This magnificent Roman-era funerary stele takes the form of a Greco-Roman temple.
The richly decorated stele consists of three distinct parts:
The first concerns the main composition, set in a temple décor. The triangular pediment is decorated with a frieze of palmettes. A four-petal flower marks its center. Below, an unsculpted, blank frieze of metopes. Two raised columns support the structure. They feature a rather schematic Corinthian capital, a carved pillar and an imposing base.
Between the two columns, and thus at the center of the architectural composition, is a female figure with raised arms. His head is so damaged that we can’t make out his facial features. She holds her veil firmly in her hands. She’s wearing a long, short-sleeved dress, with a coat draped over her shoulders. The dress has a V-shaped collar and stiff drape pleats.
The second part of the stele is below the composition. It’s a three-line epitaph in Latin, set in a frame. It is noted: DIS.MAN.SAC / AULA LVCAN. APIA / VIXIT.ANNIS.LV.HSE. The words “DIS. MAN(ibus) SAC(rum) / AULA LVCAN(us) APIA / VIXIT. ANNIS. LV. H(ic) S(epultum) E(st)”, which translates as ‘Consecrated to the gods Manes / Aula Lucan(us) Apia / lived 55 years, is buried here’. The inscription then identifies the deceased.
The last part is a square block, without any decoration, smaller than the rest of the stele, probably buried.
The stele belongs to the Greek type of naiskos, or aedicula in Rome.
Naiskoi can be simple stelae or large-scale architectural monuments. This type of funerary architecture developed around the 5th century B.C. in Greece and enjoyed great popularity during the Hellenistic period (323 B.C. – 31 B.C.). Outside Greece, this type of architecture can be found in Taranto, where it underwent significant development both in statuary and in ceramics as an iconographic motif, as well as in Roman Gaul, where small terracotta naïskos have been found. In Roman art, the naïskos is known as an aedicula.
This stele is not easy to date, but a few clues enable us to delimit chronological milestones: the presence of an invocation to the Manes gods, which appears on tombs at the beginning of the Empire (1st century BC); the presence of the adjective “sacrum” is an addition from the 2nd century AD. The stele must date from around the 2nd century AD, as invocation of the Manes gods was gradually replaced in the 3rd and 4th centuries.
Steles following a Roman tradition were very popular in the Roman world. Found all over the empire, some of these stelae share similarities with this one, whether funerary or votive. This Punic-Roman relief, featuring a figure of Persephone, dates from the 2nd-3rd century AD and is housed in Turin’s archaeological museum. We can see that the two architectural compositions are quite similar, unlike the decorations of the lion and the main figure, which differ.

Stone funerary stele – Roman Empire