By Marjorie Munsterberg

Writing About Art

APPENDIX IV:  Doing the research

Gather the basic information about the object or topic you are writing about.  In the case of this sarcophagus, the wall label at the museum provided a reliable first step.  REMEMBER:  Always begin any reading notes with all the facts about the source that you will need for a citation.

Metropolitan Museum of Art object label:


Marble sarcophagus with the myth of Endymion and Selene

Roman, Severan period, early 3rd century A.D.


Rogers Fund, 1947 (47.100.4)

The last line indicates that the museum acquired the work in 1947, using money from the Rogers Fund.  The number in parentheses is the museum number, a unique number assigned to each object in the collection.  In this case, it means that the sarcophagus was the fourth part of the 100th acquisition in [19]47.  The museum number is essential for identification, and the year of acquisition might be important in looking for relevant art historical literature.  The rest of the label tells us that it was made by the Romans during the Severan period, in the early 3rd century A.D. ("Anno Domini," or Year of Our Lord, a term some historians replace with C.E. or "Common Era").  The work is a sarcophagus made of marble, and shows the myth of Selene and Endymion on it.  This is a great start, but to make sense of it, you need to know when the Severan period was and what it might mean in relation to the work, what a sarcophagus is, and what the myth of Endymion and Selene is about.  You could do a Google search for those terms, but it's better to go back to the Met's website, which you already know has a lot of material. Because all of the information on has been checked by scholars, it can be used as a source for the research paper. 

A search of the website using the museum number - 47.100.4 - locates a paragraph about the specific work, which turns out to be called the Endymion sarcophagus, in the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.  The entry reads:  

"Endymion sarcophagus [Roman] (47.100.4)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (April 2007), quotation:

An inscription at the center of the lid informs us that this trough-shaped sarcophagus was dedicated to a woman named Arria, who lived fifty years and ten months, by her daughter Anina Hilaria. Arria's matronly looking portrait is carved just to the right of the inscription. The story of Endymion is shown in daringly undercut high relief on the front of the sarcophagus. In the center, the moon goddess Selene alights from her chariot to visit her beloved, the shepherd Endymion, who reclines at the right. Endymion, most beautiful of men, has been granted eternal youth and eternal sleep; a female figure stands over him pouring out the magic potion of immortality and holding a bunch of sleep-inducing poppies. The scene is flanked on the left end of the sarcophagus by a rising Helios, the sun god, and on the right by a descending Selene, each in a chariot. On the back, a bucolic scene with herdsmen among grazing bulls and unyoked horses is cut in low relief. At once flamboyant and precise, the workmanship of the sarcophagus represents the peak of Antonine-Severan technical mastery. Allusions to the changeless cycle of nature form the background for a myth of fulfillment through unending sleep.

This passage gives a lot of information, but it also leaves important things unexplained.  Ten arched panels line the edge of the lid, one of which shows the portrait of the dead woman.  What do the others show?  Is it common to have these additional elements on the lid?  How is it known that the two most important figures are Selene and Endymion and who are all the others? Where does the sarcophagus come from?  Where was it made?  Is anything known about who might have made it?  Who was the woman?  Was it common to make such an elaborate sarcophagus for a woman? Commissioned by a daughter?  You should keep a list of your questions to guide your reading and research. Add new ones as they occur to you.

A number of links appear below the paragraph about the sarcophagus.  The first is "Related Timeline(s) - Italian Peninsula, 1-500 AD."  None of the "Key Events" listed there seem to be relevant, but clicking on "Roman empire" immediately beneath the strip of pictures provides a history organized by emperor.  "The Severans," the name of the period from which this sarcophagus comes, refers to the dynasty established by Septimius Severus, who ruled between 193 and 211, followed by his son Caracalla (r. or reigned 211-7).  It ended with the assassination of Alexander Severus in 235.

The next link is to "Related Thematic Essay(s) - Roman Sarcophagi," an essay signed by Heather T. Awan. This might answer some of the questions raised above.  The first paragraph is: 

Awan, Heather T.  "Roman Sarcophagi."  In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-. (April 2007), quotation:

A sarcophagus (meaning "flesh-eater" in Greek) is a coffin for inhumation burials, widely used throughout the Roman empire starting in the second century A.D. The most luxurious were of marble, but they were also made of other stones, lead (65.148), and wood. Prior to the second century, burial in sarcophagi was not a common Roman practice; during the Republican and early Imperial periods, the Romans practiced cremation, and placed remaining bones and ashes in urns or ossuaries. Sarcophagi had been used for centuries by the Etruscans and the Greeks; when the Romans eventually adopted inhumation as their primary funerary practice, both of these cultures had an impact on the development of Roman sarcophagi. The trend spread all over the empire, creating a large demand for sarcophagi during the second and third centuries. Three major regional types dominated the trade: Metropolitan Roman, Attic, and Asiatic.

First, this defines what a sarcophagus is, and places its use in terms of Roman practice. But what is an "inhumation burial"? (Google search for "inhumation burial definition": "Romans could bury or burn their dead, practices known as inhumation (burial) and cremation (burning)." and "Burial, also called interment and inhumation, is the act of placing a person or object into the ground." Question: so how is a burial different from inhumation? Is this a specialized term that has a different meaning from the normal one? CHECK.) Marble was a luxurious material, Roman sarcophagi were influenced by the Etruscans and the Greeks (Question: how?), and there must have been lots of sarcophagi made at the same time as this one if there was a "large demand."  There are three types - which is this?

