Ash Chest card

Courtesy of National Museums Liverpool, World Museum

Ash Chest


Currently not on display


Cylindrical ash chest with a slightly flaring base and vertical flutes at the back. At the front the inscription is flanked by the Dioscuri, each with its horse. The inscription is: D.M C.IVLI.IVLI ANO.COH MIL.VRB XII.B.M FEC.IVLI A.MATER FILIO.SVO BENE MER ENTI of the inscription is cut in uneven and irregular letters: to the Shades. To Gaius Iulius Iulianus, soldier of the 12th urban cohort, well deserving (?), Iulia his mother made this for her well deserved son. The inscription is generally of a poor workmanship with uneven spacing and lines which are not straight. The inscription is more scratched onto the surface rather than cut out. It is also very different to the care given to the rest of the carving of the urn. Certain oddities in the text may signal that the inscription is not original. Below the inscription there is a reclining river god. The Dioskouri are mirror images of each other: they both stand in a frontal pose with the inner leg straight and the outer one bent and they turn their heads to look back over their shoulders away from the inscription panel. Both hold a spear or a lance diagonally across their body. With their outer arm and with their inner hands they hold the reins of the horse. The arm of the left hand figure is held down that of the right hand figure is bent upwards at the elbow. They wear Phrygian caps and cloaks fastened on one of their shoulders but otherwise are naked. The horses heads are at rest and the two Dioscouri seem to be guarding the inscription. The reclining river god is half draped around his hips and legs and has a naked torso. He holds a plant in his hand and has the crook under one of his arm. He turns his head to look over his shoulder to the right. His face is damaged. In funerary art Dioskouri were very common. They may have been chosen to decorate the urn as saviour gods. The inclusion of the river god is less relevant but a reclining god is represented on another fragmentary urn and a reclining Oceanus appears in conjuction with one of the Dioskouri on a fragment of a sarcophagus. The lid of the urn is modern but it is not certain when it was made, most likely before being purchased by Blundell. The colour of the marbles of the lid and the urn are a different and this is one indication that the lid was made later on. The chest has some restorations such as a piece added to the left hand side of the figure, and some other restorations are currently missing such as in the left arm below the elbow of the left hand Dioscurus, the right arm of the right hand figure, the left front leg of the left hand horse. The chest is also damaged on the edges and raised parts of the relief. This may indicate that there has been some attempt to rework some of the features of the right hand face of the figure which has more details than the left. There is a crack running down at the back of the chest from the top to the base. The interior cavity is strained and weathered. The design of the cylindrical urn with fluting at the back and figures flanking the inscription is typical of later ash chests from the Hadrianic period and the mid 3rd century AD. In these examples the figures flanking the panel would be cupids, Victories, Tritons and soldiers. Dioskouri are rare for ash chest and more common for sarcophagi. Their tall elongaged figures in this ash chest may suggest a Severan fashion and date the ash chest to late 2nd early 3d century AD,