This month we are featuring an image of the Ludovisi battle sarcophagus. The sarcophagus was discovered in 1621, and named after its first modern owner Ludovico Ludovisi. The sarcophagus depicts war between Goths and Romans during the Third Century crisis. It was created around 250–260 AD and was discovered in a tomb near Porta Tiburtina.

The central figure of the composition is presumed to represent the deceased, a Roman military commander on horseback. The Sarcophagus which stands 1.53m high has been carved in high relief unlike our previous title image from Trajan’s Column which was carved in low relief.

On many battle sarcophagi the side panels show more tranquil scenes than the front panel, but in this case the battle continues round both sides depicting the crowded turmoil of battle.

One particularly interesting feature of the sarcophagus is the X-mark on the young Roman’s forehead. This mark, it has been suggested, represents the fact that the commander was an initiate of the Mithraic mysteries, an orphic cult favoured by the Roman military, and signifies his defeat of death itself.