Artifact Spotlight: Roman Funerary Stele

This original funerary stele is a marble monument to memorialize a deceased 17-year-old young man.  It is written in Greek, although the young man’s first name is Latin and dates back to the 2nd century and is from Turkey.

Funerary Steles:

Like today’s tombstones, funerary steles were a memorial for the deceased, although cemeteries did not exist in the ancient world.  Memorials were placed along roads on the way into the city.  This was an ideal location for family as well as travelers to remember the deceased.  Visits seemed to mean more than just preserving memory, however: often, steles were “anointed with oil, decorated with ribbons and garlands, and given food offerings (Funerary Sculpture).”

In the Roman period, it became popular to depict individuals.  The Greek tradition often depicted the deceased surrounded by living family members.  This preserved and described their role in society, much like how we write things like ‘beloved wife, mother, grandmother’ on our tombstones.  The Romans also brought a greater emphasis on realism–rather than idealizing the deceased, they were portrayed at the age in which they died.  The frontal gaze invites viewers into their presence, but seems to disregard the outside, living world.

Our Stele:

Special Collections’ Roman Funerary Stele reads:

ΙΟΥΛΙΑΝΟΣ / ΕΙΛΑΙΟΥ ΕΤΩΝ / Κ Η

“Julianos, (son) of Eidaios, aged 17”

Traditionally, Julianos is a Latin name and Eidaios is a Greek name. This name, combined with the early style of himation and hairstyle, suggest the young man lived in the 2nd century.

Source:

“Funerary Sculpture in Athens.” Athenian Agora 35. (2013): 9-64. Art Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web. 9 Nov. 2016.

 

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