Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Michele George


Evan W. Haley



Committee Member

Martin Beckmann


This thesis is concerned with the representation of children on sculptural funerary commemoration, with a focus on freedmen panel reliefs and funerary altars. Although there is evidence found from all regions of the Empire, the majority of the material discussed here is from the city of Rome itself. Representations of young children first appear on freedmen panel reliefs, which date to the end of the Republic and were produced into the first century of the Empire. When this genre declined in popularity at the end of the first century AD, funerary altars emerged as the new, preferred form of commemoration. The goal of this thesis is to show that these two types of funerary monuments reveal much about the children themselves, but also provide insight into the social and cultural identity of their parents. Due to the family relationships expressed on these commemorations, I also evaluate the degree of affect demonstrated by the parents or the dedicator towards the children present on these monuments. The first chapter provides a socio-cultural background on the role of children in the family and Roman society as well as the importance of funerary commemoration. In this chapter I also discuss the likelihood of high infant and child mortality rates and explore reactions towards the death of children in literary evidence and social conventions. In the second chapter I provide a background on the significance of the freedman family, followed by an examination of the panel reliefs. The third chapter examines funerary altars that commemorate young children. The material discussed in this chapter is analyzed through a case study approach of nine altars, examining both the epigraphic elements and the sculptural components.

McMaster University Library

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."