The second paragraph is:

Awan, Heather T.  "Roman Sarcophagi."  In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-. (April 2007), quotation:

Rome was the primary production center in the western part of the empire, beginning around 110–120 A.D. The most common shape for Roman sarcophagi is a low rectangular box (48.76.1) and a flat lid. The kline lid, with full-length sculptural portraits of the deceased reclining as if at a banquet (1993.11.1), was inspired by earlier Etruscan funerary monuments. This type of lid gained popularity in the later second century, and was produced in all three production centers for very lavish sarcophagi. The lenos, a tub-shaped sarcophagus resembling a trough for pressing grapes, was another late second-century development, and often features two projecting lion's head spouts on the front (47.100.4). Most western Roman sarcophagi were placed inside mausolea against a wall or in a niche, and were therefore only decorated on the front and two short sides. A large number are carved with garlands of fruit and leaves, evoking the actual garlands frequently used to decorate tombs and altars. Narrative scenes from Greek mythology were also popular, reflecting the upper-class Roman taste for Greek culture and literature (55.11.5; 47.100.4a,b). Other common decorative themes include battle and hunting scenes, weddings and other biographical episodes from the life of the deceased, portrait busts (47.100.4), and abstract designs such as strigils (2005.258). Simpler, less expensive sarcophagi were commissioned by freedmen and other nonelite Romans, and sometimes featured the profession of the deceased (48.76.1).

The Endymion sarcophagus is clearly a western Roman lenos type because it is given as an example "(47.100.4)" and it has two projecting lion heads. What is the association between a sarcophagus and a tub used for pressing grapes? Perhaps the carving on the back is in low relief because it was placed against a wall. But then the scene couldn't be seen at all, so carving it would make no sense.  Are there others like this? If narrative scenes from Greek mythology were favored by upper class Romans (again the Endymion sarcophagus is used as an example), does this mean that the dead woman and/or her daughter were upper class?  This sarcophagus also is used as an example of one that has a portrait bust.  What are some others?  Do the faces look the same or were they modified to suggest specific individuals?  Again, there's a great deal of information here, but at least as many questions as answers.

The second to last paragraph also is relevant to the Endymion sarcophagus: 

Awan, Heather T.  "Roman Sarcophagi."  In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-. (April 2007), quotation:

Mythological iconography on sarcophagi has been a subject of considerable interest; the myths shown on sarcophagi are often the same as those chosen to decorate homes and public spaces, but they can acquire different meanings when viewed in a funerary context. Some scholars think the images are highly symbolic of Roman religious beliefs and conceptions about death and the afterlife, while others argue that the images reflect a love of classical culture and served to elevate the status of the deceased, or that they were simply conventional motifs without deeper significance. For instance, the myths of Endymion (47.100.4) and Eros and Psyche (70.1) are tales of mortals who are loved by divinities and granted immortality; in funerary art, these scenes are thought to express the hope for a happy afterlife in the heavens. Scenes featuring heroes such as Meleager or Achilles can be expressions of the bravery and virtue of the deceased. Dionysiac scenes evoke feelings of celebration, and release from the cares of this world; the cult of Dionysos also seemed to offer hope for a pleasureable afterlife (55.11.5). Gorgon faces are apotropaic images for protection against evil forces. The Seasons can represent nature's cycles of death and rebirth, or the successive stages of human life. . . . It is likely that these images had multiple levels of interpretive possibilities, which varied among individual viewers.

This suggests different meanings that the myth of Endymion might have had, from expressing a belief in the afterlife to being a status symbol to meaning nothing (pretty pictures?).  Are there any visual clues that support one interpretation or the other?  (LOOK AT IT MORE CAREFULLY.) Could all of them be true?  What do other scholars think?

The essay ends with suggested readings:  

Koch, Guntram, and Hellmut Sichtermann. Römische Sarkophage. Munich: Beck, 1982.

Koortbojian, Michael. Myth, Meaning, and Memory on Roman Sarcophagi. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

McCann, Anna Marguerite. Roman Sarcophagi in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1978.

Toynbee, J. M. C. Death and Burial in the Roman World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Walker, Susan. Memorials to the Roman Dead. London: British Museum Publications, 1985.

The first is not useful unless you read German, but the others sound helpful.

Awan's essay includes several links to the object numbered 55.11.5.  This work turns out to be another Roman marble sarcophagus, called "The Triumph of Dionysus and the Seasons Sarcophagus" or the "Badminton Sarcophagus" and dated c. 260-70.  It too has its own page on the Met's website.  Like the Endymion sarcophagus, this one shows a scene from Greek mythology, as well as figures representing the Seasons and Earth.  It also is carved in very high relief, with some of the figures separated from the background entirely.  According to this entry, unsigned, the design was copied from a "sculptor's pattern book" because another exists with the same composition. (ARE THERE OTHER ENDYMION SARCOPHAGI?)   Originally some of the details would have been painted.  (IS THIS TRUE OF THE ENDYMION SARCOPHAGUS?)  The sarcophagus relates in a couple of ways to the subject of the paper, and they can be looked at together because it's also in the Met.  This might make an interesting comparison.  (SEE IF OTHER SCHOLARS COMPARE THEM.) 


4. Check your textbook!

Another thing you should do right away is check the textbook your professor assigned for the course. In this case, it was Nancy H. and Andrew Ramage, Roman Art. Romulus to Constantine. 4th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Pearson/Prentice-Hall, 2005).  Although the book doesn't mention the Endymion sarcophagus, it does discuss the Badminton Sarcophagus, described as "a tub-shaped marble coffin that reminds us of a wine vat."  The figures "show a dependence on classical models . . . [without] the same interest in individual details of anatomy and drapery as their predecessors [had]."  (p. 292) "The whole gives a rich impression, with a high polish, of people, animals, and vegetation." (p. 293) This passage confirms the idea that the two sarcophagi would make an interesting comparison for the paper. Perhaps they can be used to define a period style (stylistic analysis), or the figures from Greek mythology that they share are identified in the same way (iconographic analysis). 


