Galleria Borghese logo
Search results for
X
No results :(

Hints for your search:

  • Search engine results update instantly as soon as you change your search key.
  • If you have entered more than one word, try to simplify the search by writing only one, later you can add other words to filter the results.
  • Omit words with less than 3 characters, as well as common words like "the", "of", "from", as they will not be included in the search.
  • You don't need to enter accents or capitalization.
  • The search for words, even if partially written, will also include the different variants existing in the database.
  • If your search yields no results, try typing just the first few characters of a word to see if it exists in the database.

Funerary Altar of Flavia Dafne

Roman art


This four-sided altar is richly decorated with ram heads in the four corners, holding up festoons of fruit and leaves on the front and laurel leaves on the sides. Below the ovine heads, there are two eagles with spread wings and standing on two small protruding brackets. Beneath the tabula inscritta on the front, there is a gorgon’s head with eagles on either side. Below the festoon, there are two fighting roosters. The short sides are decorated with reliefs of ritual symbols: a libation tray called a patera, and a small pitcher called an urceus. There is a small dolphin below the garland.

This funerary monument was dedicated by the imperial freedman Titus Flavius Crescente to his sister Flavia Dafne. The cognomen Flavius suggests that the two freedmen were linked to the Flavian dynasty, a period to which the altar seems to be datable.

The sculpture came from the Villa di Mondragone at Frascati, where it was documented in 1742. It was recorded in the Villa Borghese, Rome in 1832, in its current location in the Salone.


Object details

Inventory
XLIa
Location
Date
second half of the 1st century A.D.
Classification
Medium
Luni marble
Dimensions
height 102 cm; width 83 cm; depth 62 cm; letter height 35-43 cm
Provenance

Unearthed in the Frascati area (Mémoires pour l'histoire des sciences et des beaux-arts 1726, p. 1538); Borghese Collection, cited for the first time in the Villa at Mondragone in 1742 (Volpi 1742, p. 144); mentioned in the Villa in Rome by Nibby in 1832, in the Salone (pp. 43–45, no. 8); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 42, no. 17. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Inscriptions

On the front:

DIS MANIBUS

FLAVIAE AUG(USTI) L(IBERTAE)

DAPHNE

CRESCENS AUG(USTI) L(IBERTUS)

A RATIONIBUS

SORORI.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1994-95 Paola Mastropasqua

Commentary

In 1726, this altar was listed among the numerous finds unearthed in the Frascati area (Mémoires pour l'histoire des sciences et des beaux-arts 1726, p. 1538). Later, in 1742, Volpi confirmed its provenance in the Villa Borghese at Mondragone in Tuscolo, where it was used as a base for a statue of Antinoüs (Volpi 1742, p. 144). Lastly, in 1832, it was documented in the Villa Borghese in Rome by Nibby, who described it in its current location in the Salone, serving as a base for a statue of a ‘Togate Caligula, veiled in the act of making a sacrifice’, which was probably the portrait of Augustus as Pontifex Maximus that is currently set on the altar, inv. XLI (Nibby, 1832, pp. 43–45, no. 8).

The moulding on the base of four-sided altar is composed of a listel, a cyma reversa and an astragal. Its four sides are decorated with ram’s heads in the upper corners. The curved horns of the rams are holding up garlands of fruit and flowers suspended from fluttering taeniae. Below the ovine protomes, in the lower corners, there are frontal eagles with spread wings and their heads turned towards the altar. The eagles are standing on small corbels. Below the garland on the front, there are two roosters fighting over an ear of grain. Above the garland, there is a Gorgon head, flanked by two small eagles under a tabula with the funerary inscription, framed by a listel. On the left side, above a garland of laurel leaves, which Nibby wrote was meant to evoke the name of Daphne (the nymph loved by Apollo who transformed into that plant), there is a small libation pitcher called an urceus above two small birds. There is a dolphin below the garland. The right side repeats the imagery on the left, replacing the pitcher with a ritual tray called a patera.

The six-line epigraph dedicated to Flavia Dafne on the front reads:

DIS MANIBUS

FLAVIAE AUG(USTI) L(IBERTAE)

DAPHNE

CRESCENS AUG(USTI) L(IBERTUS)

A RATIONIBUS

SORORI.

