Marble funerary relief of Lucius Antistius Sarculo and Antistia Plutia

Roman, about 10 BC - AD 30
From Rome, Italy

This relief originally formed part of the funerary monument of Lucius Antistius Sarculo, a free-born Roman priest of the Salian order, and his wife and freedwoman (former slave) Antistia Plutia.

The lined eyes, the slightly hollowed cheeks and prominent ears of Antistius, and the thin-lipped, severe countenance of his wife are typical of the realistic style characteristic of the period. The couple's hairstyles indicate a date towards the end of the first century BC. Antistius' hair is cut close to his head, emphasizing his retreating hairline and marked widow's peak (the lack of hair high on the temples). Antistia's hair, drawn back into a small bun, with some curls brought forward and a small topknot at the front of the head, follows exactly the hairstyle of the Livia, wife of Emperor Augustus (27 BC- AD 14).

During the Republic, large numbers of slaves were brought to Rome and Italy following the conquests of territories such as Spain and Greece. Many worked in agriculture or building projects, while others were teachers, craftsmen such as sculptors and potters, or even cooks. Augustus gave freedmen and women many rights and privileges, including (happily for Antistius) the right to marry Roman citizens. Antistia's rise, from humble slave to wife of a Salian, underlines the extent of Augustus' social revolution. The roads around Rome and other cities in the empire were lined with monuments from which similar reliefs of freedmen and their families looked out, proudly proclaiming their full membership of Roman society.

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More information


P.C. Roberts, Romans, a pocket treasury (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

A.H Smith, A catalogue of sculpture in -2, vol. 3 (London, British Museum, 1904)

L. Burn, The British Museum book of G-1, revised edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)


Height: 63.500 cm
Width: 98.000 cm

Museum number

GR 1858.8-19.2 (Sculpture 2275)



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