The Greek Dioskouroi, Castor and Polydeuces, the twin sons of Zeus and Leda, were introduced in Rome circa 500 B.C.; their names Latinized as the Castores, Castor and Pollux. They are best known for three mythological events. The first: the rescue of their sister Helen after she was kidnapped by Theseus. They carried off Theseus's mother Aethra at the same time. The second: they took part in the expedition on the Argo with Jason. During the voyage, Pollux killed King Amycus, who had challenged him to a boxing match. The third: their abduction of Phoebe and Hilaeira, the daughters of King Leucippus, whom they later married. Idas and Lynceus, the nephews of Leucippus, pursued the twins, and in the resulting battle, Castor, along with the nephews, were killed. Pollux was granted immortality by Zeus, but he persuaded Zeus to allow him to share the gift with Castor. As a result, the two spend alternate days on Olympus and in Hades.
It must be this promise of immortality that would have made the story of the abduction a meaningful subject for a Roman sarcophagus. However, the Abduction of the Leucippides is an extremely rare subject on Roman sarcophagi. In addition to the Sambon panel offered here, only three other complete examples are known, one other front panel and several fragments. All date to the middle Antonine period, and may be the product of a single workshop in Rome. All share the same iconography and composition and so must be derived from a single source, either of Roman date or perhaps an earlier Greek work, now lost. For the sarcophagi see nos. 148-151 in Gury, "Dioskouroi/Castores" in LIMC. For an excerpt of the same subject on a 1st century A.D. terracotta architectural panel, a so-called Campana relief, see no. 153 in Gury, op. cit.