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100 Highlights
of the MFAH
Take a tour through some of the most significant objects in the MFAH collections. On these pages, you can browse 100 highlights from collections throughout the institution. Then visit the Museum in person to discover your own favorites.
 
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Roman
Sarcophagus Depicting a Battle between Soldiers and Amazons (Warrior Women)
140–170 AD
Marble

40 ½ x 91 ½ x 50 ½ inches

 
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase funded by the Agnes Cullen Arnold Endowment Fund in memory of Peter C. Marzio

Department of Antiquities

 
ABOUT

This magnificent sarcophagus, designed as the final resting place of a Roman military commander, is decorated with a battle scene between soldiers and Amazons, the legendary warrior women of the ancient world. The standing figures are soldiers, wearing helmets, short tunics, and plates of body armor. The soldiers are armed with swords and protect themselves with round shields. The Amazons ride horses; their fallen sisters lay dead on the ground.

The four corners of the sarcophagus predict the battle's outcome. They are decorated with trophies composed of the Amazons' weapons and kneeling Amazon prisoners, hands bound behind their backs. The lid is designed in the shape of the roof of a Roman temple. Fine rows of vertical "tiles" culminate in lions' heads. The ends of the lid are decorated with round shields.

Several clues suggest that the owner of this sarcophagus was an important officer in the Roman army. The soldiers stand larger than life among the horses and their Amazon riders. Their knotted belts were the mark of high-ranking officers. The presence of trophies and prisoners indicates military victories.