Marble sarcophagus with garlands and the myth of Theseus and Ariadne

Period: Hadrianic or early Antonine

Date: ca. A.D. 130–150

Culture: Roman

Medium: Marble, Luni and Pentelic

Dimensions: Overall: 31 x 85 3/4 x 28in. (78.7 x 217.8 x 2.3 cm)

Classification: Stone Sculpture

Credit Line: Purchase by subscription, 1890

Accession Number: 90.12a, b


On the lid, shown in delicate low relief, winged erotes drive chariots drawn by animals associated with the four seasons: bears with spring, lions with summer, bulls with fall, and boars with winter. On the front, four erotes bear seasonal garlands composed of flowers, wheat, grapes, pomegranates, and laurel. Between the swags are three episodes from the myth of the Greek hero Theseus. With the help of the Cretan princess Ariadne, Theseus slew the Minotaur, a part-bull and part-human monster who was caged in a labyrinth, where he consumed Athenian boys and girls sent as annual tribute. Depicted from left to right are: Ariadne giving a thread to Theseus at the entrance to the labyrinth, Theseus slaying the Minotaur, and the sleeping Ariadne abandoned on the island of Naxos, where she will be awakened by the god Dionysos to become his immortal bride.