Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7.22.6-7.22.7

Τρίτεια δέ, Ἀχαιῶν καὶ αὕτη πόλις, ἐν μεσογαίῳ μὲν ᾤκισται, τελοῦσι δὲ ἐς Πάτρας καὶ αὐτοὶ βασιλέως δόντος· στάδιοι δὲ ἐς Τρίτειαν εἴκοσί τε καὶ ἑκατόν εἰσιν ἐκ Φαρῶν. πρὶν δὲ ἢ ἐς τὴν πόλιν ἐσελθεῖν, μνῆμά ἐστι λευκοῦ λίθου, θέας καὶ ἐς τὰ ἄλλα ἄξιον καὶ οὐχ ἥκιστα ἐπὶ ταῖς γραφαῖς αἵ εἰσιν ἐπὶ τοῦ τάφου, τέχνη Νικίου· θρόνος τε ἐλέφαντος καὶ γυνὴ νέα καὶ εἴδους εὖ ἔχουσα ἐπὶ τῷ θρόνῳ, θεράπαινα δὲ αὐτῇ προσέστηκε σκιάδιον φέρουσα·καὶ νεανίσκος ὀρθὸς οὐκ ἔχων πω γένειά ἐστι χιτῶνα ἐνδεδυκὼς καὶ χλαμύδα ἐπὶ τῷ χιτῶνι φοινικῆν· παρὰ δὲ αὐτὸν οἰκέτης ἀκόντια ἔχων ἐστὶ καὶ ἄγει κύνας ἐπιτηδείας θηρεύουσιν ἀνθρώποις. πυθέσθαι μὲν δὴ τὰ ὀνόματα αὐτῶνοὐκ εἴχομεν· ταφῆναι δὲ ἄνδρα καὶ γυναῖκα ἐν κοινῷ παρίστατο ἅπασιν εἰκάζειν.

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Created by Valérie Toillon

Triteia, aussi un cité d'Achaie. est située à l'intérieur des terres, mais comme Pharae appartient à Patrae, après avoir été annexée par l'Empereur. La distance entre Triteia et Pharae est de cent vingt stades. Avant d'entrer dans la ville, on voit un tombeau en marbre blanc, remarquable surtout par les peintures dont il est orné et qui sont l'oeuvre de Nikias. C'est un trone d'ivoire où est assise une femme jeune et d'une extrême beauté : près d'elle se tient une servante tenant un parasol. Un jeune homme imberbe est debout : il est revêtu d'une tunique et d'une chlamyde de pourpre passée sur la tunique; auprès de lui est un piqueur tenant des javelots et des chiens de chasse. Nous n'avons pu apprendre les noms de ces personnages mais il est facile de deviner que ce monument funéraire est commun à l'homme et la femme. (Reinach, 1921, légèrement modifiée)

Annotation Authors and Editors
Created by Valérie Toillon

Commentary

  1. On the painter, Nikias, see text 362.

  2. The city is Triteia, in Achaia (in the North-West of the Peloponnese). In the Classical period, cemeteries were usually located outside the city and graves were situated alongside major roads leading up to the city gates. People could be buried or cremated, the choice remaining a matter of personal or family preference (Kurtz and Boardman, 1971, pp. 91-96; Garland, 2001, pp. 34-37; Younger, 2002, pp. 167-173).

  3. The tomb itself is called a mnêma and further a taphos. Both words refer to a tomb. In Classical times, tombs are usually round mounds surmounted by a stele (Kurtz and Boardman, 1971, pp. 105-106). Pausanias does not say where the paintings were placed. One can assume that the paintings decorated the funerary stele which was surmounting the tomb (Reinach, 1921, p. 292). The monument can be dated ca. 340-320 BCE which corresponds to Nikias' artistic activity. A funerary stele was made to perpetuate the memory of the deceased. This was anointed and adorned with garlands and offerings. It was also a means to mark the crossing from the world of the living to the world of the dead (Kurtz and Boardman, 1971, pp. 121-141; Hoffmann, 1997; Oakley, 2004, pp.145-214).

