social class. Surviving evidence does indicate that a great majority of early sarcophagi were used for children. This suggests that the change in burial practice may not have simply stemmed from a change in fashion, but perhaps from altered burial attitudes. It is possible that the decision to begin inhuming bodies occurred because families believed that inhumation was a kinder, and less disturbing burial rite than cremation, thus necessitating a shift in burial monument. [10]

    Stylistic transition from altars and ash chests to sarcophagi Edit

    Although grave altars and ash chests virtually disappeared from the market in the second century, aspects of their decoration endured in some stylistic elements of sarcophagi. The largest stylistic group of early sarcophagi in the second century is garland sarcophagi, a custom of decoration that was previously used on ash chests and grave altars. Though the premise of the decoration is the same, there are some differences. The garland supports are often human figures instead of the animal heads used previously. In addition, specific mythological scenes fill the field, rather than small birds or other minor scenes. The inscription panel on garland ash altars and chests is also missing on garland sarcophagi. When a sarcophagus did have an inscription, it seemed to be an extra addition and usually ran along the top edge of the chest or between the decorations. [13] The fact that early garland sarcophagi continued the tradition of grave altars with decorated garlands suggests that the customers and sculptors of sarcophagi had similar approaches to those who purchased and produced grave altars. Both monuments employed a similar collection of stylistic motifs with only subtle shifts in iconography. [14]

    Metropolitan Roman, Attic, and Asiatic sarcophagus production centers Edit

    Sarcophagi production of the ancient Roman Empire involved three main parties: the customer, the sculpting workshop that carved the monument, and the quarry-based workshop that supplied the materials. The distance between these parties was highly variable due to the extensive size of the Empire. [15] Metropolitan Roman, Attic, and Asiatic were the three major regional types of sarcophagi that dominated trade throughout the Roman Empire. [9] Although they were divided into regions, the production of sarcophagi was not as simple as it might appear. For example, Attic workshops were close to Mount Pentelikon, the source of their materials, but were usually very far from their client. The opposite was true for the workshops of Metropolitan Rome, who tended to import large, roughed out sarcophagi from distant quarries in order to complete their commissions. Depending on distance and customer request (some customers might choose to have elements of their sarcophagi left unfinished until a future date, introducing the possibility of further work after the main commission), sarcophagi were in many different stages of production during transport. As a result, it is difficult to develop a standardized model of production. [16]

    Metropolitan Rome Edit

    Rome was the primary production center in the western part of the empire. A Metropolitan Roman sarcophagus often took the shape of a low rectangular box with a flat lid. As the sarcophagus was usually placed in a niche or against a wall in a mausoleum, they were usually only decorated on the front and two shorter sides. Many were decorated with carvings of garlands and fruits and leaves, as well as narrative scenes from Greek mythology. Battle and hunting scenes, biographical events from the life of the deceased, portrait busts, the profession of the deceased and abstract designs were also popular. [9]

    Attic Edit

    Athens was the main production center for Attic style sarcophagi. These workshops mainly produced sarcophagi for export. They were rectangular in shape and were often decorated on all four sides, unlike the Metropolitan Roman style, with ornamental carvings along the bottom and upper edge of the monument. The lids were also different from the flat metropolitan Roman style and featured a pitched gable roof, [9] or a kline lid, which is carved in the style of couch cushions on which the form of the deceased reclines. [18] The great majority of these sarcophagi also featured mythological subjects, especially the Trojan War, Achilles, and battles with the Amazons. [9]

    Asia Minor (Asiatic) Edit

    The Dokimeion workshops in Phrygia specialized in architecturally formed large-scale Asiatic sarcophagi. Many featured a series of columns joined together by an entablature on all four sides with human figures in the area between the columns. The lids were often made in the gabled-roof design in order to complete the architectural-style sarcophagi so the coffin formed a sort of house or temple for the deceased. Other cities in Asia Minor produced sarcophagi of the garland tradition as well. In general, the sarcophagi were decorated on either three or four sides, depending on whether they were to be displayed on a pedestal in an open-air setting or against the walls inside tombs. [9]

    Myth and meaning on ancient Roman sarcophagi Edit

    A transition from the classical garland and seasonal reliefs with smaller mythological figures to a greater focus on full mythological scenes began with the break up of the classical style in the late second century towards the end of Marcus Aurelius' reign. [19] This shift led to the development of popular themes and meanings portrayed through mythological scenes and allegories. The most popular mythological scenes on Roman sarcophagi functioned as aids to mourning, visions of life and happiness, and opportunities for self-portrayal for Roman citizens.

    Images of Meleager, the hero who slew the Calydonian Boar, being mourned by his lover and hunting companion Atlanta, as well as images of Achilles mourning Patroclus were very common on sarcophagi that acted as grieving aids. In both cases, the mythological scenes were akin to mourning practices of ordinary Roman citizens in an effort to reflect their grief and comfort them when they visited the tomb. [20] Playful images depicting Nereids, Dionysiac triumphs, and love scenes of Dionysus and Ariadne were also commonly represented on sarcophagi. [21] It is possible that these scenes of happiness and love in the face of death and mourning encouraged the living to enjoy life while they could, and reflected the celebration and meals that the mourners would later enjoy in the tomb when they returned to visit the deceased. [22] The third century involved the return in popularity of self-representation on Roman sarcophagi.

    There were several different ways Roman citizens approached self-representation on sarcophagi. Some sarcophagi had actual representations of the face or full figure of the deceased. In other cases, mythological portraits were used to connect characteristics of the deceased with traits of the hero or heroine portrayed. For example, common mythological portraits of deceased women identified them with women of lauded traits in myth, such as the devoted Selene or loyal Alcestis. [23] Scenes featuring the figures of Meleager and Achilles expressed bravery and were often produced on sarcophagi holding deceased men. [9] Biographical scenes that emphasize the true virtues of Roman citizens were also used to commemorate the deceased. Scholars argue that these biographical scenes, as well as the comparisons to mythological characters, suggest that self-portrayal on Roman sarcophagi did not exist to celebrate the traits of the deceased, but rather to emphasize favored Roman cultural values [24] and demonstrate that the family of the deceased were educated members of the elite that could understand difficult mythological allegories. [25]

    Third- and fourth-century sarcophagi Edit

    The breakup of the classical style led to a period in which full mythological reliefs with an increase in the number of figures and an elongation of forms became more popular, as discussed above. The proportion of figures on the reliefs also became increasingly unbalanced, with the main figures taking up the greatest area with smaller figures crowded in the small pockets of empty space. [26] In the third century, another transition in theme and style of sarcophagi involved the return in popularity of representing mythological and non-mythological portraits of the deceased. [27] Imagery of the four seasons also becomes popular during the third and fourth centuries. With the advent of Christianity in the third century, traditional motifs, like the seasons, remained, and images representing a belief in the afterlife appeared. The change in style brought by Christianity is perhaps most significant, as it signals a change in emphasis on images of retrospection, and introduced images of an afterlife. [28]

    The Tragic Sarcophagi Edit

    The Massacre of the Niobids Edit

    The story of Niobe and her 14 children is a tragic one. Niobe, after having so many children that reached maturity, bragged about having so many children to Leto, who had only two. This act of hubris was unforgivable to the Titan, so she sent her two children, Apollo and Artemis, to kill her children. According to Ovid's version, the twins kill the sons first while they practice riding outside the city, and then the daughters as they are mourning their brothers and fathers. In the myth, supposedly the father kills himself out of grief after their seven sons die, and when Artemis has killed all but the youngest daughter, Niobe begs for her to be spared. Alas, she is not spared, and out of grief Niobe turns to stone. [29]

    On the Sarcophagus showing the massacre of Niobe's children, carved ca. 160 AD and now in Munich's Glyptothek, Artemis is depicted on the far left shooting five female Niobids (“Niobids” is a term for the children of Niobe), with Apollo on the far right shooting five male Niobids, both of which have a dead child laying at their feet. The front of this sarcophagus only shows ten Niobids, but two more are depicted on either side of it. There are also two bearded Pedagogues shown trying to save the Niobids on the front and a nurse on the left trying to do the same on the front, along with Niobe herself on the left trying to protect one of her daughters. The lid depicts all 14 corpses stacked on top of one another in a disorderly fashion, emphasizing the heartlessness of this tragedy. [30]

    This myth is used on relatively few sarcophagi, but like many other sarcophagi depicting tragedies, the intention behind this imagery is to show the viewer how tragic the death of their loved one was. All 14 Niobids were taken as children, which is a tragedy in that they had so much longer to live and more things to do, and the manner in which they died is also highly tragic. Niobe, especially, must have felt very upset with the loss of her children, since she was previously so happy to have had so many children, she had farther to fall emotionally. Plus, she lost her husband due to this massacre, so she was truly alone in the world. The person who picked out this sarcophagus for their loved one likely saw themselves as Niobe and their loved one as the Niobids, left behind after a tragedy to mourn alone. This imagery was not used to comfort those left behind, but to emphasize to the latter what had been lost, and perhaps they found solace in comparing their own loss to that of Niobe. [31]

