This paper examines a corpus of urban Roman mythological sarcophagi with depictions of violent death scenes. The use of such mythological scenes, concerned with highly emotional aspects of death and grief, was submitted to remarkable changes in Severan times. Of particular interest is the fact that depictions of heroes dying a violent death are almost completely abandoned. Previously the protagonists of such scenes were conceived as figures of positive identification. In Severan times the topic of violent death is revived by scenes with figures of negative characterization, such as barbarians, meeting a brutal end. The specified changes pertain to the relation between the visual narrative of the mythological depictions and the deceased to whose fate they were meant to allude to. The changes in this relation cannot be explained solely as signs of altered demands regarding the purpose of mythological scenes in a funerary context. Rather, they should be understood as indications of profound changes in the mentality of the Roman society of the early 3rd century AD.