La riscoperta della concorrenza: immagini di rituali e cerimonie nei sarcofagi urbani tardoantichi


  • Fabio Guidetti


The rediscovery of competition: images of rites and ceremonies in thelate antique urban sarcophagi.

The paper examines the presence of images of public ceremonies in Romanfunerary art of the late 3rd and 4th centuries AD. Already in the mid-3rd centurythe Roman senatorial class had started to enlarge the possibilities of funeraryself-representation, by adding to the traditional mythological repertoiredepictions of public ceremonies presided over by the deceased as amagistrate. From the late 3rd century, however, the interest in these images,as well as in the old mythological scenes, seems to decline, in favour of amore direct aristocratic self-representation centred on the otium ideologyand the related activities (hunting and banquets) taking place in the suburbanvillae, expressed through a set of standard iconographies. A detailedanalysis is devoted to the scene depicting the journey to the villa on boardof an open coach, which, although not a public ceremony strictly speaking,was nonetheless important as a means for aristocratic self-representation inthe public space of the street. At the same time, the interest for the depictionof ceremonies by late Roman aristocrats shifts decisively towards religiousscenes: a small but interesting group of sarcophagus lids are decorated withimages of a pompa circensis, featuring ritual objects and statues connectedwith Rome’s traditional deities or the imperial cult. Through the choice ofthese themes, these late Roman aristocrats class could celebrate both theirevergetic role as financial sponsors of public games and their subscriptionto a system of values closely linked to the official manifestations of paganreligion. The civic self-representation as magistrates is now taken over bymembers of the equestrian order, who after Diocletian’s administrative reformsare in charge of the main government posts.



Quale memoria? Comunicazione e forme del ricordo nell’archeologia funeraria romana