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 lavishly sculpted vines and garlands that symbolized Augustan prosperity on grandiose public monuments also decorated works made for private purposes, such as this funerary altar. The inscription commemorates a certain Q. Fabius Diogenes and Fabia Primigenia. The heavy garland suspended from rams' heads derives from the kind of decoration found on the walls of public sanctuaries and altars. All three types of bird that surround the garland are familiar from Augustan monuments. At the center stands an eagle–bird of Jupiter, ruler of the gods; at the corners are swans–birds of Apollo, patron god of the emperor; and beneath the garland quarreling over a piece of fruit are two songbirds–charming denizens of bountiful nature.