    Medea/Creusa Edit

    Medea’s story is commonly considered one of the first feminist pieces of literature, since the plight of its main character, Medea, a strong-willed woman hemmed in by a patriarchal system, is shown to be a sympathetic one, even if her actions are questionable. In her myth, she betrays her father, Aeëtes, king of Colchis, to help Jason, leader of the Argonauts, steal the Golden Fleece. Then, they sail to Corinth, where they live together happily for a few years and have two children. Eventually, Jason repudiates Medea in order to marry the princess of Corinth, Creusa (or sometimes referred to as Glauce). Medea does not take lightly to this, since she gave up everything for Jason, so in her rage, she infuses a golden diadem and a robe with poisonous magic, and has her two sons deliver the lethal gifts to the princess. Creusa puts them on, assuming these gifts innocuous, and catches on fire, her flesh melting from the magical enchantments. Her father, Creon, attempts to pull the gifts off his daughter, but—as related in Euripides's canonical drama—he too dies from this contact. Both Creon and Creusa/Glauce thus suffer horrible deaths. For the final touch, Medea kills her own children, takes their corpses, and rides off on her chariot drawn by snakes. [32]

    A good example of its presentation on Roman sarcophagi is the piece carved ca. 150 AD and now in Berlin's Altes Museum. Reading it from left to right, we see, first, Jason standing and watching as his and Medea's two young sons prepare to carry the two poisoned gifts to the princess Creusa, while their aged nurse watches over them and then just to the right, Jason again, paying a visit to the seated princess. The center is given over to the princess's horrific end: Creon looks on Creusa in horror as his daughter flails about, screaming, flames shooting up from her forehead, as she dies a gruesome death. To the right of that, Medea is shown drawing her sword, about to kill her children playing innocently at her feet, and then on the far right she escapes in her chariot drawn by winged serpents, with one child's corpse over her shoulder, while the leg of the other dangles limply from the back of the chariot. [33]

    Although this is Medea's story, the use of this myth on sarcophagi is not to compare the deceased to Medea, but rather to Creusa. Showing Creusa perfectly happy and youthful in the first half of the imagery and immediately following it up with her tragic death and the horrible death of Medea's children emphasizes the immense loss that the family feels. When one imagines their loved one as Creusa, it seems that she had everything waiting for her in life but was cruelly stolen from our world far before her time, and Creon likewise functions as a stand-in for the family member of the deceased who would feel the loss of their loved one most. Particularly in the time of the Romans, the greatest achievement in a woman's life was marriage, and the worst disaster her death. As such, the imagery on Medea sarcophagi show the highest point of her life, followed by her sudden, terrible death, making the tragedy all the worse through the surprise of the family. [34]

    Abduction of Persephone Edit

    Several versions of the myth of the abduction of Persephone survive from antiquity, the Homeric Hymn to Demeter being one, and the version in Ovid’s Metamorphoses being another. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Persephone is picking flowers in a field with other goddesses, among them Artemis and Athena, when the ground suddenly opens up. Hades flies out of it on his chariot, grabs Persephone, and whisks her away to the underworld. When Demeter, her mother, finds out what happened, she prevents crops from growing, and therefore preventing the gods from receiving the offerings they so desire. Zeus, in exchange for her stopping her tirade, sends Hermes down to the Underworld to order Hades to bring her back, and he obliged. However, Hades had earlier offered Persephone pomegranate seeds, and she had eaten four, binding her to him as his wife (the eating of pomegranates, a symbol of sexual awakening and fertility, played a role in Greek weddings). Zeus thus determined that Persephone would spend eight months of every year above ground, with her mother, while the other four months, one for each seed eaten, would see her rejoin her dark husband in the gloom of the Underworld. In Ovid’s version, there is a stronger emphasis on Hades’ love for Persephone. [35]

    A sarcophagus in Rome's Capitoline Museum, carved between 230 and 240 AD, renders the scene in detail. It depicts Hades snatching Persephone (here she bears the portrait features of the dead woman buried within) as the central image, with Athena reaching out towards them in an attempt to prevent the abduction from taking place. Demeter is on her chariot pulled by serpents on the far left, a way of visualizing her wrath, even though she was not present during the abduction. In between her and Athena is a scene of Hades surprising Persephone, Persephone looking unwilling, Aphrodite above her urging her to go with him, and Artemis behind Hades readying her bow to protect her companion. On the far right, Hermes is seen leading Hades’ horses, Nike with a wreath in her right hand and a palm branch in her left, and Hercules with his club. [36]

    This myth used on this type of sarcophagi typically meant for women, with the head of Persephone as she gets abducted commonly being a portrait of the deceased that was buried in the sarcophagus (seen in the Sarcophagus with the Rape of Persephone, ca. 230–240). The image of Demeter, Artemis, and Athena are meant to invoke the same sense of tragedy and grief that the Roman individual who got this for their loved one would feel, through the perspective of Demeter's own loss. Persephone, like the deceased loved one that rests within, was taken in her prime, without the chance of leading a full life. The tragedy of the loss of the deceased is felt throughout their own personal world, just like in the Hymn to Demeter. Additionally, this imagery could also have been used on other sarcophagi that put portrait features on Hades riding his chariot to show that the husband, who perhaps died first, is finally in union with his wife again in the afterlife. Rather than evoking a sense of tragedy of her loss, it could bring some reprieve to the family members the deceased left behind that they are finally united with their spouse in the afterlife. [36]

    Sarcophagi with 'Erotic Sleepers' Edit

    Among the most common themes depicted on Roman sarcophagi spread over a hundred years are variants of the 'erotic sleeper'. The finality of death was avoided through depictions of the deceased alternatively as asleep. Rather than dealing with the permanent loss of a loved one, they could be imagined as still present in a way, and somewhat aware of the world around them. Sleep allowed for hope amongst the living that they may one day reunite with the deceased in dreams or in their own eternal sleep. Frequently used mythological subjects included sarcophagi reliefs featuring the moon goddess Selene and the sleeping shepherd/hunter Endymion as well as reliefs featuring the god of wine Dionysus and the sleeping figure of Ariadne, which further introduced an erotic/romantic note into these scenes, celebrating the romantic love that the deceased couple had enjoyed. [37]

    Selene and Endymion Edit

    As commonly seen on sarcophagi featuring the myth of Selene and Endymion — a good example is the sarcophagus carved ca. 230–240 AD and now in the Louvre — Selene is depicted as descending from her chariot pulled by horses or sometimes oxen. Endymion lies before her, stretched out in a pose signifying sleep before the viewer, sometimes on a rock. Cupids surround the couple, representing their love. Oftentimes, either the god Hypnos, the personification of sleep, or the goddess Nyx, the personification of night, are pictured carrying a poppy in one hand and pouring a sleeping potion over Endymion with the other, reiterating his eternal slumber. Pastoral imagery of shepherds, flocks of animals, and herding dogs are scattered throughout setting the tone of felicity and peace. Other gods can be seen throughout these reliefs representing physical or cosmic aspects of the myth. [38]

    Sarcophagi of this nature that were intended for a man can be read as a portrayal of a wife visiting her deceased husband and moreover, a reflection of the viewer's own experience approaching their deceased loved one. Selene carries a torch or is accompanied by cupids carrying torches in order to light her way in the night similar to how a visitor to the deceased would carry a torch to see in the darkness of a tomb. As seen on an early (ca. 150 AD) sarcophagus in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City featuring Selene and Endymion, the cupids at the corners invert their torches as a customary Roman sign of mourning further emphasizing the funerary context. Selene can also be seen carrying a garland representative of the banquets and feasts that were held at tomb sites. [39] The background characters of nymphs, shepherds, and cupids play the role of other familial visitors gathered around the actual sarcophagus to visit their beloved deceased. Many sarcophagi featuring Selene and Endymion have portrait features or the faces of Selene and Endymion carved out for portrait features, furthering the connection between Selene as wife and Endymion as husband.

    While Selene and Endymion can still be imagined as a husband and wife, it was possible for Selene to be imagined as a representation of a deceased wife, and Endymion as a living husband. Specifically seen in a sarcophagus in Rome's cathedral of San Paolo fuori le mura, Selene is figured as an apparition of a bride, since she is here shown floating and dressed in bridal drapery. [40] In this case, Endymion is imagined to actually be sleeping and representative of the husband of the deceased woman. The deceased bride is visiting her sleeping husband in his dreams. Above her are three stars, along with the vestiges of two small boys, who are probably personifications of Phosphorus and Hesperus, the morning and evening stars. Their presence implies that Selene's visits occur between the evening and morning and are also representative of recurring dream visits by the deceased.

    Looking at Selene and Endymion as representative of a married couple, the myth itself relates a cosmic love. Helios and Selene are often pictured on opposite ends of these sarcophagi representing the cycle of night and day that continues eternally. The depiction of Tellus, the personification of the Earth, as sometimes seen as a background character to these sarcophagi, also displays the cosmic significance of their love. The cupids, as well as loosely draped clothing on Selene, convey an erotic tone. [38] Endymion is often exposed and has suggestively draped clothing either pointed out or further accentuated by cupids or extra characters such as Hypnos.

