Marble funerary altar

Period: Early Imperial, Julio-Claudian

Date: ca. A.D. 14–68

Culture: Roman

Medium: Marble

Dimensions: H. 31 3/4 in. (80.7 cm)

Classification: Stone Sculpture

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1925

Accession Number: 25.78.29


The inscription commemorates a certain Q. Fabius Diogenes and Fabia Primigenia, who lived together for forty-seven years, and tells that the altar was set up by his freedmen, freedwomen, and household slaves. Diogenes himself was probably a freed slave who had acquired a certain wealth and position. This is reflected in the ornamentation of the altar, which is a deliberate echo of imagery used in imperial art of the Julio-Claudian period. The heavy garland suspended from rams’ heads derives from the kind of decoration found on the walls of public sanctuaries. The three types of birds surrounding the garland were all familiar from Augustan monuments: at the center, an eagle, bird of Jupiter, ruler of the gods; at the corners, swans, birds of Apollo, patron god of the emperor; and below the garland, two songbirds, symbols of bountiful nature.