White marble (high relief)
L. 2.22 m;W. 0.95 m; H. 1.17 m
First half of the third century
Europe / France / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes / Rhône department / Lyon / Lyon 5th arrondissement / Saint Irénée
History of the work
The Bacchus sarcophagus was discovered in 1845 near the Saint-Irénée church on Fourvière Hill. It was made in a Roman workshop early in the third century.
The world of the dead
During Roman times, funerary rites evolved. The rite of incineration gave way to burial, which was practiced starting from the third century. The ashes or body were placed in a tomb that reflected the wealth of the deceased. Since no tombs were allowed in the city center, funeral sites were aligned along the roads on the outskirts of the city.
Why does a Roman funerary monument depict a scene like this ?
According to Paul Veyne, a specialist in Antiquity, "beautiful images might help lessen the fear of what might happen after death." The triumphal procession perhaps symbolizes the victory over death, and this joyful scene might evoke "the hope for a pleasant afterlife."