University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Puteoli Marble Block [Object of the Day #62]

By: Alyssa Kaminski

September 12, 2012

Puteoli Marble Block [Front]
Puteoli Marble Block [Front]
The Puteoli Marble Block is an example of material reused and repurposed.  Initially, the block was carved with a framed inscription and was part of a larger monument to the Roman emperor Domitian. The monument was erected by the town of Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli), near Naples, in thanks to the emperor, probably for a new road.   After the emperor’s assassination in 96CE, the Roman Senate voted to condemn his memory (damnatio memoriae), and all public traces of his rule were removed—monuments were destroyed and inscriptions erased.   Above, you can see how the inscription honoring him was chiseled away.  Many of the letters are still legible, and scholars have been able to reconstruct the original text honoring Domitian.

Puteoli Marble Block [Back]
Puteoli Marble Block [Back]
But the beautiful marble block had a second life; it was reused shortly after its destruction in a large new monument to the emperor Trajan, who ruled from 98-117 CE.  Three new figures were carved on the other side of the block (above).  They are soldiers, and the middle figure—in very low relief—carries a shield emblazoned with a scorpion, identifying him as a member of the Praetorian Guard, the emperor’s bodyguards.

Penn Museum Object #MS4916A.

See this and other objects like it on Penn Museum’s Online Collection Database

For more information, see Irene Bald Romano’s catalogue, Classical Sculpture:  Catalogue of the Cypriot, Greek, and Roman Stone Sculpture in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.  Philadelphia, 2006.

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