    Occasionally, Selene and Endymion sarcophagi are used to represent familial love rather than erotic marital love. A good example is another Selene and Endymion sarcophagus in New York's Metropolitan Museum, a huge and exquisitely carved piece carved ca. 200–220 AD. This one features a portrait and inscription on the lid explaining that the sarcophagus was commissioned by a daughter for her mother. The placement of the portrait above the goddess was likely done to emphasize the beauty of the mother and describe her as coming to visit her sleeping family similar to other sarcophagi of this subject. Endymion would then be a broad representation of family rather than a husband. A child sarcophagus commissioned by his parents displaying this subject matter was likely comparing the child's beauty to that of Endymion rather than as something Romantic. [41] The erotic nature of the myth is toned down and the focus is placed on the deceased imagined as Endymion resting in eternal sleep.

    In a more general sense, the idea of eternal sleep rather than death provided comfort to the living family of the deceased. The removal of the finality of death brought about hope that the departed was not truly gone. Sleep leaves a person in a state where they are not present or aware of the world around them resonating deeply with death. [37] The use of pastoral imagery as seen in shepherds further relays the peace and comfort that comes with sleep. Flocks of animals on these sarcophagi or even the shepherds themselves are often seen sleeping similar to Endymion or the deceased. If the deceased is imagined as Selene coming to visit in dreams, the remaining family is comforted by the potential nighttime visits they can have with their beloved.

    Dionysus and Ariadne Edit

    Sarcophagi featuring Dionysus and Ariadne show the drunken Dionysus propped up by a satyr as he gazes upon his beloved Ariadne for the first time. He stands before her sleeping form as she faces the viewer, her body exposed. The remainder of the sarcophagi depicts the procession of Dionysiac revelers celebrating with song and dance. Ariadne is oftentimes given portrait features or was prepared to have portrait features. Comparisons to Ariadne are used to exemplify beauty and likely did just that for the deceased. Similar to the Selene and Endymion sarcophagi, the deceased is meant to be imagined as Ariadne being visited by her husband in the form of Dionysus. The way in which Dionysus gazes upon Ariadne is meant to evoke intense and eternal love between the pair as well as the deceased and their loved one. Ariadne is imagined to then be taken up to live happily amongst Dionysus and his revelers, providing comfort for the family that their own deceased continues to enjoy happiness even in death. Matching pairs of sleeper sarcophagi, now displayed in the Louvre in Paris, were found in Bordeaux with one displaying the myth of Selene and Endymion and the other the myth of Dionysus and Ariadne. It is believed that the Selene and Endymion sarcophagus contained the husband while the Dionysus and Ariadne sarcophagus contained the wife, drawing a direct comparison between the sleeper and deceased. The scenes of cosmic love, as well as matching sarcophagi featuring a sleeping deceased, exemplified the bond between husband and wife. The Dionysus and Ariadne sarcophagus of this pairing featured a centaur family amongst the revelers. This familial image held no significance in the myth itself but is, rather, used as a bridge between the myth and the life of a Roman visitor. [42]

    Dionysian Imagery Edit

    One of the more curious examples of mythological and biographical sarcophagi are those featuring Dionysian imagery. Dionysus (or, as the Romans called him, Bacchus) is known as a god of celebration and revelry, particularly of wine, and the wild areas of the world outside the cities. As such he and symbolism associated with him were popular for their ability to show scenes of joy or relaxation. Dionysian imagery is usually shown through the use of wine, grapes, and a generally festive atmosphere. Dionysus is often associated with large predatory cats, especially panthers, and as such images of felines tend to crop up often as well. Dionysus himself is often shown as a young man, beardless, often drunken. His bride, Ariadne, is also depicted often, either enjoying time with her husband, or sleeping, being approached by the procession of her future husband Dionysus.

    Various Shapes of Dionysian Sarcophagi Edit

    Most Roman sarcophagi are rectangular in shape, and as such, as a god known for ignoring conventions in his mythology, Dionysian sarcophagi sometimes fittingly go against even this most basic convention of the art. Sarcophagi with Dionysian imagery often feature ends that are curved and rounded off, rather than squared off. Sarcophagi with this shape are called lenos Sarcophagi, named after Greek and Roman term for a wine vat, i.e., the tub in which grapes were crushed and fermented during the process of creating wine. This lends to the metaphorical connection ripening of the body of the deceased as it decomposes and the fermenting of the grapes as they begin to form wine. This type of shape is also used to represent the passage of time, the rounded edge allowing for the imagery of unending cycles that cannot easily be represented across the corners of a traditional sarcophagus. Several of the sarcophagi with Dionysian imagery shown in this section are of lenos shape.

    Basic Conventions of Dionysian Sarcophagi Edit

    Dionysian imagery was meant to show a fun atmosphere of enjoyment. Often this was done by depicting him and his followers in a procession across the piece. One such example is the sarcophagi displayed in Rome's Baths of Diocletian. It depicts the servants of Dionysus—the male satyrs and the female bacchants—as they play music, drink wine, and dance. A pair of donkeys, one so intoxicated that it can no longer stand, attempts to haul an old drinking buddy of Dionysus, an old, bald, pudgy, boozy reveller named Silenus, by cart. Each of these characters has a different role to play in the minds of the viewer. Silenus represents a drunken state in which the affected almost seems like an old man hunched over, unable to walk, often barely able to stand. The Satyrs sometimes bring a sexually frisky note to the revelry. They are often depicted attempting to seduce the female bacchants who show no interest, spurn the advances, and continue playing their music and enjoying the party. [43]

    Other types of Dionysian imagery include those sarcophagi, many of them lenos-shaped, which show images of grapes and the wine making process. Often cupids gathering grapes and crushing them to obtain their juices are present. One example of a lion-headed lenos sarcophagi now in the Getty Villa in Malibu, shows cupids picking grapes from the vine, as well as others who crush grapes with their feet within a lenos. Another popular format of Roman Sarcophagi are the so-called strigillated sarcophagi, whose front panels are dominated by rows of S-shaped curves, often used to evoke water or another liquid. It can be associated with wine. See, for example, the lion-headed lenos sarcophagus currently in use as a water basin in Rome's Palazzo Mattei, a use which must have been inspired by the liquid associations of the S-shaped strigillated decoration.

    Because of his association with the wilder parts of the human psyche, Dionysus is closely associated with large wild felines, especially lions (hence the common presence of lion heads on lenos sarcophagi shaped like wine vats) and panthers. On Roman sarcophagi, a panther can often be seen within the parade Dionysus is participating in, and lion heads can often be seen prominently on sarcophagi. A good example is the so-called "Badminton Sarcophagus" in New York's Metropolitan Museum, which shows in the center Dionysus riding a Panther, flanked by images representing the four seasons, while his various servants fill in the background. One interesting addition is Pan, a wild god, with the lower quarters and horns of a goat, associated with shepherding, rugged landscapes, and sexual desire having his cup filled with wine by Dionysus himself.

    Dionysus and Ariadne Edit

    One of the most detailed forms of Dionysian sarcophagi is that showing the myth of Dionysus coming across the sleeping figure of Ariadne, in Greek mythology the Cretan princess who helped Theseus slay the Minotaur, only to be marooned and abandoned by Theseus on the island of Naxos. The image itself consists of Ariadne, reclining in sleep, being approached by Dionysus and his procession of satyrs and Bacchants as he is enamored by her beauty. The image became popular among couples because of its ability to represent either party during the death of the other. If a man had lost his wife the image can be used to represent a man longing for his lost love, represented as peacefully dreaming in an endless sleep. If a woman has lost her husband, the image appears as a sleeping wife whose husband has come to visit her in her sleep. One marvelous example is the Dionysus and Ariadne sarcophagus shown in The Louvre, in Paris. Ariadne lies asleep, her face uncarved, meant for a portrait that was never added. Dionysus walked toward her scantily clad form with his full procession following him. [44]

    This sarcophagus also shows the slight discomfort that too-close identification with Dionysus might cause respectable Roman men. Dionysus was depicted as young, carefree, often drunken, and androgynous. All of these were characteristics that a prestigious Roman male would not want to be associated with. It would seem that Romans liked the idea of Dionysus, as well as the feelings he was known to bring, but did not want to be directly compared to him. This led to a workaround in which, like the sarcophagi presented, Dionysus stands alone with a face carved to represent the god, and a space for a portrait image was made in the upper right of the lid. This allowed for the male to still have Dionysus imagery and atmosphere connected to him after death, and still allow him a place of prestige and respect, a step removed from the god himself. [44]

    Seasonal and Bucolic Imagery Edit

    The third century AD saw new types of sarcophagi arise that focused on nature. These moved away from the portrayal of Greek myths that had dominated Roman sarcophagi of the preceding (second) century, preferring instead to depict the abundance and tranquility that the natural world around them had to offer. This was expressed in two different categories of Roman Sarcophagi: those that depicted the seasons and those that depicted [bucolic] imagery. The season imagery shows the cycle of life and the cosmic order of things, while the bucolic imagery portrays an idyllic world removed from the hustle and bustle of the city.

