A wee plug here. The upcoming 2017 Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America — convening this January 5-8 in Toronto — features an organized session devoted entirely to Roman sarcophagi. With six papers and two respondents (among them Ortwin Dally, Director of the DAI-Rome), it offers a full lineup of sarcophagine (sarcophagal? sarcophagoidal?) delight.
Session 6I: New Research on Roman Sarcophagi: Eastern, Western, Christian
Saturday, Jan. 7, 1:45 - 4:45 pm
Chairs: Sarah Madole (CUNY—BMCC) and Mont Allen (Southern Illinois University)
(1) "Sarcophagus Studies: The State of the Field (as I see it)"
Bjoern C. Ewald (Universit of Toronto)
(2) "Roman Sarcophagi from Dokimeion in Asia Minor: Conceptual Differences between Rome and Athens"
Esen Öğüş (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich)
(3) "A New Mythological Sarcophagus at Aphrodisias"
Heather N. Turnbow (The Catholic University of America)
(4) "Beyond Grief: A Mother's Tears and Representations of Semele and Niobe on Roman Sarcophagi"
Sarah Madole (CUNY—BMCC)
(5) "Strutting Your Stuff: Finger Struts on Roman Sarcophagi"
Mont Allen (Southern Illinois University)
(6) "Love and Death: Jonah as Endymion in Early Christian Art"
Robert Couzin (independent scholar)
Christopher H. Hallett (U.C. Berkeley)
Ortwin Dally (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut)
A bonanza. The upcoming 2016 Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America (San Francisco, January 6-9) features three papers on ancient sarcophagi:
"Aphrodisian Sarcophagus Sculptors Abroad?"
Sarah Madole, CUNY-BMCC (session 1H)
"Who Bought Bucolic? Sheep, Cows, and Villas on Roman Sarcophagi"
Mont Allen, Southern Illinois University (session 1H)
"Local History, Lasting Legacy: The 'Alexander' Sarcophagus in Context"
Rachel Spradley, Southern Methodist University (session 5G)
A new article by Esen Öğüş — one of only a handful to address Asian sarcophagi — recently appeared in the AJA. It presents, in accessible form, some of the most important conclusions of her doctoral thesis.
The full reference:
Esen Öğüş, "Columnar Sarcophagi from Aphrodisias: Elite Emulation in the Greek East", American Journal of Archaeology 118, no. 1 (January 2014): 113-36.
To my knowledge, the last 23 years have seen only four (!) American dissertations devoted to Roman sarcophagi. The good news is that all four were filed within the last five years, reflecting surging interest among English-speaking scholars in a field traditionally dominated by German scholarship.
Of these four dissertations, three focus on Asian sarcophagi, taking advantage of the wealth of material unearthed at Roman Aphrodisias. The first, by Esen Öğüş, explores the socio-cultural significance of columnar sarcophagi within both their local Aphrodisian context and broader patterns of burial in Asia Minor.
The full reference:
Esen Öğüş, Columnar Sarcophagi from Aphrodisias: Construction of Elite Identity in the Greek East, Harvard University, 2010.
Abstract (courtesy of the author):
This thesis explores the social and cultural meaning of a specific group of marble sarcophagi from Aphrodisias in Caria. The columnar sarcophagi, a corpus of 212 fully preserved or fragmentary pieces, are decorated on chests with projecting columns forming aediculae for the display of standing human figures in relief. Funerary inscriptions inform us that the majority of the Aphrodisian sarcophagi date to the third century A.D. and did not belong to the traditional city elite known from honorary inscriptions in the first two centuries A.D., but to a class of artisans and tradesmen who were newly granted citizenship by Caracalla’s Edict in A.D. 212.
Part I of the thesis, drawing evidence from epigraphic analysis, situates the columnar sarcophagi within their archaeological context, and clarifies aspects of sarcophagus use in the city of Aphrodisias. Part II classifies and presents the extant corpus in three groups by highlighting the significance of each. Part III interprets the material within both the local cultural context and the widespread burial culture of Asia Minor.
The iconography of the columnar sarcophagi, featuring human figures that exhibit paideia, reflects two sets of influences on the local culture: the ideals of the Second Sophistic; and the honorific habit that commemorated the good deeds of wealthy elite citizens. The overall appearance of a sarcophagus chest resembles a public building with a columnar façade and honorific statues embedded in it. Therefore, by commissioning columnar sarcophagi, the sub-elite patrons owned a personal model of a public building with their small-scale portrait statues on its façade. Since the ownership of a public statue was a privilege that the people of this status never had the chance to enjoy in life, they adapted conventions of private funerary art to avail themselves of a similar privilege in death. Exploring the social meaning of other local groups of sarcophagi in Asia Minor reveals that new citizens elsewhere developed their own local iconography in the third century that centered on their self-presentation and aspirations to elite status.