Meleager Sarcophagus

Meleager Sarcophagus

Date ca. 180 CE

Movement Roman

Medium Marble

Housed at Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome


As the Empire evolved, funerary tradition moved from cremation to inhumation, save for the imperial class. A rise in sarcophagi production results, starting with depictions of battle scenes, to biographical scenes of the deceased’s life, often expressed through narratives of Greek mythology. Here, Meleager saves a Grecian city form a wild boar, symbolizing, essentially, the virtue of manliness (virtus). The relief style is largely Greek, but the overcrowding of the registers (horror vacui) was a Roman practice.