The marble sarcophagus is curved and beautifully decorated on all sides with deeply cut bas reliefs relating to Dionysus. To the right of the central scene, the Minoan princess Ariadne, abandoned by Theseus, is about to be wakened by Dionysus, god of wine and rebirth, with his joyous revelers.
The front edge of the lid contains an inscription in a central panel flanked by small roof-like tiles containing Dionysiac motifs. It reads: D(is) M(anibus) / Maconianae Severianae / filiae dulcissimae / M(arcus) Sempronius Proculus / Faustinianus v(ir) c(larissimus) et / Praecilia Severiana c(larissima) f(emina) / parentes, meaning “To the soul of the deceased. For Maconiana Severiana, the sweetest daughter, Marcus Sempronius Faustinianus, vir clarissimus, and Praecilia Severiana, clarissima femina, her parents [had this made]”.
Maconiana Severiana was the beloved young daughter of apparently wealthy senatorial parents (vir clarissimus and clarissima femina were titles of senators and their wives in the High Empire). Given the small size of the sarcophagus, Maconiana must have been a child or adolescent. Ariadne’s face, where a portrait of Maconiana might have been inscribed, remains uncarved; since Romans traditionally included portraits of the deceased on figured sarcophagi, it is possible that her parents, attracted to this ready-made sarcophagus, decided against having their child’s features on a mature female body.
A.D. 210 - 220, found in Rome
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles