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Etruscan Terracotta Cinerary urn with a fight scene between Eteocles and Polynices, 4th-3rd century BC

Conservation:  The lid is missing. The faces of two of the characters are damaged.
Material:  Terracotta
Dimensions:  26 cm x 43 cm
Provenance:  A. Segarra´s collection / Archaeological Gallery, Spain, 2014
Documents:  Thermoluminescence test.


Ref ars018 Category

The cinerary urns were containers, usually made in terracotta or marble, intended to contain the ashes of the deceased once he had been cremated. In this urn we see represented the power struggle between two brothers called Eteocles and Polyneices, which upon the death of his father inherited the kingdom on the sole condition that they should reign alternating each year. These two characters were the children of Oedipus, commonly known by the Oedipus complex, which he named after marrying his mother Jocasta. Oedipus left this task that was almost a curse, it was understood that the brothers were not going to be able to alternate on the throne. When the year of Eteocles’ reign ended, he refused to yield the throne to his brother as planned and they engaged in a battle known as the war of Thebes. Finally both died during the confrontation giving the chance to acquire the throne to his uncle Creon, who ordered not to bury Polyneices because he had betrayed his word. His sister Antigone disobeyed her uncle and buried her brother so she was punished by being buried alive. The scene is a high relief, using the technique of incision on a moulded surface, corresponding to the urn. The figures have been roughly carved, despite the fact that the scene itself has managed to provide some movement, caused by the struggle between the two brothers.The dawn of Roman civilization is one of the most curious and unknown periods of Ancient Rome. This piece with a relief of exquisite style and delicate work is one of the clear examples of the mastery of the period.

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