5. Organizing reading notes and developing questions for further research.

It is time to begin organizing your reading notes. You have to figure out what you know and which questions need additional research, and you have to make a list of sources to check. If the paper is supposed to have a thesis (check the assignment), it should be developed now because it will determine many of the subsequent research steps. Keep careful track of the sources of your information, so you can check what you are writing against your notes and so you can cite your sources properly. Remember: not crediting information properly is plagiarism. 



--What: "Endymion sarcophagus" - marble coffin meant to hold corpse for burial; placed above ground, so often decorated; this one shows figures from the Greek myth of Endymion and Selene (MMA)

--When:  made during the Severan period of the Roman Empire, early 3rd c CE (MMA)

--Where:  western Roman empire, "lenos" type, tub-shaped, first appeared late 2nd c CE, lion heads on front like the spouts on the troughs used for pressing grapes (Awan)

--How:  "daringly undercut high relief," "peak of Antonine-Severan mastery" (MMA),

marble most luxurious material used for Roman sarcophagi (Awan)

--Who:  made for Arria, aged 50 years, 10 months (MMA, from inscription), see her portrait to right; commissioned by Anina Hilaria, daughter (MMA, from inscription), but main scene illustrates the myth of Endymion, love, youth, eternal sleep, and moon goddess Selene (MMA); Greek myths common decoration on sarcophagi bought by upper-class Romans (Awan)

--Why:  Romans began to use sarcophagi for burial instead of cremation in 2nd c. CE; decorations reflect class - upper-class liked Greek culture, non-elite classes simpler subjects, sometimes showed profession; and choice of Endymion myth has possible relation to death, afterlife (Awan) as do visual references to cycles of nature (MMA, Awan)

--Related works:  Badminton sarcophagus (Awan, Ramage) 



--Identify all the figures and scenes! How do you know which is which? (Iconography)


--Is there anything else known about the dead woman or her daughter?  Does her portrait look like a recognizable person?  Do sarcophagi like this often include inscriptions? 

--Are there other examples of the Endymion sarcophagus?  How are they similar? (Style)

--Find other marble sarcophagi from same time - designs, carving the same? (Style)

--Find other examples of the "lenos" type - why the relationship to trough for pressing grapes? 


6. Oxford Art Online: 

The Met's website provided a lot of information, but didn't answer all of the questions raised by the sarcophagus by any means.  One of the best places to begin research on any art historical topic is the subscriber-only database (which you will have to use through your library), Oxford Art OnlineMost of the articles were written by leading scholars (look for the name at the end of each article), and they include bibliographies.

Searching for "Endymion sarcophagus" leads to an article by Marianne Bergmann about Roman sculpture made during the 3rd century AD, which uses the work in the MMA as an illustration.  Unfortunately it is very general and doesn't add any new information.

Searching for "Sarcophagus" leads to a helpful article.  Clicking on the icon for Cite at the top right provides the information that will be needed for the bibliography, in Chicago style:

Robert S. Bianchi, et al. "Sarcophagus." In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online, (accessed January 18, 2009). 

Reading Notes:

"I. Introduction." Decorated sarcophagi can be important works of art because burial is an important cultural activity, and designs and inscriptions will be important indications of culture.  Usually placed within larger structure, like pyramid, mausoleum, tomb.


"II. Ancient world. 5.  Roman Empire."  [Article signed by Susan Walker, who should appear as the author instead of Robert S. Bianchi, et al., for anything that refers to this particular section of the larger essay about sarcophagi.]  Roman sarcophagi fashionable 2nd c AD.  Like Etruscan, displayed in alcoves, had carved front sides.  Long, low box and flat or ridged lid and decorative panel front.  Also like Etruscans in using scenes from Greek myths, plays.  3rd c AD, most portraits of dead put in medallions, frames, and sometimes individuals shown in mythological scenes.  Endymion popular subject.

The article ends with a link: See also Rome, ancient, §IV, 1(iv)(b).  Going to the beginning of "IV," which is an article about ancient Roman sculpture, produces some interesting results.

Favro, Diane et al. "Rome, ancient." In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online, (accessed January 18, 2009).

Reading Notes:

"Rome, ancient. IV. Sculpture.  (ii) Subject-matter."  [signed by Richard Brilliant, who should be cited as the author] 100s of sarcophagi show how wealthy Romans wanted to be remembered.  Many subjects depicted, including Greek myths, cycle of seasons for continuity.  Often have a portrait of dead, sometimes related to subject of scenes on sides, lid.  Might be shipped from quarry roughed out, finished in metropolitan areas. "


(iii) Materials and techniques. [signed by A. Claridge] (a) Materials. White marble." Became the most typical medium for Roman sculpture.  Came from Greece, Aegean islands, Turkey, imported to west by Roman emperors.  Colors and size of crystals indicate place of origin.  Sometimes made of more than one piece. "(b) Tools and painting." All Roman carving began with pointed tools, from large to smaller as work became finer.  Lots of single vertical blows, long parallel strokes.  Drills used for large openings, channels.  Often clothes, hair, facial features, were painted.  2nd, 3rd c, usual to incise irises, pupils, probably plus painting.


