Sweet Dreams

Figure 22, Detail A: Sleeping Endymion

In these mythological sarcophagi, one or more of the main characters represented with portraits. The moments that are included show one of the partners going to their sleeping beloved. In many cultures, sleep is considered to be the brother of death.[1] Sleep is only temporary and if the deceased is only sleeping, then that means that they have not left, still reachable, and merely resting from the exertions of life. Showing the deceased as merely sleeping was, and still is today, comforting to the living. Showing the deceased as sleeping was very common in other Roman funerary monuments throughout Roman period. The myths of Bacchus and Ariadne, and Selene and Endymion, were common and often depicted in the same type of compositional arrangement. The divine figure approaches their reclining and sleeping mortal lover. These myths were considered pendants of each other in both ancient times as well as now.[2]

[1] Paul Zanker, “Reading images without texts on Roman sarcophagi,” Res 61/62 (2012), 170

[2] Ibid., 167