- Museum number
Child's sarcophagus with lid, of Docimaean marble; garlands supported by (front) cupid, (back) a bucranium and (corners) bull's heads. Above the garlands are (front, back) pairs of rosettes and (sides) lions' heads. The gables, acroteria and lower mouldings of the lid, and part of the crowning moulding and the plinth of the chest are roughly finished with a point or claw chisel. The floor of the chest is not plumbed in and the sides slope inwards.
- Production date
- 140 (circa)
Height: 46.50 centimetres (Chest)
Height: 32 centimetres (Interior)
Height: 20 centimetres (Lid)
Length: 82.10 centimetres (Chest)
Length: 62 centimetres (Interior)
Width: 51.30 centimetres (Chest)
Width: 37 centimetres (Interior)
- Curator's comments
- Walker, Susan, 1990, Catalogue of Roman Sarcophagi in the British Museum:
Smith, III, 333 no. 2326; A. Pietrogrande, Aflt 3 (1930), 125, fig. 23-24; Giuliano, Commercio, 56, no. 341; D. M. Bailey, BSA 67 (1972), 10, pl. 4a, b; J. Huskinson, CSIR 11.1 (1975), 51 ff., no. 92, pl. 36; Giuliano-Palma, 16, no. 2, pl. 20, 47; Koch-Sichtermann, 369, n. 5, 435-6, no. 1, 459.
This sarcophagus has been identified as one of the earliest in the Attic series.(1) Indeed, the decoration of the chest is strikingly similar to that of several sarcophagi from Athens, and most notably to that of a sarcophagus now in Istanbul, described by Koch as Attic.(2) However, the chest from Ain-el-Selmani differs from the Attic series in the form of its upper mouldings and in the use of the plinth as a ground-level, giving the impression that the figure of cupid is leaping off the chest. These features are shared with some Phrygian sarcophagi. The upper mouldings may be compared with those of a sarcophagus from Perge decorated with a shield and a gorgoneion, and with those of a sarcophagus in Iznik, decorated with an ovolo on the finished side.(3) Rosettes, which are infrequently found on Attic sarcophagi, appear on numerous garland sarcophagi from Asia Minor.(4) It is of some interest that Giuliano and Palma linked this sarcophagus with Walker, no. 57 (1861.2-20.2), attributing both to an Attic master.(5) The two chests have similar mouldings and garlands, though the lids and the cupids differ.
Isotopic analysis of marble from the chest supports the view that it is of Phrygian manufacture. Another Asiatic import to Cyrene, possibly from Ephesus, was described and illustrated by the French traveller Pachi.(6) Giuliano and Palma proposed a date of AD 155-160 for both sarcophagi, but Koch and Sichtermann's earlier date of AD 140 is to be preferred. The chest is rather large for a cremation, and may have been expressly intended for the inhumation of a child.(7)
1. Koch-Sichtermann, 435-6 and 438, no. 1.
2. Athens: e.g. Koch-Sichtermann, nos 467 and 469-71. Istanbul: Koch, AA 1977, 115, fig. 4.
3. Perge: Waelkens, 56, pl. 18.2. Iznik: N. Asgari, A A 1977, 352, fig. 47-8.
4. Attic rosettes: Koch-Sichtermann, 436. Asiatic: Asgari, op. cit. (n. 3) 342 fig. 25.
5. Giuliano-Palma, loc. cit. (above), nos 2 and 1.
6. Pietrogrande, op. cit. (above), 119, fig. 16.
7. Bailey, op. cit. (above), 10, contra Koch-Sichtermann, 369, n. 5 and p. 435.
- Not on display
- Unrestored; slight breaks along the upper and lower edges of chest and lid.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Found by Vice-Consul Crowe with Walker, no. 37 (1861.7-24.14) in a chamber tomb at Ain-el-Selmani, near Benghazi (Cyrenaica).
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number