These sources added some details, especially about the process of making, and a sense of context.  Sarcophagi are important works of art because burials matter, some elements of the form and the use of Greek myths come from the Etruscans, portraits of the dead appeared in the 3rd c, sometimes within the scenes, and Endymion was a popular subject. [LOOK FOR OTHER EXAMPLES.] White marble became most typical medium for Roman sculpture, details painted.



A number of subscriber-only databases of articles from print journals, such as Academic Search Premier, Art Full Text, JSTOR, and Project MUSE, might contain useful items. Since JSTOR includes both the periodicals published by the Metropolitan Museum and the College Art Association, it is the best place to start research on this sarcophagus. JSTOR consists of scans from hard-print publications, and all the material in it has been peer-reviewed.  It does not include things published within the last few years however.  The dates of the "moving wall" for each periodical can be found by clicking "Browse" and then select "By Title" from the drop-down menu.  Go to the name of the journal you want and look at "JSTOR Coverage."

The first article that turned up in a search for "Endymion sarcophagus" is very relevant.  Click on "Article Information" and look at "Bibliographic Info" to get the correct information about it.

An Endymion Sarcophagus Rediscovered

Author(s): Friedrich Matz

Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, Vol. 15, No. 5 (Jan., 1957), pp. 123-128

Published by: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Stable URL: 

This has to be formatted into the citation style you are using. The publisher is not given for periodicals in Chicago style. Sometimes the "Stable URL" is included:  However, using that web address will get you only the first page of the article.  To read the whole thing, you need to use JSTOR, and enter "Endymion sarcophagus," the name of the author, or title of the article.  No part of the URL will work.  This is an argument for not including it in a citation.  Chicago Humanities style for a bibliography would be: 

Matz, Friedrich. "An Endymion Sarcophagus Rediscovered."  The Metropolitan Museum of Art  Bulletin n.s. 15, no. 5 (Jan 1957):  123-8. 

Reading notes:

p. 123:  main scene between two lion heads.  Right, sleeping hunter Endymion.  Winged figure above him is Night, holding poppy plant and horn, used to pour drug over Endymion.  Selene in center.  Looks at Endymion as gets out of chariot.  Veil over head represents veil of night.  Right hand holds wreath with ties [what is this?]. Six small Erotes, four hold flaming torches, two guard chariot.  Horses pull to continue nightly trip through sky.  Girl holding reins also divinity (wings).  [see next paragraph] Reclining figure of Earth under horses, holding snake in hand.  Seated herdsman left, dog and herd, adds calm, pastoral.  Under lion head on left - Eros and Psyche - right - two Erotes.  Left end - rising chariot of Sun god, over reclining figure of Ocean.  Eros with torch is Morning Star.  Right end - setting Moon goddess in chariot, over reclining Earth.  Eros with burning torch falling down is setting Evening Star.  Back - low relief - two herdsmen, cattle, horses, continue pastoral theme.  Two girls on right, one points out scene on front.  Both wear reeds in hair, one holds jar pouring water, so they are nymphs.  Panels of lid connected to main subject.  Mountain gods at two ends.  Then Autumn on left, Spring on right.  Cycle of nature adds idea of life of soul after death.

127:  Next panel on left, Eros and Psyche, paired with right, Aphrodite. Aphrodite on next panel right, partner war god Ares on left.  Other references to story Endymion and Selene.  United couple Selene and Endymion to left of inscription, and same place on right is portrait of dead.  Inscription central panel - dead was woman named Arria, caste of freedmen, aged nearly 51.  Daughter Aninia Hilara buried her.  Hair style on portrait like that made fashionable by Julia Domna, wife Emperor Septimius Severus (193-211).  Dates sarcophagus to between about 195 and 210. From same workshop as other surviving sarcophagi. Myth good for graves, poetic image of life after death.  Almost 70 sarcophagi with Endymion survive from 2nd, 3rd c.  Model probably famous painting from 3rd, 2nd c BC.  MMA, another sarcophagus, same subject, from 30/40 years earlier.  Almost same pictorial elements, but later one has looser, freer design and relation to shape of sarcophagus.  Structure of later one symbolic - like troughs for grape pressing, where lion masks had spouts for new wine, hint of life of spirit after death.

128:  sarcophagus found in Ostia, 1825.  Lots of bibliography, not useful, too specific, German.

This source names almost all of the figures, but now you need to know who they are.  Googling them, you find that Aphrodite is the Greek name for the goddess of love the Romans called Venus, the Greek god of war, Ares, is the Roman Mars, and Roman freedmen were people who had been slaves but became free in some ways.  The mention of another sarcophagus that shows Endymion in the Met is very useful [FIND OTHER ENDYMION SARCOPHAGUS IN THE MMA], and it sounds as if it would make a great stylistic comparison.  The idea that they share a common pictorial source is interesting. [FIND OUT IF OTHER SCHOLARS AGREE]  The explanation about the relationship between the sarcophagus and the wine trough doesn't quite make sense - how does wine hint at the life of the spirit after death? [CHECK RELATIONSHIP WINE, DEATH]

When you have finished with an article, click on "Back to Search Results" at the upper right of the screen.  The next article that seems relevant, based on the title, is:

A Roman Sarcophagus

Author(s): G. M. A. Richter

Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Mar., 1925), pp. 77-80

Published by: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Stable URL:

Remember to format the citation correctly at the top of your notes.

Richter, G.M.A.  "A Roman Sarcophagus."  The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 20, No. 3 (March 1925):  77-80.

Reading Notes:

p. 77:  So many Roman sarcophagi survive that they are excellent way to study sculpture.

