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Roman Strigillated SarcophagiArt and Social History$
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Janet Huskinson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199203246

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199203246.001.0001

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Symbolic Figures

Symbolic Figures

Chapter:
(p.181) 9 Symbolic Figures
Source:
Roman Strigillated Sarcophagi
Author(s):

Janet Huskinson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199203246.003.0009

This chapter explores the large repertory of symbolic figures popular in the later third and early fourth centuries, which represented an idyllic world in which self-fulfilment, spirituality, beauty, and natural abundance prevailed. It was polyvalent and inclusive, but although these qualities attracted a wide range of Roman clients, they have created problems of interpretation for scholars. This discussion therefore starts from simple descriptions of what is actually represented, focusing on two samples. The first takes four common subjects and examines their regular locations on strigillated sarcophagi and interactions with other imagery. The second charts the incidence of symbolic figures and portraits (recorded in a sequence of tables) to show how Christians began to engage with this repertory to represent themselves and their beliefs. It is clear that strigillated sarcophagi work particularly well with this imagery, mixing figures with other subjects for enrichment or to create new values.

Keywords:   idyllic world, spirituality, beauty, nature, polyvalent, inclusive, Christian

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