The deities Athena, Zeus, and Hera, assembled at the far left, preside over a musical contest betweenthe Muses and Sirens. The Muses, associated with
the highest intellectual and artistic aspirations, are defeating the Sirens, creatures that are half woman and half bird who lured men to destruction with their song.
A drawing of the sarcophagus was commissioned by Cassiano dal Pozzo, one of the most respected patrons of art and scholarship in Rome during the first half of the seventeenth century. It belonged at that time to the del Nero family, who apparently converted it into a chest with a keyhole cut into the upper center of the frontal panel and had their coat of arms, a rampant hound, carved on the short ends
of the sarcophagus.