Ash Chest



Ash chest of Aulus Plautius Gallus to Hermes. It stands on a four low feet and is decorated on its three sides with an incription at the front. The back and the interior cavity are roughtly worked. The top edges are not shaped to hold the lid and the underside of the lid was not shaped to fit the chest, although there are clamp holes at all the four sides of both the lid and the chest. The front and side clasp holes of the chest have been filled in. It was unusual for clamps to be fitted to the front side of the ash chest as they would cut into the inscription. The inscription is: D. M A. PLAVITIVS.GALLUS HERMETI.LIB VIX/AN. XLI.M.IIII To the Shades, Aulus Platius Gallus to Hermes (his) freedman. He lived 41 years and 4 months. The simple form of the letters and the style is very similar to many of the inscriptions made in the 18th century. It is also unusual for the dedicator's name to come before the dedicateee and if Hermes was a freed man he should have had three names (Aulius Plautius Hermes, if Gallus was his patron). At the front corners there are rams' heads and a laurel garland hangs from their horns across the front. The beginning of another garland is on either side, with short stops to form a tassel hanging down below the rams' heads. A similar tassel appears from the rams' heads at the front corners on the sides. On the front the garland hangs down below the inscription panel and an eagle with wide spread wings is perched on it in the space between the garland and panel. A butterly in low relief is in the spaces below the garland at the lower front end corners. The right side has a patera which is decorated with a rosette and on the left side a jug with a large handle and an elaborately shaped mouth and body. Although rams' heads, garlands and eagles as well as jugs and pateras to the sides were common in Roman funerary sculpture, the neat style of the butterflies and the tassels hanging down from the rams' heads were unusual features and suggest that the chest was restored and redecorated sometime before its sale to Blundell. Evidence of these later additions is also the fact that the ash chest was illustrated in the Monumenta Matthaeiana without the inscription which appeared nowhere in that volume. The inscription may have been created by the time of the disperal of the Mattei collection as a type of restoration. The illustration is the Monumenta Matthaeiana did not include the butterflies.