78:  New acquisition of MMA (dimensions suggest tall, thin dead person) shows Endymion asleep on ground. Somnus God of Sleep behind him.  Goddess Selene getting out of chariot, marked by crescent on head, escorted by little Erotes.  Aura, air deity, guards horses.  Standing Eros asleep at each end of composition on front.  Griffin on each end.  One at head very rough and back not carved at all, so probably meant to be pushed against wall.  Early example of one where scene moves from left to right.  Landscape style.

80:  shepherd boy asleep in cave emphasizes that mythological scene is set in actual landscape.  Figures Aura, Selene, and Endymion based on Greek models, sleeping Erotes Roman, basis of sleeping putti seen in Renaissance.

Since the major elements of the scene on the front of the two sarcophagi are nearly the same, including the shepherd who seems to be irrelevant to the story of Endymion and Selene, the comparison is very useful.  Richter identifies the figure behind Endymion as Sleep, not Night, and the figure who guards the horses as Aura. [CHECK IF THE FIGURES LOOK THE SAME - COULD THIS BE TRUE OF THE LATER SARCOPHAGUS TOO?]  This sarcophagus is the same type as the one that is the subject of the paper, and it makes an interesting comparison. In addition, some of the information (for example, that the ledge above the shepherd represents a cave) might relate to both of them.

Another article that looks useful is

A Roman Sarcophagus and Its Patron

Author(s): Jean Sorabella

Source: Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 36, (2001), pp. 67-81

Published by: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Stable URL:

Sorabella, Jean. "A Roman Sarcophagus and Its Patron."  Metropolitan Museum Journal 36 (2001):  67-81.

Reading notes:

p. 67:  if choice of subjects on sarcophagi depended on the dead, then interpretations might be different.  Should study inscriptions, see if people can be identified, a relation to myth can be established. Endymion sarcophagus "one of very few" known dedicated by daughter.  "mari" means mother, "inconparabile" common flattering adjective, "Cl." stands for "Claudia" so full name was "Claudia Arria."

69:  sarcophagus would have cost most of daughter's money, but otherwise not found in documents, unless she is freedwoman "Aninia," named in funerary plaque set up by husband.

70:  found in chamber tomb, Ostia, 1825.  "Remarkable for the refinement of the sculptural decoration."  Endymion story found on about 120 sarcophagi from Roman workshops.  Earliest examples, 130 AD, simple compositions, Selene often walking right to left.  Later changed to left to right, possibly related to direction Greek and Latin texts read [why? Change in language?].  Early 3rd c, single scene of Selene arriving, lover asleep, and lots of other figures, most common.  Relevance of subject obvious - elimination of barriers mortality/divinity, and sleep/love, alternative to death.  Others explain it differently.

71:  sometimes subject related to particular death - Endymion slept "well and long." Subject used for sarcophagi of men, children, and married couples, as well as this woman.  Long survival of story on sarcophagi suggests some meaning, and model for Jonah in Early Christian art.  Even without important text, story could have been part of tradition, familiar to all.

74:  typical of Severan sculpture, extensive undercutting and use of drill make depth in relief, no space empty, filled with motion.  Selene most significant action.  Tree, etc indicate pastoral landscape, and flock of cupids suggest love, weddings. Poses of Selene and Endymion suggest erotic, sensual. Arched panels on lid also show later moment in Selene story - unique.

75:  God Mars [Ares] may be Paris, Venus [Aphrodite] holding apple of victory.  Other scenes about natural phenomena, attributes of seasons or Dionysus, god of wine.  Abundance of earth.  Sun god and Moon put myth in time cycle.

76:  daughter possibly chose sarcophagi from others with different subjects.

77:  probably bought nearly finished.  Possibly even portrait there already, and just finished for commission, so more expensive.  In others, dead shown in face of Selene, Endymion - not here.


8.  Find the books:

So far, the reading has produced a list of possibly relevant books that must be located as soon as possible. Combining the bibliographies, the books are:

Koortbojian, Michael. Myth, Meaning, and Memory on Roman Sarcophagi. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

McCann, Anna Marguerite. Roman Sarcophagi in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1978.

Toynbee, J. M. C. Death and Burial in the Roman World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Walker, Susan. Memorials to the Roman Dead. London: British Museum Publications, 1985.

Begin by looking for them on Google Books, in case they are available in Limited or Full View.  The first one turns out to be there, although without illustrations:

Koortbojian, Michael. Myth, Meaning, and Memory on Roman Sarcophagi. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.  HTML of book (without illustrations)

Reading notes:

Preface:  reference to H. Sichtermann, study of the Endymion sarcophagi, revised series of the Corpus der antiken Sarkophagreliefs  TRY TO FIND IN LIBRARY FOR PICTURES

Endymion's Tale:

Few textual sources from classical world for Endymion myth.  One used for sarcophagi is eastern tradition, Sappho, Asia Minor.  Relation of death and sleep important.  Note 14:  110 examples of Endymion sarcs.  Visual representations emphasize Selene's coming at night and sleeping shepherd.  Selene's blowing veil sign of divinity.  Shown getting out of chariot, pulled by Aura, Breeze [check MMA - is she there??].  Erotes [Google for definition:  plural of Eros, winged babies, children or figures related to love] light way with torches.  Gods being there show sleep is magical. Many sarcophagi show Endymion in lap of Hypnos, god of sleep [check MMA].  Tree indicates sacred grove where meeting happened in Sappho's account.  Sequence of chariot, Selene, Endymion, only appeared later, c. 180 CE.  Endymion sarcophagi different from other myths on sarcophagi because most show only one scene, not many scenes.