 The altar is a commemorative monument that was commissioned by the imperial book-keeper and freedman Titus Flavius Crescente for his sister Flavia Dafne. Nibby dated the altar to the Flavian period, specifically Vespasian, and thought it might have come from Gabii. According to the scholar, Titus Flavius Crescente was a freedman of Vespasian and Titus also named in another altar, also in the Borghese Collection, that was unearthed during excavations in Gabii (inv. LXXXV). Nibby misinterpreted the inscription, reading Aug and L, as Aucte (1832, pp. 43–45, no. 8). In fact, the final letter of the third line, an E, could be an error (or a modern insertion), the abbreviated words thus correctly becoming Aug(usti) l(ibertae). Kłodziński proposed that Flavia Dafne had been freed by a Flavian emperor, as was likely the case for her brother, based in their shared nomen, Flavius (Kłodziński 2017, p. 298, no. 8, fig. 11). Other scholars instead argued that Claudius or Nero freed Crescente, who they identified as the procurator of Carthage cited by Tacitus in his Historiae as ‘Crescens Neronis libertus’ (Tac. Hist. 1:76: Weaver 2004, pp. 145–146, nos 806, 810).

The sculpture belongs to a category of funerary altars from the imperial age decorated with 

symbolic imagery from the Roman funerary repertoire. Specifically, in an exhaustive study published in 1905, Altmann identified a type decorated with ram’s heads holding up festoons, ‘Verziening mit Widderkopfen’, that was introduced during the Augustan age and became especially popular during the Claudian period, to which the scholar dated the Borghese altar (1905, p. 79, no. 40, fig. 66).

Although reworked, especially in the back, the sculpture’s iconography and style is comparable to an altar in the Museo Nazionale Romano in Palazzo Altemps (inv. 8578 ter: De Lachenal 1983, pp. 6–10).

The sculpture is datable to the Flavian period, in the second half of the first century CE.

Giulia Ciccarello




Bibliography
  • Mémoires pour l’histoire des sciences et des beaux-arts, Volume 102, 1726, p. 1538.
  • G. R. Volpi, Vetus Latium Profanum et Sacrum, VIII, Roma 1742, p. 144.
  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, pp. 43-45, n. 8.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 9, n. 9.
  • L. Canina, Descrizione dell’antico Tuscolo, Roma 1841, p. 171.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 912, n. 9.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano del Palazzo della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), I, p. 10, n. 9.
  • L. Friedländer, De eis qui Primis duobus saeculis a rationibus, ab epistulis, a libellis imperatorum Romanorum fuerunt, Königsberg 1861, p. 7.
  • Corpus Iscriptionum Latinarum, VI, p. 3889, n. 8414.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 14.
  • F. Grossi Gondi, Le Ville tusculane nell’epoca classica e dopo il Rinascimento, la Villa dei Quintili e la Villa di Mondragone, Roma 1901, p. 291.
  • W. Altmann, Die Romischen Grabaltare Der Kaiserzeit, Berlin 1905, p. 79, n. 40, fig. 66.
  • L. H. Friedländer, Roman Life and Manners Under the Early Empire, London 1913, p. IV.
  • R. Calza, Catalogo del Gabinetto fotografico Nazionale, Galleria Borghese, Collezione degli oggetti antichi, Roma 1957, p. 19, n. 227.
  • W. Seitz, Studien zur Prosopographie und zur Sozial- und Rechtsgeschichte der grossen kaiserlichen Zentralämter bis hin zu Hadrian, München 1970, p. 78.
  • G. M. Davies, Fashion in the grave: a study of the motifs used to decorate the grave altars, ash chests and sarcophagi made in Rome in the early Empire (to the mid second century A.D., II, London 1978, pp. 152-153, n. 44.
  • L. De Lachenal, Ara funeraria con iscrizione moderna (inv. 8578 ter), in Museo Nazionale Romano. Le Sculture, I, 5, Roma 1983, pp. 6-10.
  • D. Boschung, Antike Grabaltäre aus den Nekropolen Roms, in “Acta Bermensia”, 10, Bern 1987, p. 67, n. I, 135; p. 97, n. 656, tav. 18.
  • E. Ijsewijn, Le iscrizioni inedite, in La collezione epigrafica dei Musei Capitolini. Inediti, revisioni, contributi al riordino, Roma 1987, pp. 79-84, p. 81.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, p. 117, n. 81.
  • P. R. C. Weaver, Repertorium Familiae Caesarum et Libertorum Augustorum, Colonia 2004, pp. 145-146, nn. 806, 810.
  • K. Kłodziński, Officium a rationibus, 2017, p. 298, n. 8, fig. 11.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008341, P. Moreno 1975; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020.