Adam and Eve

Late 4th century
Detail of the Sarcophagus of Stilicho
Basilica of St. Ambrose, Milan

Like some other representations of Adam and Eve's story on paleo-Christian sarcophagi, this detail from the Sarcophagus of Stilicho includes the aftermath in which Adam lives out God's curse, "with labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life" (Genesis 3:17). But other examples on the ancient sarcophagi show the primal couple with the fruits of their labor, often a stalk of grain and a lamb. Here instead Adam bends in toil with his hoe.

In other ways, too, the organization and style are quite different from other examples. Usually the serpent is coiled around the tree, not set off to the side and not disproportionately huge. The tree is a palm, but with a sizeable fruit where the trunk meets the crown. The "fig leaves" look more like dinner plates.

The sarcophagus as a whole has been dated to 387-390, but this half-roundel and a companion piece to its right are quite different in style from the sculpture below and could conceivably be older.

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Photographed at the basilica by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.