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Altar in honour of Flavia Ampliata

Roman art

End of the first century AD
Lift landing, 2nd floor
Luni marble
101 cm (height); 42 cm (width); 31 cm (thickness); 2.5-3.5 cm (letter height)
1914 n. 948

The altar is characterised by an extremely simple decoration, with only the urceus and patera - the jug and bowl used for funerary rituals - occupying the short sides, while the inscription occupies almost all the available space on the main face (CIL VI 18276), except for the cyma with volutes crowning the monument.

The dedication is made by Nico, defined only by his cognomen of Greek origin, to his wife, Flavia Ampliata, which in all likelihood expresses their shared family name, allowing the couple to be identified as two freedmen of the gens Flavia. However, the way in which the inscription portrays the missing woman is particularly interesting. The only noteworthy elements in her life appear to be those that define her as a wife: her role as a well-deserving bride, which implicitly alludes to the matronly qualities of modesty and fidelity, and the years of her marriage, the only time horizon on which attention is focused, prevail over her age at the time of death, which is not indicated. Given her humble origin, which is also evident in the monument that eternalizes her memory and in the modest burial area, barely sufficient to contain the altar and the cinerary, the deceased can therefore only be remembered for her role as a bride, the only circumstance in which she came close to the matronly ideal, considered the reference objective for every woman.

The precise location of the altar is not known, but it was certainly found in Rome, as it is first documented in the collection of Pope Julius III, in his villa on the Via Flaminia, from which it passed to the Medici collection on the Pincio hill in the second half of the 16th century.

Text by
Novella Lapini
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