MMA's sarcophagus one of most elaborate examples of allegorical treatment of Endymion myth.  Figures everywhere, even front edge lid.  Cupid and Psyche at left represent similar story, mortal/divine love, meeting in darkness.

Signs of cycles of day and year show endlessness of Endymion's sleep.  Pastoral scene not connected to story, but shows "bucolic idyll," "Theocritan pastoral," so tranquility after death.  Used without myth too, so has independent association with death.


McCann, Anna Marguerite. Roman Sarcophagi in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Not available on Google Books.  TRY TO FIND IN LIBRARY.


Toynbee, J. M. C. Death and Burial in the Roman World. 

Available as Limited Preview, Google Books.  Search book (enter search terms in "Search in this book" at the upper right) "Endymion sarcophagus," no results. Search "Endymion" and "sarcophagus."  Second has too many references to be helpful. Look at Table of Contents to see what might be relevant.  Many sections not available in preview.  TRY TO FIND IN LIBRARY.


Walker, Susan. Memorials to the Roman Dead.

Not available on Google Books.  TRY TO FIND IN LIBRARY.


9.  Check your library catalogue and WorldCat to locate the books you need.

You will need to go to a library to use the sources that are not available online.  Some professors make this mandatory. Check your assignment.  Start by looking them up in the catalogue of the best library you have access to.  If you can't find the titles in any local library, you will have to request them through Interlibrary Loan.  The easiest way to do this is to look them up in a subscriber-only database called WorldCat (so you will have to use it through a library), which is a union catalogue of the holdings of many libraries.  In theory, it lists every book held by American libraries, and some foreign ones as well. WorldCat is not always complete, however, so you should not give up if it doesn't have something.  Ask a librarian for help!

The basic search page on WorldCat gives you many different fields to fill in.  In the case of these books, author and title should be enough.  Remember to indicate what category of information you have entered in the box to the right, which has a default setting of "Keyword".  Check your spelling!  My first attempt to find the book by McCann turned up no results because I had typed "Rooman" instead of "Roman". 

WorldCat lists 176 libraries that own McCann's book, 988 for Toynbee's, and 188 for Walker's, so these will not be hard to find.  The names of the libraries are given, organized by location, if you click on "Libraries worldwide that own item."  Clicking on the name of the institution should take you to the library catalogue of that place.  If you want to request that it be sent to your library through ILL, or Interlibrary Loan, you should click "Get It" at the top of the list of the libraries and follow the directions.  The book you want may not be available, or it may take several weeks to arrive, so make sure you place Interlibrary Loan requests well before the paper is due.


10.  Go to the library.

One advantage to going to the library after you've already done some research is that you have a better idea of what you are looking for, and so you can use your time more effectively.  Once you have the call numbers of the items you want, and have found the place in the library where they are located, you should look at the other books shelved in the same place.  They are grouped by subject, so some might be useful.  The Internet is fast and efficient, but it provides no equivalent to the ease with which you can flip through pages. This is especially true for looking at lots of reproductions quickly.  For this reason, you should try to use a library where you can get the books yourself instead of one with closed stacks, where someone else gets them for you. 

The library I went to had the books by Koortbojian, McCann, and Walker on the shelf.  The one by Toynbee could not be located (not on the shelf, not recorded as checked out in the system, not with books in the process of being reshelved), but the others had so much information, that it didn't seem necessary to find the last.

McCann, Anna Marguerite. Roman Sarcophagi in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1978.

Reading notes:


p. 19:  striking that Roman sarcophagi do not appear until 2nd c AD

20:  sarcophagi and inhumation appear so suddenly, so widespread in 2nd c - why?  Suggested influence of Hadrian (r. 117-37), his imperial taste, classical tradition.  Also sculptural workshops of Rome attracted people from Asia Minor, who came with the idea.  But more than changed taste.  Mid-2nd c, deepening belief in life beyond grave - increasing interest in care for dead and more elaborate monuments, memorials.  No change in pagan state religion, but growing mystery cults, Christianity, so ideas of immortal soul and resurrected body gave motivation.

Practical too - large amounts of marble from Hellenistic eastern quarries available time of Hadrian, and sarcophagus provided more space for elaborate decoration.  Stone sarcophagi spread rapidly, symbol of wealth - greatest number, mid-2nd - mid-3rd c.  5000+ survive today.  Largest amount of sculpture left from later Roman empire, so material for study of style, subject.  Two types, shape and place of decoration: 1. Roman, western, carving on 3 sides only because back against wall of tomb or niche.  Lids are low-pitched roofs or

21:  flat, edged with upright carved panel running length of front and decorated at ends with masks.  First long, low shape popular, but 3rd c, round-ended, trough-like form, called lenos (gives Endymion and Badminton sarcophagi in MMA as examples).  2.  Asia Minor, eastern, largest group is Attic, from Greek mainland.  Carved on all 4 sides, continuous frieze decoration, put in open or on "streets of dead" in cities, so all sides visible.  Lids high gabled roofs or counches with reclining figures - influence Italic-Etruscan.  Sunjects vary - earlier western, friezes decorated garlands, imitation actual swags on tombs, symbolism fruitfulness of afterlife.  Second most popular, narrative scenes after Greek myths, or scenes from life of deceased.  Myths interpreted allegorically as hopes for afterlife, so do good deeds in this one.  3rd c, away from narrative to allegorical (see Badminton sarcophagus).

