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Base of an Etruscan funerary monument

Date ca. 480 B.C.
Object type relief
Medium, technique carved, pietra fetida

height: 29.5 cm

Inventory number 2006.2.A
Collection Classical Antiquities
On view Museum of Fine Arts, Basement Floor, Classical Antiquity, Hellas – Italy – Rome

In the 6th century B.C., local workshops in Chiusi, one of the greatest centres of archaic Etruscan art, developed a unique artistic form for the creation of funerary monuments. The urns and sarcophagi carved of local limestone, and the typically Etruscan, pillar-shaped funerary monuments composed of several elements, were decorated with scenes related to funerary rites.
All four sides of the Budapest cippus feature reliefs representing scenes of funerary games in prefect condition. The various events are easily recognisable: besides athletes participating in chariot and running races, wrestling, and boxing, discus and javelin throwers are also present. The contests are supervised by referees holding tall staves and official insignia consisting of a bundle of three rods (fasces), administration is carried out by scribes. The sporting events are accompanied by musicians, and complemented with a show of acrobatics, as well as the presence of masked Phersu figures, common in Etruscan festivals, who connect the human and divine world.
Our most beautiful literary source on funerary games in honour of the deceased, which were also common in the Greek world, is to be found in Book 23 of the Iliad, when Achilles funds games and offers prizes in memory of his dead friend, Patroclos. The scenes represented on the Budapest cippus appear in almost identical form on monuments (tomb frescoes and vases) from other Etruscan centres in the 6th and 5th centuries, which suggests that this may have been the usual programme of Etruscan funerary rites.


This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

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