The Roman figure called “Marble Sarcophagus with the Triumph of Dionysos and the Seasons,” was made in late imperial, Gallienic, around 260 to 270 C. E as part of the Roman culture. The figure is a marble sculpture and is about 34 X 85 X 361/4 inches tall. As a result of the size, we can tell this piece might be supplementary relevant and important in Roman culture. Although the artist of this figure is unknown, it is known that it was created for a wealthy family. The sarcophagus is a typical example of Roman funerary art, which were usually created to commemorate the powerful person.Order now
At the Metropolitan Museum, “Marble sarcophagus with the Triumph of Dionysos and the Seasons of art really stood out to me because it shows some kind of realism. “Marble sarcophagus with the Triumph of Dionysos and the Seasons is a luxury created for a wealthy family. However, the massive size, expensive marble material, the use of 3D design and display of important imperial figures indicate otherwise. This essay will argue that there is always a social classification in our life, from ancient to modern; With social classification, the society is classified into different groups, the upper, middle and lower class.
This piece was made for an important and wealthy family, which confirms the truth of only upper class group in ancient time could be able to own this sarcophagus as a symbol of taking gods of life into the afterlife. The figure symbolizes sarcophagus, which is known as a container or coffin for burying dead human bodies. In Roman culture, the production of sarcophagus was most commonly made in marble stone. During the late imperial period of Rome, marble was extremely expensive and rarely exclusive. When sarcophagus was built, marble had to be transported all the way from the Eastern Mediterranean to Rome.
The materials used to complete such task were a hammer and a chisel, in order to carve the marble slowly and carefully into the sarcophagus. During the procedure, workers needed to be very careful and watchful to chip the marble, in order to form the human body shapes. After the chipping was done, it would first give a rough surface, however they would like to make the surface smooth. In order to make the marble smooth, the workers then used another stone called abrasion to transform the rough surface into a smooth piece of art. The abrasion, it also helped the marble to look more shining and figured.
During Roman funerary traditions, they used burial as a form or action of placing the corpse of a dead person body in a tomb. Roman culture has turned the sarcophagus in funerals to a luxury symbol in the period. There is lot of detail carved into the piece, to form the humans clothing, to the body movement and the legendary elements. Sadly, at the back the figure has become rough and dark, however, the sides and front of the sarcophagus are distinctively decorated with forty human and animal figures. The color of the sarcophagus is just as the natural color of marble.
When look at closely, the sarcophagus sort of highlights the four naked young men, which represent the four seasons in Roman culture. (Fig. 3) In Roman cultures, tombs and graves involved in the expectation of human soul of bringing the lifetime social status into the afterlife. As a result, the bigger the size of the sarcophagus indicates a higher status of the dead person. The realism of the figure reveals wonderfully in physical beauty of both the animal and human bodies in the figure, which clearly illustrates the scene of Roman culture. In the central figure (Fig. ), the God Dionysos is wearing a tunic, sitting on a panther with holding a weapon on one of his hands.
It might be little hard to recognize the god because he is overshadowed by figures. However, the king Dionysos still can be seen as superior, through his position and pose. Dionysos was the son of Zeus and Semele. He is the Greek god who is recognized as naughty and odd. He was keen on wine, and preferred to party and celebrate. Looking closely into the figure, there are four larger male figures who are standing on a parallel line, with the god Dionysos.
The two at the sides, are facing the front, and the other two in the middle are facing the opposite direction with each other, holding a cup. These four figures represent the four Seasons, winter, spring, summer, and fall, in order from left to right (Fig. 5). Besides these five larger figures in the front, there are also other two large figures at the sides of the sarcophagus that also considered significant. One figure on the left side is a female, lying at the ground. The female is receiving fruits from the youth figure, while the other two male figures at her back are carrying fruits in their hands as well.
The female figure is an identification of a “Mother Earth” as a female god from thousands of years. The revival of the worship of “Mother Earth first began in Christian period in 18th century, which made about the female earth as Mother Goddess. The worship of “Mother Earth’ gives an indication about the cycle of human revolution. During the human revolution, the female earth god owns supreme power, which people worship “Mother Earth” as a spiritual and cultural practice of dominant importance. On the right side is a male figure, with long hair and a beard lying at the ground.
The man is also surrounded by two youth figures and two male figures, in the same position as the female figure. The male figure is an identification of a “River-god. ” By the time, the “River-god was used as the name to refer to the river Nile. It is possible that the figures are considered as the two other additional seasons. The royal people in ancient times liked to crave gods or deities on their tomb as a representation of the lifetime status enable to show a dominant power. The seasons around illustrate the imperial power of the king, and the royalty.
As a result, the object sarcophagus was considered as a luxury, for which only a very wealthy and powerful person would have been able to own it. Perhaps, this particular sarcophagus might belong to one of the aristocratic families in Rome. So that, it can confirm the truth of only upper class group in ancient time could have ability to own this sarcophagus as a purpose of taking the gods of life into the afterlife. Also, it also gives purpose to let the next century people to accommodate and worship the great god.
1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Marble sarcophagus with the Triumph of Dionysos and the Seasons
2. Joshua J. Mark, Burial, Ancient History Encyclopedia, published on 02 September 2009, http://www.ancient.eu.com/burial/.
3. Weitzmann, Kurt, Age of spirituality: late antique and early Christian art, third to seventh century, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, no. 386, 1979.