22:  Severan age, most critical shift to late Antique style takes place - "release of the human figure from background by deep undercutting" - drill used extensively, contrast highly polished layer of forms, creates ply light. Shadow.  Originally had gilt on details - instead of polychromy (see Badminton). Ancient Romans saw gold as symbol divine, Christians as symbol light.  So looked different - 3-d created by drilling, gilt versus white of marble, figures no longer restricted to classical canons of proportion, elongated bodies without bodily structure, differences in scale, emphasis on eyes (large pupils), compositions centralized with figures frozen in frontal positions.  Narratives go from left to right in 2nd c, change to hieratic scale designs, purely abstract patterns popular too, and medallion portrait type flanked by figures.

34:  Endymion sarcophagus (24.97.13), mid-Antoinine, 150-60 AD, found Via Ardeatina, outskirts Rome, 19.5 in. H, 78.5 in. L, 20 in. D.  See source Cumont, identifies moon as actual home of blassed.  Putti at corners cross legs, poses from Praxiteles [4th c BC Greek sculptor], represent death, extinguishes light of life.

35:  Endymion with male figure Sleep behind him, with moth wings and stalk of seeded poppies, pouring sleeping potion over Endymion.  Flying putto pulls mantle away from Endymion.  Draped female on branch with jar of water must be nymph - places scene on Mt. Latmos.  Selene, identified by crescent moon on forehead, steps from chariot to Endymion. Upper putti hold lit torch and encircling mantle of Selene, on each side of her.  Aura, winged, personifies Breeze, holds 2 horses. Two putti on horses, one holds reins, other [ on right] holds torch, mantle of Selene.  Far right, sleeping shepherd sitting on rock, dog in front of him, goats and sheep above [all have horns].  Griffin carved on each end - guardians of dead, frequently appear context Bacchus.

36:  Endymion myth popular subject for sarcophagi from Antonine to Severan periods, 70+ examples known.  P. 36, Note 7:  Roberts divided into 2 classes - story goes from left to right, like this one, is 2nd later class.  This is early example, before other figures added - one in collection Villa Pamphili similar - both based on common prototype.  Also shows development from long, low single ground line (this one) to taller, rounded ends of lenos type.

39:  Endymion sarcophagus (47.100.4), found in funeral chamber, Ostia [Italy], in 1825.  Lid is Luni marble, coffin probably poor quality Pentelic marble [like the Parthenon].  Sarcophagus has rounded ends, and body flares upward.  Carved on four sides, although back lower relif.  Lions' heads may relate to ancient wine trough, symbolizing spouts for new wine used on troughs when grapes pressed - new form has symbolic meaning, possibly connected to mystery rites, Dionysus, hope of new life [note to Matz article, p. 127 - CHECK].  Endymion's pose common for sleeping figures in Greek statues.

42:  winged female Night, holding stalk with poppy seed pods, pours sleeping potion over him.  Selene encouraged by putti, attendants of love.  Probably Aura, Breeze, holding reins.  Mother Earth beneath chariot holding sacred snake.  Bearded shepherd with dog by knees and kid beside him.  Sheep and goats on rocky ledge above.  Eros and Psyche.  Myth given cosmological setting by having figures of Sun, Moon on ends.  Sun with crown of rays, with Morning Star and bearded Ocean.  Moon with crescent crown, Aura, Evening Star, going down toward Earth.  Ocean and Earth represent realm dead leaves.  Helios in quadriga, later becomes Christ as Helios.  Back shows bulls, horses, herdsmen.  One to left reclines in same pose as Endymion, links back to front [comment:  but awake! Clothed!].  Two nymphs, water jar, to right, represent a spring, continuation of pastoral tradition of Endymion, possibly took place on Mt. Latmos, Caria.  Back not as well executed as the front.  Possibly made by assistant, not master.

43:  two gods on end panels along lid, personification of mountain setting - one to left possibly Mt. Latmos, right possibly young God Sylvanus with hare and dog.  Next males Seasons - Spring with hare, stalk of flowers, hare and tragic Mask at feet; Fall with bowl of fruit and panther at feet.  Renewal of nature appropriate subject, common on sarcophagi.  Left, Eros and Psyche; right, Venus.  Left, Mars; right, Venus.  Left, Endymion and Selene, possibly unique representation of embrace. [CHECK THIS!]  Erotes around them. Both have crescents in hair, which means that Endymion has become eternal.  Surely represents hope of daughter who order and inscribe delaborate coffin.  Recurring theme of love suggests devotion.  Hair style in portrait of dead associated with Julia Domna, simple large waves, parted middle, covering ears, pulled back to upper neck.  Allows secure date after which sarcophagus had to have been carved, and fashion might have continued longer in private instead of Imperial circles.  Unique among 70+ examples

44:  in rich imagery, fine quality, no longer single ground line, figures loosened, float above one another, new spatial construct, deep drill work for hair, fur, manes, bodies no longer about gravity - see Endymion, flattened and elongated, polished rapidly moving forms, crowded surface, lovely composition, naturalistic details - "early Severan baroque style" fulfilled in Badminton sarcophagus.

45:  ill. Example in Museo Capitolino, Rome, Galleria Doria Pamphili, Rome.

94:  Badminton sarcophagus.

95:  40 human, animal figures, 3 sides.  Winter, far left, rushes for wreath, brace of ducks and carries

96:  a reed, with wild boar at feet.  Spring, garlanded with flowers, basket flowers, flowering branch, with small stag below.  Summer next, wreath of wheat, basket of wheat, sickle, goat.  Fall, cornucopia fruit and hare, garland with fruit in hair.

97:  Earth and Ocean on ends give theme of afterlife (Dionysus in center of front), renewal (Seasons), cosmological framework.