    Seasonal Imagery Edit

    Representations of the seasons on Roman sarcophagi typically showed the gifts that nature had to offer people during each season, and thus also evoked associations with the cycle of nature and of life. The sarcophagus showing Cupids holding seasonal garlands in New York's Metropolitan Museum furnishes a good example. The Cupids here hold garlands composed of various flowers, fruits, and agricultural products, each associated with a different one of the four seasons: on the very left, flowers, representing spring, then sheaves of grain representing summer, then fruit (especially grapes and grape leaves) representing autumn, and then lastly olives representing winter. At the same time, the flow of the garlands, one blending into the next, represents the fluid change in the seasons themselves. What was the allure of this imagery? It reminded the viewer that nature provides in abundance, no matter the season, and by extension, proclaimed that the deceased, while alive, had enjoyed all that nature and life had to offer, in every season. It also would have served as a promise to the deceased on the part of surviving members, that they would continue to honor her or his memory year-round, in all seasons, and continue to bring the products of the various seasons into the tomb year-round as offerings to the deceased. The lid, meanwhile, shows four Cupids engaging in a chariot race. Romans would have seen the connection between chariot races and the four seasons, because the racing teams in the Roman world were divided into four factions moreover, Roman chariot races were dedicated to the sun god, Sol (the Greek Helios), who controlled the seasons. Each chariot on the lid is pulled by an animal representing one of the seasons (the boar, for example, was associated with winter). The seasonal agricultural products on the chest thus have their animal counterparts on the lid. Finally, much like the cycle of nature and the seasons, Roman chariot races went round and round a circular (more specifically, oval) race course. The imagery on chest and lid thus complement each other perfectly. [45]

    The imagery of the seasons on Roman sarcophagi was often associated with the god Dionysus. This was an obvious connection, since Dionysus, as god of grapes and wine, was closely associated with the natural products of a particular season and with sharing those gifts with the world. Hence many season sarcophagi include Dionysiac elements. A good example is the so-called "Badminton Sarcophagus" in New York's Metropolitan Museum, which shows in the center Dionysus on his panther, flanked by standing personifications of the Four Seasons marked by their seasonal gifts/attributes: winter stands at the far left with a brace of ducks, with a boar at his feet then spring, holding a basket of flowers and a budding stalk then summer, basket of grain in hand and finally autumn at the far right, cradling a cornucopia of grapes and grape leaves in one arm while holding a captured hare. [46] Celebration of Dionysus's natural (particularly viticultural) gifts, along with the rest of nature's never-ending abundance, and the happiness and pleasure that they bring in eternal cycle, is clearly foregrounded on a sarcophagus such as this.

    Other season sarcophagi even more strongly referenced the notion of an unshakeable ever-repeating cosmic order underlying the world. A good example is the season sarcophagus in Washington D.C.'s Dumbarton Oaks Museum. Here the standing personifications of the Four Seasons flank a central tondo/roundel (Romans called this a clipeus, the term for a round shield) which contains (unfinished) portrait busts of the deceased couple buried inside. Note that carved around the rim of the clipeus are the twelve zodiac signs. Why include these? They likely symbolize the “eternal fame and everlasting state of bliss that people wished for the deceased”. [47] But the entire cycle of twelve zodiac signs would also have served as a visual reminder of the eternally cycling order underlying the cosmos, of which the four seasons are simply an earthly manifestation. Tranquility in the face of death, and celebration of life, was to come via contemplation of this fundamental stability in the cosmic order of things. [48]

    Bucolic Imagery Edit

    While the seasonal imagery focuses on nature's abundance and the cosmic order that underlies it, bucolic imagery emphasizes a slightly different side to what nature might offer. Bucolic sarcophagi imagine nature as a place of escape from the strains of city life. They present an idealized vision of the 'natural state' to be enjoyed in the countryside — free from crushing crowds, free from noise, free from politics, free from social demands and social strife, in short, free from everything negative that elite Romans associated with the city — which is visually embodied on the sarcophagi through images of shepherds tending their flocks in rustic surrounds.

    A gorgeous example is the sarcophagus of Iulius Achilleus (his name is inscribed on the coffin) now on display in the Baths of Diocletian in Rome. [49] Like many other bucolic sarcophagi, this one shows the life of a shepherd as one of peace, tranquility and prosperity, with plenty of leisure time for idle musing and soulful contemplation. The shepherds here are surrounded by their happy herds (including sheep, goats, cattle, and horses), who appear to smile as they nibble away contentedly. One shepherd is shown resting his head on a stick lost in thought, showing that they have all the time in the world to rest and reflect upon what lies ahead of them. Notice the arch behind a shepherd in the top left: this is a depiction of a city gate in the background, an explicit reminder to the viewer that the 'natural state' shown is something only found outside the city, free from its politics, burdens, and strife. [50] Of course, such bucolic scenes never present the gritty facts of real ancient pastoral life — ceaseless tending of the flocks, baking in ferocious summer heat, freezing in winter, at the mercy of the elements and uncertain food supplies, miserable accommodations, a life of wretched poverty — but instead serve up a sanitized fantasy of rustic life designed to indulge the pampered yearnings of elite city-dwellers eager for scenes of tranquility in an imagined 'natural state'. Like the seasonal imagery just discussed, bucolic scenes too were especially popular during the second half of the third century and the early part of the fourth centuries: more than 400 sarcophagi carved between 260 and 320 AD have survived. They would also have a long afterlife in later Western art, as the bucolic motifs popularized on Roman sarcophagi—above all, the figure of a shepherd with a sheep slung around his shoulders—was enthusiastically adopted by early Christian art (since this image of a 'good shepherd' could be re-interpreted as an image of Christ).

    Sarcophagi personalization is the customization of a sarcophagus to display the attributes, achievements, or history of the deceased through art and/or inscriptions. The key way in which sarcophagi were personalized was through portraiture of a mythological character that would be carved with the facial features of the deceased. Because many sarcophagi were made in advance of being bought, several examples of unfinished portrait heads remain.

    Sarcophagus of Lars Pulena Edit

    The sculpted scene on the front of the coffin shows the deceased in the Underworld between two Charuns (Etruscan death demons) in which signified that his journey to the afterlife was successful. [51] On the lid, Pulena is shown laid across, in a reclining position, resting on his left arm and in front of him, a list of his life's achievements which were inscribed on an open scroll. [51]

    Melfi Sarcophagus Edit

    The Asiatic sarcophagus with kline portrait of a woman also carried an Etruscan influence of sculpting portraiture on the lid. [51] Made of marble, with reliefs on all four sides of the box (a feature in Eastern Sarcophagi production), and sculpted mini statues of Greek gods and heroes in frames are depicted. The lid displays a portrait of the woman with Cupid (right end) and a little dog (in which the paws only remain at the left end).

    Battle of Romans and barbarians Edit

    The Portonaccio sarcophagus is an example of one of a group of about twenty-five late Roman battle sarcophagi, with one exception all apparently dating to 170–210, made in Rome or in some cases Athens. These derive from Hellenistic monuments from Pergamon in Asia Minor showing Pergamene victories over the Gauls, and were all presumably commissioned for military commanders. The Portonaccio sarcophagus is the best known and most elaborate of the main Antonine group, and shows both considerable similarities to the Great Ludovisi sarcophagus, the late outlier from about 250, and a considerable contrast in style and mood. [52]

    The face of the general is unfinished, either because the sculptors awaited a model to work from, or they had produced the work speculatively with no specific commission. The general and his wife are also each shown twice on the lid frieze, together holding each other's hands at the centre, and singly at the ends, again with unfinished faces. [53]

    The unusually large Ludovisi Battle sarcophagus shows a chaotic battle scene between the Romans and barbarian foes. At the centre, a young general wears no helmet nor wields any weapon and has emblem of Mithras, the Persian god of light, truth, and victory over death carved into his forehead. Several scholars have identified him as one of the sons of Trajan Decius, [51] who died of plague.

    Santa Maria Antiqua Sarcophagus Edit

    A sarcophagus from the church of Santa Maria Antiqua with philosopher, orant, and Old and New Testament scenes is Early Christian art in which displays the story of Jonah on the left one-third, heads of a praying woman and a seated man reading from a scroll which are unfinished (intended to be portraits of the deceased) in the center, and continuing on, Christ as Good Shepherd, and the baptism of Christ. [51]


    Ancient Roman Marble Used As A Step Is Worth Thousands - History

    History of Marbles

    Marbles have been made of round stones, clay balls, marble, porcelain, glass and steel. Toy makers have found increasingly ingeneous methods for making marbles that are beautiful, durable, inexpensive, and fun.

    We are going to look at how the marbles have been made. Of course, we make marbles for play, so we'll look at how people have played with marbles.

