Cupids at the Circus : Missouri's Chariot Sarcophagus
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"One of the more peculiar and intriguing phenomena in Roman archaeology is the abrupt and still generally unexplained switch from cremation to inhumation that seems to have occurred throughout the Empire during the second century after Christ. The resurgence of this ancient Etruscan and Greek burial practice inaugurated the great industry and artistic tradition of Roman sarcophagi. Virtually all examples of this class -- whether in marble, granite, lead or limestone -- date to Hadrianic times (A.D. 117-138) or later. Decoration varied according to the taste and means of the owner. One might see great mythological tableaux, commemorative scenes of battle, marriage, or appropriated imperial iconography, or more decorative garland and strigillated types, incised with wavy grooves. Major manufacturing centers grew up around Rome and near the numerous quarries of fine marble in Greece and Asia Minor. Each center exhibits peculiar identifying characteristics of style and form, although there is considerable change from one to another. A booming trade in both finished sarcophagi and raw marble was conducted throughout the Mediterranean world. Even as the Roman Empire began to decline, this burial tradition grew and flourished for several centuries. It is one of the chief manifestations of artistic continuity between the Ancient and Late-Antique periods and resonates as late as the Renaissance."--First paragraph.
Originally published in: Muse, 1995-1996, volume 29-30, pages 74-90.
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