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Fashion in the grave : A study of the motifs used to decorate the grave altars, ash chests and sarcophag made in rome in the early empire (To the mid second century A.D.).

Davies, GM; (1978) Fashion in the grave : A study of the motifs used to decorate the grave altars, ash chests and sarcophag made in rome in the early empire (To the mid second century A.D.). Doctoral thesis, University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

The purpose of this study is to explain why cremation was replaced by inhumation and cinerary monuments by sarcophagi in Rome during the second century A.D. by looking at the decoration of the monuments from Tiberius to the mid second century.Part one examines briefly the treatment of Boman funerary symbolism by previous scholars, the literary and epigraphic evidence for Roman eschatological belief In the period, and the nature of the contemporary decorative repertoire used in non—funerary contexts. These studies suggest that Roman eschatological ideas were somewhat vague, and that most of the motifs used on the funerary monuments were in common use in other decorative arts: one should not, therefore, expect the decoration of the funerary monuments to contain allusions to a deep or coherent eschatology. The final chapter of Part one deals with the evidence for the chronology of the monuments. Part two looks at the decoration of the cinerary monuments motif by motif, considering in particular their possible symbolic interpretations. The conclusion is that there is little evidence to suggest that this decoration was designed to convey complex or deeply held eschatological beliefs, but only the vaguest ideas about heroisation and survival after death. Part three deals with the decoration of the garland sarcophagi. The decorative repertoire, though reduced, is not radically different from that used on the cinerary monuments,the predominance of mythological (mainly non—bacchic) scenes being its major feature. These, however, do not seem to express any coherent philosophical or religious concept of death and the afterlife which might explain the change in burial rite. The conclusion is that a group of educated, probably noble, families were responsible for introducing sarcophagi to Roman society, but that this does not reflect a radical change in eschatological ideas, only a change in fashion.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Fashion in the grave : A study of the motifs used to decorate the grave altars, ash chests and sarcophag made in rome in the early empire (To the mid second century A.D.).
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Additional information:Thesis digitised by British Library EThOS. Some images from Volume 2 have been excluded due to third party copyright.
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology

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