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The PhaŽton sarcophagus


The PhaŽton sarcophagus, early 4th century A.D.
Replica after the original, Roma, Villa Borghese, inv. VB340
Opera Laboratori Fiorentini

In the centre we see the fall of PhaŽton, who tumbles into the arms of a personification of the river Eridanus. The figure of Thalassa, opposite, holds an oar in her hand. On the left is Helios, portrayed with a tortoise at his feet, and below him we see PhaŽton's two sisters, the Heliades, shown in the moment in which they are turning into poplar trees. On the right of the chariot is Zeus, holding a sceptre, and a female figures personifying the West. In the upper left-hand corner, PhaŽton asks his father Helios for permission to drive the chariot. In classical times, the fall of PhaŽton represented the Sun's daily plunge into the Ocean.