A Roman funerary relief of Lucius Antistius Sarculo and his wife Antistia Plutia
Marble. Ca. 30—10 BCE.
95.25 × 67.77 cm.
Inv. No. GR 1858,8-19.2.
London, The British Museum Photo by Roger B. Ulrich

A Roman funerary relief of Lucius Antistius Sarculo and his wife Antistia Plutia.

Marble. Ca. 30—10 BCE.
95.25 × 67.77 cm.
Inv. No. GR 1858,8-19.2.

London, The British Museum

Origin:
From Rome. Acquired in 1858.
Description:
CIL VI 2170:

L(ucius) Antistius Cn(aei) f(ilius) Hor(atia) Sarculo / salius Albanus idem mag(ister) saliorum // Antistia / L(uci) l(iberta) Plutia // Rufus l(ibertus) Anthus l(ibertus) imagines de suo fecerunt patrono et patronae pro meritis / eorum
Lucius Antistius Sarculo, son of Gnaeus, member of the Horatia tribe, priest of the Alban Salian Order, as well as Master of the priests.
Antistia Plutia, freedwoman of Lucius.
The freedman Rufus (and) the freedman Anthus had these portraits made out of their own funds for their patron and patroness in recognition of their worthy deeds.

CIL VI 2171:

L(ucius) Antestius Cn(aei) f(ilius) Hor(atia) / Sarculo salius Albanus / Antestia L(uci) l(iberta) Plutia / Fufia P(ubli) f(ilia) Tertia soror / L(ucius) Antestius L(uci) l(ibertus) Quinctio / L(ucius) Antistius L(uci) l(ibertus) Rufus L(ucius) Antistius L(uci) |(mulieris) l(ibertus) Thamyrus / L(ucius) Antistius L(uci) |(mulieris) l(ibertus) Anthus L(ucius) Antistius L(uci) l(ibertus) Eros Cappadoxs(!)

Marble funerary relief (originally part of the funerary monument) of Lucius Antistius Sarculo, master of the Alban college of Salian priests, and his wife and freedwoman (former slave) Antistia Plutia. The relief was dedicated by two freedmen, Rufus and Anthus, in recognition of their patron’s good deeds.

Note the small bun of hair, or “nodus” on the forehead of Antistia Plutia. The hairstyle is similar to contemporary portraits of Livia, the wife of Augustus. The relief has been dated to the late first century BCE (ca. 30-10 BCE).

P. Zanker, “Grabreliefs römischer Freigelassener”, JdI 90 (1975), 267-315 [this relief pp. 296-298 fig 34].

The relief is of very high quality. Another inscription (CIL VI 2171), probably from the same monument but now lost, records that the freedmen Rufus and Anthus were buried together with their former master Antistius Sarculo and his wife Plautia and other liberti of the family in the same tomb monument.

Antistius was a member of the local Salian priesthood at Alba (which carried modest prestige), not the one in Rome1. In this inscription, IDEM connects two different predicates to the same person. It may be rendered by “likewise, also, all the same, on the other hand, at once”.

1 For a second inscription to the same persons (now lost), see CIL VI 2171.

A. H. Smith, A catalogue of sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman antiquities (London 1904), vol. III, 289—290:

Relief with portraits of Antistius Sarculo, and Antistia Plutia, erected by two of their freedmen. Within a moulded frame are two deeply sunk circular recesses, containing medallion portrait busts in high relief. On the left is the bust of an old man, with scanty hair, thin cheeks, firmly shut mouth, and marked individuality. On the right is the bust of an elderly woman, also of marked character. Her hair is brought back over the ears, and up from the back to the top of the head, in the fashion of the beginning of the third century A.D. The ears are perforated for metal earrings. Each recess is framed by a wreath of laurel, and fluted in conventional imitation of a shell. Between them is a vertical staff (?) with laurel leaves in relief, and tied about the middle with two cords. A rosette is in each spandrel round the medallions. Below is a tablet with moulded frame, and with wings at the ends, containing the inscription, which states that Antistius was master of the Alban College of the Salian priesthood.

The nose of Antistius had been restored, but the restoration has since been removed. This relief was attached to the wall of a house in Trastevere, about 1510. In 1545 it was in the collection of Bruto della Valle; thence apparently it passed to the collection of the Palazzo della Valle-Capranica, but if this was the case, it was not included in the sale of the della Valle collection to the Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici, in 1584. In 1801, the relief was in the collection of Lord Bessborough at Roehampton. Purchased, 1858.

J. E. Sandys, Latin Epigraphy: An Introduction to the Study of Latin Inscriptions (CUP, Cambridge 1969), 70—71:

A sepulchral slab bears in deep relief the portrait bust of a priest of the Alban Salii and his wife with the following inscriptions beneath them. Besides this record of the dedication of two busts, there was a fuller inscription including the names of four other members of the family.

J. Rüpke, Religion of the Romans (Polity, Cambridge 2007), 225—226:

Alban Salii; a college of the Salii, or priest of Mars, so called from Mons Albanus, the place of their residence. They lived as a community and formed a college governed by a Magister, whose job was to lead the singing of the hymn of the Salii.

Literature:
Smith 1904: A. H. Smith, A catalogue of sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman antiquities (London 1904), vol. III, 289-290.
Sandys 1969: J. E. Sandys, Latin Epigraphy: An Introduction to the Study of Latin Inscriptions (CUP, Cambridge 1969), 70-71.
Rüpke 2007: J. Rüpke, Religion of the Romans (Polity, Cambridge 2007), 225-226.
Zanker 1975: P. Zanker, “Grabreliefs römischer Freigelassener”, JdI 90 (1975), 267-315 [this relief pp. 296-298, fig 34].
Credits:
© 2010. Photo, text: Roger B. Ulrich.
Text of description, bibliography: http://www.britishmuseum.org/
Keywords: marble funerary male portrait female portrait relief man woman husband wife spouse spouses married couple female hairdo hairstyle coiffure nodus Lucius Antistius Sarculo Antistia Plutia Plautia Rufus Anthus master of the Alban college of Salian priests priest salii portrait in a shell niche laurel wreath stemma rosette staff crook Inv No GR 1858 8 19 2 1858 0819 2 CIL 6 VI 2170 Lucius Antistius Cnaei filius Horatia Sarculo salius Albanus idem magister saliorum Antistia Luci liberta Plutia Rufus libertus Anthus libertus imagines de suo fecerunt patrono et patronae pro meritis eorum
History of Ancient Rome