Collection online

cinerary urn

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Marble cinerary urn provided by Vitalis, a former slave of the Emperor and Scribe of the Bedchamber, for his wife Vernasia Cyclas, who lived 27 years. The front of the urn is framed by two tall torches and below the inscribed panel are Vitalis and Vernasia, their right hands joined as during the wedding ceremony.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1stC
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 50.8 centimetres (without cover)
    • Width: 34.29 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

        VIX · ANN · XXVII
        VITALIS · AVG · L
        SCRIB · CUB

        In the relief:
        F · A · P
      • Inscription Transliteration

        coniugi optimae
        vix(it) ann(is) XXVII
        Vitalis Augusti l(ibertus)
        scrib(a) cub(icularius)

        F(idelissimae) A(mantissimae) P(ientissimae)
      • Inscription Translation

        Vitalis, freedman and Private Secretary of the Emperor (dedicated this) to Vernasia Cyclas, the most excelent wife, she lived for twenty seven years.

        To this most faithful, loving and devoted woman
  • Curator's comments

    Cook 2011, nr. 164:
    ‘A cinerary urn 2 feet high. the front is ornamented with a festoon of laurel, which encompasses a Tablet with the following inscription; underneath it a man and a woman join hands before the doors of a Temple, which are a little open, on the edges are two torches, and on the sides of the urn are two laurel trees.
    VIX • ANN • XXVII •
    VITALIS • AVG • L •
    SCRIB • CUB •
    F • A • P •
    The abbreviations Scrib: cub: denote that Vitalis possessed the important employment of Scriba cubicularius to the Emperor, and the initials f. a. p. stand for Fecit aedilitia potestate. This inscription is published in Scaligers edit: of Grutero – page 576’ (TY 12/3, street drawing room 15). Townley’s interpretation of F •A • P • is no longer accepted: ult. litterae FAP quid significent non perspicio (CIL, with an editorial comment from Mommsen: Fortasse subest formula qualis est ‘fidelissimae amantissimae pientissimae’).
    Formerly in the della Valle-Capranica collection and later in the Villa Montalto and Villa Peretta (CIL).
    Bought through Jenkins from Nicolo Conti in 1776 for 15 Zecchini or 30.75 Scudi (TY 8/74/15), rendered by Townley as £7 in TY 10/5 and TY 12/1, but in error as £16 in TY 10/7. The original bill was transcribed as TY 8/75/4 and copied into ST 1(fo. 60v), where the urn bought from Conti is identified by Townley as that of Vernasia.

    Claudian/Neronian, lid alien (Boschung); Claudian or a little earlier (Sinn).

    * Townley drawing 2010,5006.298.

    - CIL VI, 8769;
    - Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum (1808 or post-1808#), V.4; Ancient Marbles of the British Museum, V, pl. 1, fig. 4;
    - A. H. Smith, A Catalogue of Sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum, Vol. III (London 1904), 357-8, no. 2379;
    - W. Altmann, Die römischen Grabaltäre der Kaiserzeit (Berlin, 1905), 113-4, no. 106;
    - D. Boschung, Antike Grabaltäre aus den Nekropolen Roms. Acta Bernensia X (Bern, 1987), 25, 103, no. 771 (bibl.);
    - F. Sinn, Stadrömische Marmorurnen (Mainz am Rhein, 1987), 112, no. 84, pl. 25, a-b.


  • Bibliography

    • Sculpture 2379 bibliographic details
    • CIL VI 8769 bibliographic details
    • Cook 2013 nr. 164 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Greek & Roman Antiquities

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: Marble cinerary urn of Vernasia Cyclas


COMPASS Title: Marble cinerary urn of Vernasia Cyclas

Image description



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Object reference number: GAA9329

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