Cartalus, whose body hangs from the gibbet, unsuccessfully attempted to avoid a conflict between religious duty and familial obligation. His father, a nobleman of Carthage, had been banished to Syria because of his political ambition to control the city. He ordered Cartalus, an influential high priest, to persuade the populace to allow his return. At a public celebration devoted to the hero Hercules, Cartalus respected his priestly duties instead of his father's wishes; he conducted the religious sacrifice following custom, neglecting to plead his father's case. After the ceremony, Cartalus returned to his father, who had him hanged for disobedience. The artist painted the story's poignant ending, an event not mentioned in the text.