SARCOPHAGUS WITH BATTLE SCENE (200 A.D.)
The battle scene is flanked by trophies and by two barbarian couples with the same clothes and in similar poses: the men are wearing tunics, breeches and cloaks, and are shod in caligae (sandals), secured by thongs and visible on the fig¬ure on the left where the corner of the slab is intact. The women, who have long curly hair, are both turning towards their companion.
The Romans storm into the centre of the scene bearing the standard of the eagle, driving back the enemy to the sides. The imperator (commander) is portrayed with panther skins on his steed and a close- fitting cuirass with shoulder plates and rows of historiated pendants. The expres¬sive power of the tormented faces of the dying even surpasses that of the column of Marcus Aurelius, while the virtuosic technique revealed by the recent cleaning is already close to that of the reliefs of the arch of Septimius Severus. The present sarcophagus marks the transition from the depiction of war as a series of single combats to its portrayal as a mass conflict. This masterpiece by a Roman workshop was commissioned for the Vatican cemetery; it was later used to adorn Old St Peter’s, where Giulio Romano made a drawing of it. It then went to the Villa Lante and, in 1828, was inherited by Camillo Borghese.