    American Toy Marble Museum

    The American Toy Marble Museum is located in Akron Ohio, where some of the earliest american marbles were produced. The American Marble and Toy Manufacturing Company was founded by Samuel C. Dyke in 1891 in Akron. The museum displays a wide range of marbles and other toys and tools from the industry.

    Ancient Marbles

    Archaeologists speculate that the small clay balls found in the pyramid tombs of Egyptian kinds were produced for marble games. It is thought that the Aztecs played a form of marbles. Clay marbles have been found in prehistoric pueblo ruins in the southwestern United States, in the classic periods Valley of Mexico ruins, and in the northern plains.

    The British Museum in London displays marbles of clay, stone and flint that date back to ancient Roman and Egyption civilizations.

    In Ancient Greece and Rome, children played games with round nuts, and Jewish children played games with filberts at Passorver. The Latin expression "relinguere nuces" - putting away childish things - probably refers to the polished nuts in these games. Although most early marble games were played with stone and nuts, some early Roman glass spheres have been found in Europe. Whether they were intended for jewelery or served as childrens' toys is not known.

    A second century roman, Athenaeus writes of a game of marbles in which the suitors of Penelope in the Odysseey shot their alleys against another marble representing the queen. The first player to hit the queen marble had another turn, and if he was successful again he was considered to be the probable bridegroom.

    Glass marbles are thought to have been some of the many glass objects made in ninth century Venice, but it is not until the late middle ages that the playing of marbles games is again documented. It appears that by then marbles were known throughout Europe. A manustript from the fifteenth centruy refers to 'little balls with which schoolboys played". In 1503 the town council of Nurenberg, Germany, limited the playing of marble games to a meadow outside of town.

    The popularity of marbles in England during the Middle Ages is evidenced in the town council statues of the village of Saint Gall, which othorized the user of a cat-o-nin-tails on boys who played marbles under the fish stand and refused to be warned off". A painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, "Children's Games" dated 1560 shows a scene of children playing marbles.

    Archeologists have discovered marbles in the ruins of homes from this period, including the home of protestant Martin Luther.

    In 1720 Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe wrote of a marble player "so dexterous an artist at shooting the tittle alabaster globe.. that he seldom missed."

    Transition Marbles

    Toward the end of the nineteenth century American entrepreneurs began to vie for a share of the German-dominated marble industry. Early attempts to compete with Germain production of handmade marbles provided commercially unsuccessful.

    James Leighton, who founded and worked for a variety of turn of the century marbles companies, developed a new tool, a mold on a pair of tongs. This tool made it possible to create glass marbles that had only one pontil, the rough mark left on the glass when it was removed from a long steel rod called the punty. These marbles, today known as transitions, were a first step on the path top producing machine made marbles. They were made between 1896 and 1901.

    The first truly machine made marbles were manufactured by an inventive Danish immigrant, Martin Frederick Christensen around the turn of the century. By the 1920s, machine -made marbles had supplanted the imports from Germany. World War 1 closed down many German marble mills, and they were never reopened. Imported German handmade marbles were to become a thing of the past as twentieth century progressed, bringing with it automation and mass production.

    Marbles Industry

    Marbles as we know them today began in the mid 1800's when they were produced in quantities in Germany. The name marble originates with the type of stone that was once used to make marbles. White marble, alabaster marbles were the best playing pieces during the early 1800s. German hand production continued until the earliest forms of machine production began in the early 1900's.

    M.F. Christensen and Son – In 1900 Martin Frederick Christensen patented a machine that revolutionized the manufacture of steel ball bearings. Using the same principles, he went on to design a machine that would make balls from glass. It took a team of two people to operate. When marbles were to consist of two or more colors, it was necessary to melt the glass in separate pots of color and then pour them into a third pot to be stirred. A worker would then gather some of the molten glass on a puny, allowing the glass to drip downward over each set of wheels. The other worker would use a tool to shear off the exact amount of glass to make the size marble being produced. Ten thousand marbles could be produced in a ten hour day. With this machine and the glass formulas he acquired from Leighton, Christensen established in Ohio the first company to manufacture machine made glass marbles.

    Akro Agate Company – established in Akron Ohio in 1911, the Akro Agate Company originally packaged and sold marbles it purchased in bulk from M.F. Christensen and Son. By 1915, the company was making its own marbles at its marble works in West Virginia. Their significant contribution was the introduction of an automatic cutoff of hot glass, which further automated the machinery by eliminating hand gathering of glass.

    The Golden Age of Marbles

    The decade that spanned the late 1920s and 1930s is referred to by collectors as the Golden Age of Marbles. On gets a sense of how popular marbles were when one notes that West Virginia companies such as Master Marble, Vitro Agate, Alox Manufacturing and Champion Agate went into business and made a profit during a time in America when thousands of other businesses failed.

    Peltier Glass Company – Sellers and Joseph Peltier learned glassmaking from their French immigrant father, Victor, who specialized in stained glass. When a fire destroyed their Novelty Glass Company factory, the two brothers rebuilt the glassworks and renamed it the Pelterier Glass Company. In the early 1920's, Peltier Glass began to make a line of marbles producing brightly colored slags, swirls, corkscrews, and agates. It became one of the leading marble manufacturers from the 1920s to the 1940s. In addition to its regular line of marbles, Pelteir produced picture marbles, a popular series of twelve marbles that each had a decal of a contemporary comic-strip characters such as Betty Boop and Any Gump. Today these marbles are known to collectors as comics. The Peltier Glass Company is still manufacturing marbles in Ottawa Illinois.

    Christensen Agate Company – Christensen glass was founded in 1925 and produced some of the most beautiful early machine made marbles. Victims of the early years of the Great Depression, Christensen Agate went out of business in 1933. Because of its short existence and the company's limited capacity, Christiensen marbles are relative scarce. Today this company's guineas, cobras, flames, slags, and opaque swirls are among the most valuable and sought after machine made marbles.

    Ravenswood Novelty Company – Founded in 1929 in Ravens wood West Virginia by Charles Turnbull, the Ravenswood Novelty Company produced ceramics as well as marbles. According to company records, Ravenswood produced around one hundred million marbles per year. When Ravenswood was unable to compete with the Japanese Cat's eyes that flooded the market in the early 1950's, the company went out of business.

    Modern Marbles and Games

    Today you can find hand made glass marbles made by artists from around the world, and machine made marbles produced in vast quantities.

    The centuries old composition of glass used for handmade marbles, sand, soda ash and lime is the same basic glass used for machine made marbles. Other ingredients added include zinc oxide, aluminum hydrate, and various coloring agents. In the manufacturing process, the glass is melted in a large furnace to a temperature of 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit for up to twenty-eight hours, until it reaches the consistency of molasses. At this point, the molten batter pours through an opening in the furnace, where shears cut the glass into equal pieces. These pieces move through rollers and cool rapidly, hardening into marbles as they are transported. They then drop into metal containers for annealing. Once cooled, the marbles are inspected, sorted, and packaged for sale.

    Billions of machine-made marbles have been produced during this century. Machine-made marbles reached the peak of their popularity in the late 1920s and 1930s when competition between manufacturers made marbles plentiful and cheap. American manufacturers dominated the marble market until the introduction of Japanese cat's-eye marbles in the 1950s. Their enormous popularity over the next decade cause many American By the 1960's interest in marbles had waned.

    Contemporary Marble Makers

    Marbles still appeal to people of all ages. Kids and adults love to play, collect and trade them. So long as marbles have this natural appeal, there will be marble makers. Marbles are still poduced in vast quanties by several marble manufacturers. There are also a large number of artist, hobbyists, and glass shops who produce fine art marbles.


    Marble Pictures and Prices for Collectors

    Marbles are simply little spherical balls used by children and adults to play a range of games. No one knows exactly when the first marbles were invented, but they date back to the times of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans who played with marbles made of stone, clay, or polished nuts. Affordable glass marbles were first made in the 19th century when a special pair of scissors that could cut molten glass was invented by a German Glassblower.

    Marbles have always been popular. In fact, according to the National Toy Hall of Fame, even Shakespeare mentioned marbles in his play the "Twelfth Night." Marbles also have an entire slang language built around them. Aggies, for example, are marbles made of agate while some alleys are made of alabaster. Over the years, increasingly intricate and beautiful marbles have become available as a result, collectors have become interested in finding rare or interesting examples.

    Although marbles can be affordable for all collector budgets, avid collectors know that prices can range into the thousands of dollars. Note that unscrupulous dealers have been known to reproduce marbles and sell them as old or antique. Judith Miller in ​Buy, Keep or Sell? suggests looking for solitaire boards, avoiding marbles such as Cat's Eyes that were mass-produced after the 1960s, and look for the original packaging.


    Marble Sculpture (c.600 BCE - present)


    Venus de Milo (c.130-100 BCE)
    Marble Statue, Musee du Louvre.
    See Pergamene school of
    Greek sculpture.

