Sunday 24 December 2017

Stilicho's sarcophagus

Solar and agricultural cult imagery on the Nativity scene depicted on the side of the so-called "Sarcofago di Stilicone" ("Stilicho's sarcophagus"), an Ancient Roman christian sarcophagus dating from the 4th century. It is preserved beneath the pulpit of Sant'Ambrogio basilica in Milan, Italy. Picture by Giovanni Dall'Orto.

Let's start with the base of the nativity scene:

Swastika is the symbol of fire, solar fire. In Sanskrit, one of the names for the swastika is arani, which refers to a process of kindling fire with a fire drill. A related Sanskrit term is pramantha, literally an instrument for kindling fire, manth meaning rotary motion, manthami meaning to kindle fire. 

Germanic tradition of burning of the Yule log, and its Slavic counterpart burning of "Badnjak" is the main part of Christmas. It represents rekindling of the fire of the sun, the birth of the new sun. So it is not surprising that swastika, the instrument for kindling fire is on this relief representing the birth of the son of god, or more precisely sun the god. Plus swastika was in Ancient Greece associated with the sun god Apollo, the young sun. So again we have the link between the sun, the fire and the birth of the son of god...

Are the symbols between Swastikas flowers or solar wheels with solar crosses, which divide the solar year in four parts with solstices and equinoxes?

You can read more about solar crosses in my post "Two crosses":

Now, what about the two baskets of seeds and two birds? 

Well as I already explained in my post "Leto", birds, specifically migrating birds, are symbol of the solar year, specifically the part of the year dominated by the Father Sun. Their arrival announces the end of winter and their departure announces the beginning of the winter, the part of the year dominated by the Mother Earth.

But why do we have the two grain baskets framing the scene? And why is the left one spilling the seeds and the right one collecting them? Does this represent the time, between the sowing and reaping? Which is the life time of grain? Is Christ, the bread of life, actually in some way seen as grain? 

After all grain, just like Christ, and the Sun, dies and gets reborn every year....

So why was all this solar and agricultural imagery placed around the nativity scene? Maybe the author tried to tell us something?

Anyway, what do you think about all this?


  1. Sawing -> sowing.
    Why did the clockwise swaztica symbolise clockwise <-> counterclockwise motion of the fire drill?

  2. Pramantha@Sanskrit ~ Prometheus@Greek?