This is the
funerary monument of Cneus Sentius Felix, a very notable and influental
figure of the roman society of Ostia, between the end of the Ist and the
beginning of the IInd century a.c.
sculpted in marble coming from the caves of Monti Appuani, was found in
1696 among the ruins of ancient Ostia. After having been exposed in Rome,
in Aventino, it was brought to Florence, to Palazzo del Rosso. It has
finally arrived at the Galery in the 18th century.
architectural decoration and the long inscription on it connote it as
one of the most significant and prestigious altar of the period. The
long inscription provides an extraordinary view on the civil, economic
and commercial life of the big roman port. In our days we would say
that the defunct had excellent managing abilities and dealt with sea
transportation and sea trade, especcially wine importation. He was a
member of the Adriatic Sea Transporters Association and patron (kind of
an honorary title) of wheat measurers, oil traders, those in charge of
public weighing, ferrymen and boatmen, as well as the fishermen”s, who
resold by retail the fruit of their work.
Felix also accorded its patronage to some youth association dedicated to
sports and military fighting, these last one though only in case if they
didnt suppose blood sheding.
restoration and the following increase in value of this important
monument not only gives the possiblity to Cneus Sentius Felix to become
well known and remembered after… almost 20 centuries! But it also allows
us to enter the turbulent and multicoloured life of the big port of Rome
between the age of Trajan and that of Adrian.
Altar inv. 988.
The place of
provenance and the year or the century of “birth” of this funerary
monument, erected in memory of a freedman of greek origins,
Dionysus Skianthi, are not known even nowdays. We can find documents on
its transportation to the Medici Riccardi Palce from the 18th
century. It has been kept during the 19th century in the Sala
sculpted from greek marble, is one of the most refined and precious
exemples known of the so called festoon altars. The bas-relief
decorations on the front and on the sides are of particular excellence,
both for the artistic quality and the symbolic choice of the represented
motives. On the front side, the fight of cocks surely refers to the
energy and the physical and also moral force of the defunct during his
life, that can even guarantee him appreciation afterlife. Even the
defunct is represented during his travel through the sea, transported
softly on the back of a imaginary sea animal, kind of a huge snake, that
would help him to cross the unfathomable border between life and death,
which frightens, but in the same time fascinate human beings. On the
sides, we can see birds around a butterfly, symbol of psyche according
to ancients. The quality and the beutiy of the flowers and fruits that
always accompanied ritual ceremonies for defuncts now almost invisible
because of the bad condition and the dirtiness that marks the monument.The
cleaning and the restoration would allow to understand the imagination
and the skills that characterized the roman lapidary workshops in the
first half of the first century a.c.