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Reading: Interrogating the Eutropos Grave Plaque in Urbino


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Interrogating the Eutropos Grave Plaque in Urbino


Robert Couzin

Independent scholar, CA
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On this Roman grave plaque, a Greek-language epitaph to a certain Eutropos is framed by images of a man holding a cup and a bird with a sprig in its mouth. A unique depiction of a sarcophagus workshop appears below. Although often referred to, the monument has not received the sustained consideration it deserves. Several aspects of the text and imagery can be mined for clues regarding its date (here situated in the mid-third century) and elements of workshop practice, both in the creation of this plaque and in the production of sarcophagi like the one pictured. Previous opinions regarding the identities of the pictured figures are reviewed and pared back to eliminate unwarranted speculation. Most interesting is the matter of religious affiliation. Both Eutropos and his son, the commemorator, have been universally regarded as “Christian” without definition, qualification, or contextualization. Critical examination of the visual and textual evidence, and in particular the use of the term theosebes in the inscription, suggests a more nuanced understanding that recognizes the multi-valence of imagery and terminology in this period, consistent with the fuzziness of religious boundaries and the high rate of inter-generational conversion.
How to Cite: Couzin, R., 2022. Interrogating the Eutropos Grave Plaque in Urbino. Journal for Late Antique Religion and Culture, 16, pp.1–31. DOI:
Published on 04 May 2022.
Peer Reviewed


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