Fragmentary sarcophagus front and lid depicting The Slaughter of the Niobids
Unknown artist, Roman
Fragmentary sarcophagus front and lid depicting The Slaughter of the Niobids, end of the 2nd century
88.3 x 251.3 x 29.2 cm (34 3/4 x 98 15/16 x 11 1/2 inches) (front panel)
Museum Appropriation Fund 21.076
This coffin front and lid depicts the slaughter of the children of Queen Niobe of Thebes by the gods Apollo and Diana, the only children of the goddess Latona. According to the Roman poet Ovid (43 BCE—17 CE), Niobe’s boast about having borne fourteen children offended Latona. In revenge, Apollo and Diana killed all of Niobe’s offspring. From the corners of the lid’s frieze, these two deities shoot arrows into the scene below, where the dying children are supported by older figures, including their father, Amphion, on the left—presumably once mirrored by Niobe on the right—and attendants. The myth was popular throughout the Roman Empire period, with similar compositions appearing on other sarcophagi (coffins).