- Museum number
Child's lidded sarcophagus of Lucius Aemilius Daphnus made of marble; boys play with nuts; inscription on lid; made of Proconnesian marble.
The panel at the front of the lid is decorated with two winged cupids carrying bows and quivers and supporting a tablet inscribed in Latin. At the corners of the lid are acroteria in the form of cupids' heads. On the sides of the chest are griffins. The back of the chest and lid are unfinished. The interior is provided with a shallow headrest, 21 cm long. The sides were not plumbed in and the floor of the chest slopes up 4 cm from front to back.
The boys appear in four groups of (left to right) five, two, three and two. The first group, of which two sit on the ground, is flanked by a male and a female herm. The other groups are shown against an arcade. All the boys wear tunics. Some have cloaks. They share a distinctive hair-style, sharply defined with a chisel. Though the drapery is crudely carved and the background sketchy, the overall impression is of lively exuberance.
- Production date
Height: 42.50 centimetres
Width: 110 centimetres
Depth: 42 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Walker, Susan, 1990, Catalogue of Roman Sarcophagi in the British Museum:.
Smith, III, 331 no. 2321 (for Gerhard, Antike Denkmaeler, read Bildwerke); CIL XIV, 532; Reinach, RepRel II 507, 1; T. Brennecke, Kopf und Maske (Diss. F.U. Berlin 1970), 218, no. 113, pl. lxxx-1; Walker, Memorials, frontispiece and 43, fig. 52; Untimely Memorials 550, 552, 553 fig. 5.
The scene is similar to that on a child's sarcophagus found near San Sebastiano on the Via Appia and now in the Vatican Museums.(1) Here girls play as well as boys, but separately, indoors. Though games with nuts were apparently a common recreation for Roman children,(2) it is possible that these sarcophagi commemorate a specific event. An inscription from Ferentinum (CIL X, 5853) records the benefactions of a local notable, one of which was a sparsio of nuts amongst the children of the plebs, regardless of their free or unfree status.(3) L. Aemilius Daphnus, evidently of plebeian origin, may have benefited from a similar act of largesse.
The style of the relief and the choice of subject suggest that the sarcophagus should be placed with a large group of sarcophagi from Rome and the surrounding area which are noteworthy for their lively rendition of scenes from plebeian and peasant life. These are thought particularly characteristic of the period between Gallienus and the Tetrarchy.(4)
1. W. Amelung, Die Skulpturen des Vatikanischen Museums I (Berlin 1903), 638, no. 497a, pl. 68.
2 U. E. Paoli, Das Leben in alten Rom (3rd edition, Munich 1979), 262; A. Rieche, Römische Kinder-und Gesellschaftsspiele (Aalen 1984), 10-12, fig. 3.
3. K. Hopkins, Death and Renewal (Cambridge 1983), 248 n. 48.
4. B. M. Felletti Maj, RivArch Crist lii (1976), 223-56.
- W. Amelung, Die Skulpturen des Vatikanischen Museums I (Berlin 1903), 638, no. 497a, pl. 68.
- U. E. Paoli, Das Leben in alten Rom (3rd edition, Munich 1979), 262.
- A. Rieche, Römische Kinder-und Gesellschaftsspiele (Aalen 1984), 10-12, fig. 3.
- K. Hopkins, Death and Renewal (Cambridge 1983), 248, n. 48.
- B. M. Felletti Maj, RivArch Crist lii (1976), 223-56.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number