101:  no longer rational space, instability, virtuoso techniques, originally gilding hair, attributes, composition focuses center, no naturalness of movement still found in Endymion sarcophagus, bodies don't show structural form or classical beauty, large eyes of Late Antique style.

102:  Matz wrong in idea that composition of Endymion comes from Hellenistic painting

103:  style seems like Endymion sarcophagus in Louvre, so date of 220-35 accepted. [Note:  not the date given on the MMA's website or Rampage for the Badminton sarcophagus.]

Walker, Susan. Memorials to the Roman Dead.  London:  British Museum, 1985.

Reading notes:

p. 18:  Greek quarries dominated Roman market, possibly because fashion for sarcophagi came  from east.  Roughly cut, arrive in Rome often without lid, which then was made of Luna marble from Carrara, Tuscany. [SEE ENDYMION SARCOPHAGUS!]  Long distance trade, 3 quarries - one Mount Pentelicus, Attica.

20:  Mount Pentelicus produced marble for Parthenon, fine-grained, crisp details, weathers to honey color.  Presumably very expensive.

31:  Museo Civico, Urbino - Roman carving of sculptor making lion's mane with drill, aided by assistant rotating strap, shows Christian Greek-speaking sculptor Eutropus.

36:  taste for portraits on sarcophagi greatest in Rome.  Sleeping Endymion or Ariadne obvious choices of subject.

43:  sarcophagus often bought hurriedly, in stock, sometimes portraits required drastic alteration of sculpture that was there.

11.  The myths

All of these sources provided ample information about the sarcophagus itself, but you still need a reliable source for the stories of the myths.  You can look in the reference section of the library, or check Google books for a relatively recent book about classical mythology published by a major university press.  Searching for "Endymion and Selene myth" in Google Books produces Mark P.O. Morford and Robert J. Lenardon, Classical Mythology, 6th ed (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1999), available in Limited Preview.  All the relevant pages appear in the preview.

Morford, Mark P.O.  and Robert J. Lenardon. Classical Mythology. 6th ed.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Reading Notes:

p. 42:  Myth of Selene and Endymion only famous one about Selene, goddess of Moon.  Brother is Helius [or Helios].  Has chariot, usually with two horses.  Loved handsome youth Endymion, usually a shepherd.  She saw him asleep in cave, Mt. Latmus (Caria).  Came back repeatedly to be with him as he slept.  Many variations, but in the end, Zeus gave Endymion perpetual sleep and youth so that Selene could have him forever. 

43:  ill. MMA's Endymion Sarcophagus, repeats information from museum website

136:  Cupid and Psyche.  Classic version story from Roman author, 2nd c AD, Apuleius, Metamorphoses and The Golden Ass.  Cupid (Eros), Psyche (Soul).  Psyche youngest of three daughters of King and Queen.  So beautiful, thought to be Venus and so goddess very angry.  Venus ordered son Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with most awful thing in world, but instead Cupid fell in love with her.  Since no one would marry her, father consulted god Apollo, who said put her on mountaintop to wed serpent.  Psyche fell asleep, and after waking entered beautiful palace there.  Anonymous husband visited her every night, but left before sun rose. He allowed her sisters to visit her, but warned about trying to find out who he was.

137:  Husband warned that sisters were evil, and said that Psyche was pregnant with child who would be divine if secret kept, mortal if not.  Sisters returned for third visit, said husband was a serpent.  Psyche persuaded to kill him, hid knife and lamp.  After he fell asleep, she raised lamp, saw beautiful Cupid.  Lamp dropped oil on shoulder, he woke up, flew away.  Went to mother Venus, who vowed revenge on Psyche.  Psyche brought to her, and Venus gave her impossible jobs.

138:  With help, she completed all of them.  Cupid went to Jupiter, who agreed to marriage, and Psyche made an immortal.

117:  Venus. Venus/Aphrodite goddess of beauty, love, marriage. 

127:  Helios. Also Helius.  Sun god.




These reading notes contain more than enough information about the sarcophagus for an 8-10 page research paper.  An outline will organize the notes and help uncover whatever facts are still missing.  The one that follows is not the only one that could be created from these notes.  For example, it does not include any discussion about the change in Roman burial practices and its influence on the development of the Roman sarcophagus, or the way in which this example was carved.  Many different papers can be written about this work, so your choice of thesis will determine the direction of your discussion.




Intro (paragraph)

Thesis- Sarcophagus depicts scenes of love and immortal sleep

Brief description

Name, date, museum id, material, who discovered, when acquired by the museum


Physical description

General sarcophagus info- called lenos, dimensions, material (what type of marble?)

Deep, undercut relief, packed with figures

Descriptions of scenes shown on front, sides, back

Top panels - description of figures, inscription


Identify figures (iconography)

Selene and Endymion

Cupid and Psyche

Gods:  Helios, Nyx (Night), Venus, Mars

Others:  flying erotes - like cupids, mountain gods, nymphs

Scenes on top - portrait, seasons, myths

Lion heads - replace spouts on wine container

Pastoral scenes - shepherd, herdsmen on back


Myths shown (iconography)

Selene and Endymion myth - no single source - assembled from fragments

Other myths - Cupid and Psyche, Venus


Comparisons to style of other works made at the time (iconography, style)

Earlier Endymion sarcophagus, Badminton sarcophagus, find other examples!


Endymion sarcophagi (history, interpretation)

70 found- many, many more lost (?)

Sleep and death- (find out what Romans at this time believed happened to the dead. Hades?)

Peaceful existence, immortal - link to dead person and Endymion

Cycle of death and life - pastoral scene, depiction of seasons

Person surrounded by life, in deep sleep (Will wake someday?)



Why so popular?