Incorrect Username, Email, or Password
This object does not yet have a description.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Fragment of an Attic Sarcophagus
Work Type
c. 175-225 CE
Roman Imperial period, Middle
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Pentelic marble
actual: 35 x 35 cm (13 3/4 x 13 3/4 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Brummer Gallery, New York, NY, Sold to the Fogg Art Museum, 1949. Probably purchased at one of three sales of Brummer's merchandise held in 1949.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.


Published Catalogue Text: Stone Sculptures: The Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums , written 1990

Fragment of an Attic Sarcophagus

All edges are broken. The top of the head and forehead is broken away. The face is badly abraded. Other surfaces are chipped and discolored.

The original sarcophagus portrayed the myth of Achilles on Skyros. Now the upper part of the body of Odysseus, moving to the left, survives, the head and neck of a horse visible over his left shoulder. The cloak of Diomedes can be seen to the right of Odysseus. A section of the molding survives at the top.

The ultimate provenance of this fragment, like the Amazon sarcophagus from Smyrna, is evidence of the widespread export of Attic mythological sarcophagi. The Achilles on Skyros sarcophagus fragment brought to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum at Fenway Court, Boston, in 1986 from the Renaissance gardens at Green Hill (the Gardner estate in Brookline, Massachusetts) is seemingly from an earlier presentation of the subject. This splendid fragment of Achilles and one or two of the daughters of King Lykomedes recalls that these Attic Achilles on Skyros sarcophagi went to Italy, like the great sarcophagus of "Alexander Severus," as well as to the Greek East. The earlier examples usually had temple-form lids, but the later sarcophagi from Attic ateliers featured the deceased reclining on the lid as if on a couch. Achilles was hidden by his mother Thetis among the king's daughters to prevent him going to the Trojan War and certain death. Disguised as itinerant merchants, Odysseus and Diomedes placed a sword amid trinkets for the daughters. Achilles snatched up the sword and was thus revealed. The whole episode on a sarcophagus symbolizes the beginning of the Greek hero's ill-fated journey to war and death, a fate that befell many Romans, especially in the third century A.D.

Provenance: First recorded on the island of Paros (Guntram Koch's identification).

Cornelius Vermeule and Amy Brauer

Publication History

  • Carl Robert, Die Antiken Sarkophag-reliefs, II, Grote (Berlin, Germany, 1890), pg. 220, no. 221
  • Antonio Giuliano, Il commercio degli sarcofagi attici, L'Erma di Bretschneider (Rome, 1962), pg. 34, no. 79
  • Guntram Koch and Helmut Sichtermann, Römische Sarkophage, C. H. Beck (Munich, 1982), pg. 383
  • Cornelius C. Vermeule III and Amy Brauer, Stone Sculptures: The Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 135, no. 124

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at