    Probably the most popular material used in sculpture, marble's translucency and durability has made it the medium of choice for all the greatest sculptors, including Greek artists like Phidias, Myron, Polykleitos, and Praxiteles, as well as their successors Donatello, Michelangelo, Bernini, Canova, and Rodin. Marble has been used equally for relief sculpture and friezes, as well as the free-standing statue. In fact, ever since the invention of metal tools during the Bronze Age, marble stone has been highly prized by sculptors and architects alike. During the Renaissance, Michelangelo (1475-1564) famously described stone sculpture as the slow release of a form as it emerged out of the block. He said that it was his role as an artist to liberate the human form trapped inside the block by gradually chipping away at the stone surface. Famous examples of marble sculpture include masterpieces like: the Parthenon Reliefs (446-430 BCE), The Apollo Belvedere (330 BCE), Venus de Milo (100 BCE), Trajan's Column reliefs (113 CE), David by Michelangelo (1501-4), Giambologna's Rape of the Sabine Women (1581-3), Canova's Apollo Crowning Himself (1781), Rodin's The Kiss (1888-9) and Daniel Chester French's Statue of Lincoln (1922).

    Characteristics of Marble as a Sculptural Material

    The stone we call marble is a metamorphic rock (mostly composed of calcite, a type of calcium carbonate) formed as a result of changes brought about in the structure of sedimentary or igneous rocks by extreme pressure or heat. Sculptors like marble because, while relatively soft and easy to work when first quarried, it becomes extremely hard and dense with age, and is also available in a variety of shades and patterns. White marbles are especially prized for fine art sculpture because of their relative isotropy and homogeneity, and resistance to shattering. In addition, the low refractory index of refraction of calcite permits light to penetrate into the stone (as it does the human skin), resulting in the typical "waxy" look which gives the stone a human appearance. Marble can also be highly polished, making it ideal for decorative work. Compared to the next best alternative stone, limestone, marble possesses a much finer grain, which makes it much easier for the sculptor to render minute detail. Marble is also more weather resistant.

    There are drawbacks, however. Marble is rarer, therefore more expensive than several other types of rock used in stone sculpture. It is also extremely heavy, making transportation difficult. Also, compared to bronze, marble has a lower tensile strength and is vulnerable to cracking when extended (ballet-style) poses are attempted. It is significantly less weather-resistant than granite, and does not handle well as it absorbs skin oils, causing staining.

    What Are the Main Types of Marble?

    The most popular types of marble stone employed in sculpture are Pentelic, Parian and Carrara marble. During Classical Antiquity, the most famous type was the close-grained, golden-toned Pentelic variety, quarried at Mount Pentelicon in Attica. The fragments of High Classical Greek sculpture obtained by the Earl of Elgin from the Parthenon in Athens, in 1801-3, known as the Elgin Marbles, were carved in Pentelic. Another popular variety was Parian marble, a coarser-grained but translucent white stone obtained from the Aegean islands of Naxos and Paros. This type was used to create the renowned Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. A third type, used for the masterpiece Apollo Belvedere (c.330 BCE), was the pure white Carrara marble, found at Carrara and Pietra Santa in Tuscany. It was a popular material in Italian Renaissance sculpture and the favourite of the Florentine artist Michelangelo.

    Marble differs from one variety to another, usually because of colour, texture, weathering, and chemical composition. Although famous for its pure white surface, this look was actually avoided by Greek sculptors because it made it difficult to see the gentle curves of a body's muscles. The most typical colour seen in Greek sculpture is actually an off-white.

    How to Carve a Sculpture out of Marble?

    The creation of a large-scale marble statue, which on average took a Greek sculptor roughly 12 months to complete - involves a number of steps:

    Step 1.
    First, the artist typically makes a small maquette in wax or clay, over an armature or frame. From this initial model, a full-size model is developed, into which tacks are inserted at key reference points. A measuring frame is then placed over the model which records the locations of the tacks.

    Step 2.
    The locations of the tacks are then transferred to the raw marble block, in a process known as pointing.

    Step 3.
    Now begins the traditional "hammer and point work" - the basic technique used in all stone sculpture, since the time of Daedalic Greek sculpture, in 650 BCE. This involves knocking off sizeable chunks of unwanted stone, using a mallet and either a long point chisel, or a wedge-shaped pitching chisel.

    Step 4.
    Once the general shape of the statue has emerged from the block, the carver uses other tools to create the precise characteristics of the figure, including toothed or claw chisels, rasps, and rifflers. Of course 20th-century sculptors now have an armoury of power tools, including stone-cutters, drills and other instruments, at their disposal.

    Step 5.
    After the carving is completed, the rough surface of the statue must be finished off. This can be done by abrading the surface with another stone called emery, or else sandpaper. Power tools can also be used to polish the marble. All this abrading and polishing brings out the colour of the stone, and adds a sheen known as a patina. Sometimes, tin and iron oxides or sealing compounds are applied to the surface to give it a highly reflective glowing exterior.

    From the era of Early Classical Greek sculpture onwards (480-450), no statue was complete until it was painted and decorated. Such painting was a specialist task performed by expert painter. Colour schemes varied, but as a general rule, statues or reliefs that were located high up and whose details were less visible to observers - like the Parthenon frieze - were decorated with brighter, more non-naturalistic colour pigments: hair, for instance, might be painted orange. Whereas those sculptures positioned nearer to the ground - like those on the Alexander Sarcophagus - were painted with more realistic colours. Sometimes the skin was painted, sometimes not but eyes, eyebrows, eyelids, and eyelashes were invariably coloured, as was the hair. In the case of important figurative sculptures, eyes might be inset with coloured enamel or glass, while copper might be applied to the nipples of the chest. For more details, see: Classical Colour Palette.

    Problem of Copying Clay Models

    Successful sculptors were rarely involved in all the 5 steps outlined above. Usually, all they did was to create the initial clay/wax model, after which they relied on their workshop assistants to copy the clay design onto the marble. This procedure worked well during the era of early Greek sculpture (c.650-500 BCE), when the rigid Egyptian-style kore and kouros figures were designed according to an unvarying system of proportions, which was easily copyable from clay to marble. But as the shape of statues became more complex and naturalistic, the system of proportions was rendered obsolete and the whole process of replicating the original clay design in marble became more difficult. In due course, a grid system was adopted, which lasted beyond the era of Hellenistic Greek sculpture, whereby a number of "points" on the original clay model would be measured, then multiplied in size according to the rate of enlargement. These new measurements would then be marked on the marble block, and carefully followed during the carving process. The scheme remained problematical, however, and led frequently to marble statues being produced that were noticeably inferior to the clay originals.

    History of Marble Sculpture

    Prior to Classical Antiquity, stone sculpture was generally made from limestone, sandstone, gypsum, alabaster, jade or clay. Only from the era of Greek Archaic sculpture (c.650-480 BCE) onwards, was marble used on a regular basis - initially to make the standing nude male (kouros) and the standing draped female (kore). During Classical Greek sculpture (c.480-323), which witnessed the glorious reliefs of the Parthenon, bronze sculpture became equally important. Marble was also important in Roman sculpture - especially Roman relief sculpture. The discovery and proximity of marble stone quarries (for Pentelic, Carrara and Parian varieties of the stone) was also an important factor in its use for sculptural purposes, as was its cost: two reasons why it was not generally used to decorate the hundreds of cathedrals, abbeys and churches that were built during the era of Romanesque and Gothic sculpture.

    On the other hand, Renaissance sculptors had more money to spend, thus Michelangelo used marble to create his masterpiece David (1501-4, Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence), as well as his Pieta (1497-9) for St Peter's Basilica.

    It is worth remembering that most original Greek bronzes were melted down or lost, but also, that the Romans made numerous marble copies of bronzes they knew about. As a result, Greek and Roman sculpture became strongly associated with marble, which was another reason why Renaissance artists - fired with a desire to rejuvenate the art of Classical Antiquity - preferred it to ordinary stone. Furthermore, after the Renaissance, marble remained the material of choice for all exponents of classicism, from Bernini and Algardi from the era of 17th century Baroque sculpture, to Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen of the school of Neoclassical sculpture (1750-1850). The superiority of marble was propagated throughout all the European academies of art, until the beginning of the 20th century.

    Famous Marble Statues and Reliefs

    Famous marble statuary and friezes can be seen in a number of the world's best art museums and sculpture gardens. Masterpieces include:

    Neolithic Marble Sculptures

    - Female Figurine (c.4250 BCE) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
    - Female Figurine (c.3500) National Archeological Museum, Cagliari.
    - Cycladic Figurine (c.2600 BCE) Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens.

    Archaic Greek Marble Sculpture

    - Kleobis and Biton (610-580 BCE) Archeological Museum of Delphi.
    - Sounion Kouros (600) National Archeological Museum of Athens.
    - Kouros (c.600) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
    - Moschophoros or Calf-bearer (c.570) Acropolis Museum, Athens.
    - "Peplos Kore" (530) Acropolis Museum, Athens.
    - The Anavysos Kouros (525) National Archeological Museum of Athens.
    - "Kritios Boy" (480) Acropolis Museum, Athens.

