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Sarcophagus, 3rd century A.D., marble.
Bequest from the Preston Pope Satterwhite Collection 1949.30.266

The inscription on this third century Roman sarcophagus is Supported by two large winged cherubs or amoretti. The engraving tells us that the deceased was Gaius Julius Tiberius, a soldier who died in service in Britain, and that his wife Calpurnia commissioned the memorial. The amoretti are framed by two groups representing the famed lovers Cupid and Psyche, which can be presumed to symbolize the love Calpurnia had for her late husband. Along the bottom front of the sarcophagus several mythical figures are carved. On the left is Oceanus, the ruler of the sea that was believed to encircle the earth. A ketos, or sea-monster, appears at his feet, while an amoretto frolics on his lap. On the right in a reflected pose is Tellus, the female personification of the earth. A bull sits at her feet and she holds another amoretto in her arms. Originally she would have also held a cornucopia. These figures are perhaps a reminder of the common themes of renewal, growth and good fortune in Roman funerary art.




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