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Grave Monument of a Young Girl, c. 120-140 CE

sarcophagus of young girl at Getty Villa
sarcophagus lid with portrait of deceased girl and inscription, J. Paul Getty Villa

This poignant sarcophagus lid commemorates the early death of a young girl who probably lived during the reign of the emperor Hadrian, as suggested by her carefully sculpted hairstyle (note also the holes in her ears, indicating that the she originally wore earrings, which are now lost). With her right hand, she pets a small dog, whose body is now mostly broken off. At the foot of the couch are propped two small dolls (partly broken off), so her memorial refers to the playthings that delighted her during life. On the back of the couch, over her right shoulder, sprawls a small sleeping Cupid, whose left leg is crossed under his right in imitation of the pose of the girl; this Cupid may symbolize the premature death of the girl or her beauty and charm. We do not know her name or anything more about her, but there is an inscription on the bottom front of the lid. Unfortunately, because of breakage in the stone, only part of the inscription survives, a common occurrence with ancient inscriptions. One of the tasks that classicists undertake is to try to conjecture what words may be missing in the inscription, using as clues other inscriptions of similar type, the contours of fragmentary letters, and the space allotted for the missing parts of the inscription. This is an opportunity for you to try your hand at completing a Latin inscription. Below you will see a close-up of the bottom of the sarcophagus lid, with the surviving letters marked out in red for easier reading; the surviving words are typed below the image. How would you complete this inscription? Can you imagine a scenario for this girl's life and death?

inscription of Getty sarcophagus
HIC SPECIES ET FORMA IACET MISERA... [small gap] ...ETAS EFF... [large gap] ...IS

No annotations have been given for this text because it is part of an activity called “Complete a Latin Inscription.”

Ann R. Raia and Judith Lynn Sebesta
Return to The World of Childhood
October 2006