    Classical Greek Marble Sculpture

    - Leda and the Swan (500-450) Capitoline Museum. By Timotheus.
    - The Farnese Heracles (5th Century) Archeological Museum, Naples.
    - The Tyrannicides Hamodius Aristogeiton (477) Naples. By Critios.
    - "The Apollo Parnopius" (450) State Museum, Kassel. By Phidias.
    - Parthenon Reliefs/statuary (446-430), Museums in Athens, London, Paris.
    - Wounded Amazon (440-430) Capitoline Museum. By Polykleitos.
    - Temple of Apollo Epikourios, East Frieze (420) British Museum.
    - Aphrodite of Knidos (350-40) Museo Pio Clementino. By Praxiteles.
    - Hermes tying his Sandal (4th century) Louvre, Paris. By Lysippos.
    - Mausoleum of Harlicarnassus, Amazon Frieze (350), British Museum.
    - Apollo Belvedere (330) Museo Pio Clementino. By Leochares.

    Hellenistic Greek Marble Sculpture

    - Dying Gaul (240) Bronze copy, Capitoline Museum. By Epigonus.
    - The Barberini Faun (220) Glyptothek, Munich.
    - Nike of Samothrace (220-190) Louvre, Paris.
    - "The Farnese Bull" (2nd Century) Naples. By Apollonius of Tralles.
    - The Three Graces (2nd Century) Louvre.
    - Pergamon Altar Frieze (166-156), Pergamon Museum, Berlin.
    - "The Medici Venus" (150-100) Uffizi, Florence. By unknown artist.
    - Venus de Milo (100) Louvre. By Andros of Antioch.
    - Borghese Gladiator (100 BCE) Louvre, Paris.

    - Portrait Bust of Julius Caesar (c.25 BCE) Vatican Museums.
    - Ara Pacis Augustae Frieze (13-9 BCE), Ara Pacis Museum, Rome.
    - Statue of Claudius as Jupiter (41-54 CE) Vatican Museums.
    - Trajan's Column (113 CE) Relief Sculpture, Rome.
    - Arch of Constantine (c.312 CE), Rome.
    - Colossal Head of Constantine (c.320 CE) Capitoline Museum.

    Renaissance Marble Sculpture

    - Fonte Gaia (1414-19) Palazzo Pubblico, Siena. By Jacopo della Quercia.
    - Il Zuccone (1423㪻) Florence. By Donatello.
    - Pieta (1497-9) Saint Peters Basilica. By Michelangelo.
    - David (1501-4) Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence. By Michelangelo.
    - Dying Slave (1513-16) Louvre. By Michelangelo.
    - Tomb of Pope Julius II (1505-45) Rome. By Michelangelo.

    Mannerist/Baroque Marbles

    - The Rape of the Sabine (1581-3) Florence. By Giambologna.
    - Pluto and Proserpina (1621-2) Galleria Borghese, Rome. By Bernini.
    - Apollo and Daphne (1622-5) Galleria Borghese, Rome. By Bernini.
    - Tomb of Pope Leo XI (1634-44) St Peter's Rome. By Algardi.
    - The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (1647-52) Capella Cornaro. By Bernini.
    - Milo of Crotona (1671-82) Louvre. By Pierre Puget.

    Neoclassical Marble Sculpture

    - Apollo (1715) State Art Collection, Dresden. By Balthasar Permoser.
    - "The Marly Horse" (1739-45) Louvre. By Guillaume Coustou.
    - Venus (1773) J Paul Getty Museum, LA. By Joseph Nollekens.
    - Portrait of Voltaire, seated (1781) Paris. By Jean-Antoine Houdon.
    - Apollo Crowning Himself (1781) Getty Museum, LA. By Antonio Canova.
    - Psyche Awakened by Eros (1787-93) Louvre. By Antonio Canova.
    - Jason with the Golden Fleece (1803-28) Copenhagen. By Bertel Thorvaldsen.

    Modern Marble Sculpture

    - Tarcisius, Christian Martyr (1868) Musee d'Orsay. By Falguiere.
    - Despair (1869) Musee d'Orsay. By Jean-Joseph Perraud.
    - The Kiss (1888-9) Paris. By Auguste Rodin.
    - Statue of Lincoln (1922) Lincoln Memorial. By Daniel Chester French.
    - Bird in Space (1925-31) Kunsthaus, Zurich. By Constantin Brancusi.
    - Female Torso (1953) Museum Ludwig, Cologne. By Hans Arp.


    Farro: An Ancient And Complicated Grain Worth Figuring Out

    Farro is a type of grain with a nutty flavor and ancient roots.

    I was ready to forget about farro. This was a couple of years ago when I first attempted to cook the savory grain that also boasts an ancient pedigree. I had sampled farro in restaurants where I had enjoyed it transformed into risottos and incorporated into salads. I had come to adore its nutty earthiness and satisfying chew.

    But after spending well over an hour simmering a batch of this form of wheat, I wound up tossing the whole mess in the garbage. As it turned out, the type of farro I was using was the whole grain variety. It's highest in fiber and nutrients like Vitamin B3 and zinc, but whole farro also requires overnight soaking — a step I had neglected to take. That meant that no matter how much time I put in front of the stove, I was likely to wind up with tooth-breaking tough kernels.

    Eventually I learned about the semipearled variety — or semiperlato in Italy, where farro has been cultivated for centuries — in which some of the bran has been removed, allowing for speedier cooking. That's when my love affair with farro took flight.

    In fact, with its cashew notes and undertones of cinnamon, and with its satisfying chew, farro has become my go-to grain for dishes ranging from salads to breakfast cereals.

    Cook up some farro, layer it with roasted fruits, and enrich it with heavy cream or yogurt, and you have a swoon-worthy brunch dish. Or throw a handful into a pot of vegetable soup where it imparts an al dente bite to the tender soup ingredients.

    About The Author

    Laura B. Weiss's work has appeared in numerous national publications, including The New York Times, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, and on the Food Network website. She's a contributor to Interior Design's blog and was an editor for the Zagat Long Island Restaurant Guide 2009-2011. Laura is the author of Ice Cream: A Global History. Follow Laura on Twitter, @foodandthings.

    Farro originated in the Fertile Crescent, where it has been found in the tombs of Egyptian kings and is said to have fed the Roman Legions. Italians have dined on farro for centuries. Now, with the revival of interest in whole grains, farro's popularity is gaining in the U.S. as well.

    Americans' mounting interest in farro "got ignited by our passion for Italian food," says Maria Speck, author of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals: Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More, in a phone interview. Chefs were the first to incorporate the grain into dishes. Now, home cooks are discovering farro too, she says.

    Though we refer to farro as if it were one grain, it's actually three. There's farro piccolo (einkorn), farro medio (emmer), and farro grande (spelt). Emmer is what you'll find sold most often in the U.S. It's a harder grain than einkorn and is often confused with spelt, which is another type of grain altogether. Then there are farro's Latin labels: einkorn, which is Triticum monococcum emmer, which is Triticum dicoccum and spelt, which is Triticum spelta.

    Is your head spinning yet?

    There's also the question of whether you should choose whole farro, which retains all the grain's nutrients semipearled, in which the part of the bran has been removed but still contains some fiber or pearled, which takes the least time to cook but has no bran at all.

    To top it all off, farro can be a bit maddening to shop for. At my local food stores, the label often simply reads "farro," so it's sometimes tough to know whether you're getting the whole grain or one of the pearled varieties. (In one head-scratching moment, I was confronted at an Italian specialty store with signage that displayed the label "farro," but packaging that said "pearl spelt.")

    "There is indeed a lot of confusion about farro," says Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies at The Whole Grains Council. In fact, it can be enough to make you reach for your bag of quinoa.

    Yet when all is said and done, farro is actually a forgiving grain to cook with. Simply follow the directions on the package. Otherwise, if the farro is clearly labeled, then for pearled and semipearled, bring the grains to a boil and simmer them covered for about 15 to 25 minutes, or for 30 to 40 minutes for the whole grain variety. In fact, I now favor whole farro for its intense flavor. Yes, you need to soak it overnight. But is it really so hard to pour a couple of cups of water over some grain before you go to bed?

    Like all grains, farro is done, well, when it's done. For me, that means when it's al dente. But any way you prepare it, farro is a grain to savor. I'll trade my bag of quinoa for one of farro any day of the week.

    Tuscan Soup

    The original recipe for this soup, from Vegan Planet: 400 Irresistible Recipes With Fantastic Flavors From Home and Around the World by Robin Robertson, called for using spelt and for cooking the soup for 1 1/2 hours. I used semipearled farro instead of spelt and added some oregano and a bay leaf, and found that not only was this soup delicious, it was done in no time. Indeed, one of the benefits of this recipe is that the farro cooks in the soup broth, and by the time the soup is done, so is the farro.


