- Museum number
Marble chest with lid, used for the burial of two infant boys. At each angle of the front there is a flaming candelabrum, resting on dolphins and having a winged Sphinx in the middle of the stem. A pomegranate (?) flower hangs on each side of a tablet with moulded frame, inscribed. On the right side is a wreath of fruit tied with sashes. Two birds are pecking at a lizard, and two are pecking at the wreath. On the left side is a similar wreath. Two birds are feeding their young in a nest, and two birds are pecking at the wreath. The cover is in pediment form, with a shell in the middle of the pediment and a dolphin at each angle. At each side are rosettes (description by Smith 1904, p.348 n.2359).
A bird is figured among the fruit and foliage to the left of the epitaphs; and, at each angle, there is a candelabrum exemplifying the use of funeral lights in Roman sepulchral monuments (Sandys1969, pp.73-74).
- Production date
- 2ndC AD
Height: 45.50 centimetres
Width: 30.70 centimetres
Depth: 31.70 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Two separate funerary inscriptions (the first one in the upper frame and the second one in the lower part of the monument) are dedicated to two children, who seem not to be related to each others.
On the first iscription, the child has two cognomina, the first one (Dexius) is generally a gentilice, and the second one (Clymenus) is an epithet of Pluton used by Ovidius (Fast. 6, 757).
On the second inscription, the child is stated to have received his dole of corn. The fact that he has received a state issue of grain was a proof of enfranchisement, as we read that “He received his grain ration on the 10th day, Gate 39" (Nicolet 1989, p.197). He was the son of the freedman who dedicated the monument and who want to show that the son was an ingenuus with all the privileges of his free condition, as well as the right to the frumentatio (Carrié 1975, p.1004).
Every Roman citizen received the grain on a particular day of the month and at a particular office, according to a system in use from the claudian-neronian age to Aurelianus (Zevi 1993, p.665).
This burial chest contained the ashes of two children, which do not seem to have any familial relationship between them. By now, the formula is easily understood and read by the reader. Of further interest is, however, the line frumentum accepit die X ostio XXXIX. It was important for Sergius Alcimus to point out that his son had received the grain dole, indicating he had been a free citizen. Does this mean Sergius Alcimus was a freedman? Probably, even though the inscription does not say it: from the mid-1st century AD onwards, freedmen increasingly omitted their status. Because of the enormous undertaking that handing out the grain dole to free citizens was (during most of the Principate, 200,000 citizens of Rome received a monthly dole), people were assigned a specific day of the month (here the 10th) and a specific gate (here the 39th, of 45 total) at the Porticus Minucia Frumentaria, a large warehouse next to the modern Largo Argentina in Rome.
(Booms 2016, 22-23, 40-41)
- A. H. SMITH, A catalogue of sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman antiquities, (London 1904), vol. III, n.2359
- J. E. SANDYS, Latin Epigraphy: An Introduction to the Study of Latin Inscriptions (CUP Archive, Cambridge 1969), 73-74
-C. NICOLET, The world of the Citizen in Republican Rome (University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles 1989), 197
- M. ROSTOWZEW, Rőmische Bleitesserae (T.Weicher Ed., Lipsia 1905), 12
- F. ZEVI, Per l'identificazione della Porticus Minucia frumentaria (Mélanges de l'Ecole française de Rome. Antiquité, 1993), Vol. 105, n.105-2, pp. 661-708
- J-M. Carrié, Les distributions alimentaires dans les cités de l'empire romain Tardif (Mélanges de l'Ecole française de Rome. Antiquité, 1975), Vol. 87, n. 87-2, pp. 995-1101
- On display (G70)
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number