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Funerary Inscription for Metilia Acte CIL 14. 371


This artfully sculpted sarcophagus, found at Ostia and dating from 161-170 CE, held the bodies of Metilia Acte, priestess of the Magna Deum Mater (the goddess Cybele), and her husband, Caius Junius Euhodus, magister of the guild of fabri tignarii (carpenters). Because of the expenses entailed in these positions, it is thought that Metilia and her husband were of high social rank and wealth in the community. During her one-year term of office, Metilia would have been responsible for the upkeep of the temple of the Magna Mater (see her Temple in Rome) and required to attend all services and sacrifices to the goddess and to preside at the celebration of the goddess's mysteries. As part of this ceremony, Metilia gave a public banquet. After her term of office, she would have been given a seat on the council that supervised the cult's celebrations. While the sides of the sarcophagus are decorated with cult musical instruments and the head of Attis (consort of Cybele), its front contains several scenes from the myth of Alcestis: her dying farewell showing Alcestis and Admetus with the features of Metilia and her husband, and Heracles reuniting Alcestis with her husband as Persephone and Hades look on. The myth of Alcestis perhaps embodies the couple's hope to attain immortality through the cult of the Great Mother (also see Roman Priestesses).

D[is] M[anibus]
C[aius] IVNIVS PAL[atina] EVHODVS MAGISTER Q[uin]Q[uenalis]
M[agnae] D[eum] M[atris] COLON[iae] OST[iensis] CO[n]IV[gi] SANCTISSIM[ae]

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Ann R. Raia and Judith Lynn Sebesta
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September 2008