    Ostia Antica: Reconstruction and History of The Harbor City of Ancient Rome

    Illustration by Jean-Claude Golvin

    Reconstruction of Ostia Antica –

    Ostia Antica (derived from os, the Latin for “mouth”) was the preeminent harbor city of ancient Rome, with its geographical location being around 19 miles from the ‘eternal city’. And while in modern circumstances, the site lies around 2 miles away from the sea, due to silting, the area is still home to a flurry of well preserved ancient Roman architectural specimens, frescoes, and mosaics. Taking advantage of these extant ‘legacies’ of Roman history, the resourceful folks over at Altair4 Multimedia have digitally reconstructed the ancient harbor city of Ostia Antica – and the glorious result is there to behold.

    Another nifty reconstruction video made by Colonia Ostiensis, also captures the sheer scale of this ancient harbor city, which possibly reached its peak population of around 50,000 by 2nd century AD, at the apical stage of the Roman Empire.

    And in case one is interested in illustrations, noted French archaeologist Jean-Claude Golvin made a series of watercolor drawings that aptly capture the scale and essence of Ostia Antica.

    History of Ostia Antica –

    Legend and Founding (10th century – 4th century BC) –

    Ostia Antica ruins

    According to some legends and conjectures, put forth by authors such as Livius and Cicero, Ostia may have been Rome’s first colonia – a Roman outpost that secured their newly conquered territories. The tradition relates to how Rome’s fourth king Ancus Marcius, established this outpost in 7th century BC after destroying Ficana, an ancient settlement that was just 11 miles from Rome (which also had its harbor along the Tiber). Interestingly enough, the history of Ostia possibly harks back to a time period before the emergence of even the Roman Kingdom, when the area was home to a small village in the Early Iron Age of the Italian peninsula, circa 10th century BC.

    In any case, the archaeological evidence of the oldest settlement at Ostia corresponds to a castrum (Roman structures for military defensive positions), built and developed between 396 and 267 BC. Possibly constructed as a defense against the local pirates, the complex in itself measured 636 ft x 410 ft (equivalent of more than four American football fields). It was surrounded by walls made of large tufa blocks, while being intersected by two main streets.

    The Middle Period of the Republic (3rd century – late 2nd century BC) –

    Public “latrinae”

    By 3rd century BC, Ostia was transformed into a naval base, so much so that it became the seat of one of the officially appointed commanders of the Roman fleet, who was known as the quaestor Ostiensis. Suffice it to say, the office became more important with the advent of the Punic Wars, and as such Ostia emerged as one of the strategic military harbors of the Romans.

    However by 2nd century BC, especially after Carthage was subdued, the coastal city was reintegrated as a commercial port. This economic decision was influenced by the influx of population, fueled by the Roman military successes of the era. Thus Ostia became the main entry point for the overseas grain that was imported from Sicily and Sardinia. As a result, the quaestor had to revamp his military office for something more ‘civilian’ in nature, and thus he became the overseer of the grain importing trade.

    Politics and Culture (1st century BC – 1st century AD) –

    Agrippa’s Theater

    Ostia was the scene of fierce fighting between the forces of Gaius Marius and Sulla in the Roman civil war of 87 BC, as the Marian soldiers laid siege to the harbor city and then ultimately plundered it. After 18 years, the pirates were successful in plundering the city (in 69 BC), and they also destroyed much of the consular war fleet. But the timely intervention of Pompey the Great averted a disaster as he went on to raise an army by Lex Gabinia that defeated the pirates.

    The stability brought forth by Pompey possibly ushered in the advent of new construction projects, including the building of new walls for protecting the city. Now interestingly, in spite of Ostia’s presumed colonia status, the city was governed from Rome, at least till 63 BC. However with the founding of new walls, the settlement was finally endowed with its own government. This symbolic gesture was accompanied by the construction of town halls and various temples.

    But it was Agrippa, the close confidante of Augustus, who shaped the ‘civic’ fortunes of the coastal city, by building a theater (in 12 BC) that could accommodate 3,000 people. In fact, Ostia must have been conferred a special status, given the predominance of marble used for the structure, which was considered as an exceptional building material. This was followed by the establishment of a proper Forum, accompanied by the newly constructed Capitolium, Temple of Jupiter and even a synagogue. And by late 1st century AD, during Vespasian’s reign, the walls of Ostia were transformed into a functioning aqueduct that carried water to the main urban center. The profusion of so many public projects ultimately inspired the change of the (symbolically) military office of quaestor Ostiensis into procurator annonae – basically translating into ‘procurator of the grain supply’.

    Portus and Slaves (1st century AD – 3rd century AD) –

    By the middle of 1st century AD, Emperor Claudius oversaw the construction of an artificial harbor, a few miles north of the main city. Built to supplement the port of Ostia, this project transformed the entire area into thriving harbor district, which was even complemented by an artificial island known as Isola Sacra (or Sacred Island). The new harbor – known as Portus, had its own lighthouse, while the freshly dug basin made it easier for the larger ships to be sheltered by the inward banks.

    Now from the historical perspective, it was the commercial potential of these combined sectors of the coastal district that ultimately catapulted Ostia’s status as Rome’s main harbor. And given the range of overwhelming maritime features added to these ancient ports, the Imperial office of procurator Portus Ostiensis was changed to procurator Portus Utriusque (pertaining to ‘both harbors’).

    In fact, the building boom and great prosperity of Ostia continued until the earlier part of the 3rd century. This momentous rise of commercialism was accompanied by large scale import of slaves from far and wide lands. According to various estimates, almost 17,000 people among the peak 50,000 population were slaves – who not only worked in households but also in the harbor and storage facilities. These slaves were accompanied by middle-class freemen and freed immigrants, who hailed from varied regions like North Africa, Gaul, Spain, and even Egypt and Syria. The latter immigrants mainly played their roles as traders and merchants.

    The Gradual Decline (post 4th century AD) –

    Unfortunately for Ostia, by the time of Constantine, Portus and its neighborhoods were integrated as a newly independent city, renamed as Civitas Flavia Constantiniana. And while this new urban area grew commercially at the expense of the old harbor city, Ostia was gradually transformed into an upscale residential area with the construction of many domus (big Roman houses – refer to this article), mainly owned by rich merchants who worked in Portus.

    However the slow decay had already set in, and Ostia was relegated to an average Roman provincial town, in stark contrast to the commercial vibrancy of Portus – so much so that even the invading Goths and Alans captured Portus but left Ostia unharmed in 410 AD. And by the end of the 5th century, the main aqueduct had stopped functioning, thus cutting off the ‘lifeline’ of the settlement. Finally, in 537 AD, it was the great Eastern Roman general Belisarius who defended this deprecated coastal town (along with Portus) from the Goths by using Agrippa’s ancient theater as a makeshift fortress.


    Analysis of wall decoration dating to the second century A.D. provides new insights into marble extraction and processing

    When it comes to ancient Roman imperial architecture, most people usually have a mental image of white marble statues, columns, or slabs.

    While it is true that many buildings and squares at that time were decorated with marble, it was frequently not white but colored marble that was employed, such as the green-veined Cipollino Verde, which was extracted on the Greek island of Euboea.

    Because marble was very expensive, it was often placed in thin slabs as a cladding over other, cheaper stones. “To date, however, no actual remains of marble workshops from the Roman imperial era have been found, so little is known about marble processing during this period,” said Professor Cees Passchier of the Institute of Geosciences at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU).

    Together with other researchers based in Mainz, Turkey, and Canada, he has now finished analyzing the marble cladding of a second century A.D. Roman villa. As the researchers detail in the online edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, they utilized special software normally used for the 3D modeling of geological structures. They discovered that the material loss during marble slab production at the time was likely lower than it is today.

    The researchers examined, photographed, and measured 54 restored slabs of Cipollino Verde, each measuring around 1.3 square meters, which had been used to decorate the walls of a villa in ancient Ephesus on the west coast of Turkey.

    In view of the saw marks on one of the slabs, they were able to infer that these slabs had been cut in a water-powered sawmill, in effect using what we today know as hydraulic metal saws. Using reconstructions based on the slab patterns, the research team was also able to conclude that a total of 40 slabs had been sawn from a single marble block weighing three to four tons.

    They had been subsequently mounted on the walls in the order in which they were produced and arranged in book-matched pairs side by side, producing a symmetrical pattern. Finally, with the help of the software, the researchers created a three-dimensional model of the marble block, which in turn enabled them to draw conclusions about the material wastage during the production of the slabs.

    “The slabs are about 16 millimeters thick and the gaps between them, caused by sawing and subsequent polishing, are about 8 millimeters wide. This material loss attributable to production equates to around one third and is therefore less than the rates now commonly associated with many forms of modern marble production,” Passchier pointed out. “We can therefore conclude that marble extraction during the imperial period was remarkably efficient.”

    The researchers also found that although 42 slabs had been sawn from one original marble block, two had not been fixed to the walls of the hall. “The arrangement of the slabs on the villa walls suggests these slabs were most likely broken, possibly during polishing or their subsequent transportation,” added Passchier. “This would mean that the amount lost due to breakage would be 5 percent, which would also be an astonishingly low figure.” This small loss leads Passchier to assume that the entire marble block had been transported to Ephesus and that the slabs were then cut and polished there.

    List of site sources >>>