  4. The iconography of a sitting woman accompanied by her handmaid and a young man (neaniskos) presented as a hunter (symbolized by the dogs and the spears) beside his servant, is not unusual. In fact, seated women are common in classical funeral iconography. Perhaps they represent the deceased person (Dinahet and Mouret, 1993; Younger, 2002, pp. 173-181). This iconographical feature is a reference to wedding, especially in this case to the wedding with Hades. The throne is also a symbol of power and maternity. In fact, among the goddesses, only Hera, Demeter and Persephone are figured seated on a throne (Hoffmann, 1997, pp. 25-26; Oakley and Sinos, 1993, pp. 43-50). The parasol held by the handmaid is a symbol of prominent social status, a feminine accessory, equivalent to the dogs and javelins held by the young man's servant, which recalls the wealth of the deceased (Miller, 1992). Furthermore, hunting scenes and hunters are common in funeral iconography, on stele as well as on white ground lekythoi and funeral painting (for example a hunter on a white-ground lekythos in Geneva, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire 19310.1951; a hunting scene on a white-ground lekythos in London, British Museum D60). Hunting is especially a juvenile activity. Besides, Pausanias specifies that the man on the painting is too young to have a beard (Schnapp, 1988; Oakley, 2004, pp. 145-175). Therefore, the painting could have represented a mother with her son, rather than a man and his wife, in which case, the man would have had a beard as it is usual in contemporary funeral iconography. Hunting as a juvenile activity makes also more sense if the couple depicted is a mother with her son. Similalry, the throne may recall wedding, but also maternity.

  5. In ancient Greece, funerary stelai can either be carved and painted or just painted. There are just a few examples of painted stelai since the material is very fragile. The technique used to paint stelai was tempera with egg, maybe encaustic. Studies on painted stelai have shown that the artist would work on colored surfaces aiming to produce a sculptural effect from a unique light source. Likewise, the few examples of painted stelai that have survived show a close connection with painting techniques we know from written sources on Classical painting. In fact, Pausanias is able to identify the material used for the woman's throne: ivory. This implies that Nikias produced realistic materials effects (Kurtz and Boardman, 1971, pp. 130-132; Preußer, Graeve and Wolters, 1981; Charatzopoulou, 2001, pp. 46-47. One can find some example of painted stele here ). Moreover, even if we do not know the names of the deceased, the fact that the tomb was decorated with a painting made by a famous artist, is significant concerning the social status of the deceased. They are not modest people but more likely wealthy citizens who can afford such a prestigious funerary monument. This is confirmed by the addition of symbols of power and wealth: an ivory throne, servants, an allusion to hunting (dogs and spears), a parasol and the purple-red cloak (phoinikéos) worn by the young man.

Annotation Authors and Editors
Created by Valérie Toillon

Tags

  • nikias
  • funeral
  • throne
  • hunt
  • stelai
  • painting

Bibliography

Charatzopoulou, C. 2001. ‘La peinture funéraire en Grèce du IVe au IIe s. Av. J.-C. Un état de la recherche’, in Barbet, A.. ed. La peinture funéraire antique. IVe siècle av. J.-C.- IVe siècle apr. J.-C. Paris: Errance, pp. 43–49.

Dinahet, M.-T. le and Mouret, N. 1993. ‘Les stèles funéraires grecques : études stylistiques et iconographiques, années 1980-1992’, Topoi, 3(1), pp. 109–166. doi: 10.3406/topoi.1993.2079.

Garland, R. 2001. The Greek Way of Death. 2nd ed. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

Hoffmann, G. 1997. ‘L’expression du temps sur les stèles funéraires attiques’, Mètis. Anthropologie des mondes grecs anciens, 12(1), pp. 19–43. doi: 10.3406/metis.1997.1060.

Kurtz, D. C. and Boardman, J. 1971. Greek Burial Customs. Aspects of Greek and Roman Life. London: Thames and Hudson.

Miller, M. C. 1992. ‘The Parasol: An Oriental Status-Symbol in Late Archaic and Classical Athens’, The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 112, pp. 91–105. doi: 10.2307/632154.

Oakley, J. H. 2004. Picturing Death in Classical Athens: the Evidence of the White Lekythoi. Cambridge Studies in Classical Art and Iconography. Cambridge, UK; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Oakley, J. H. and Sinos, R. H. 1993. The Wedding in Ancient Athens. University of Wisconsin Press.

Preußer, F., Graeve, V. von and Wolters, C. 1981. Malerei auf griechischen Grabsteinen. München: G.D.W. Callwey.

Reinach, A. 1921. Textes grecs et latins relatifs à l’histoire de la peinture ancienne. Paris: Klincksieck.

Schnapp, A. 1988. ‘La chasse et la mort : l’image du chasseur sur les stèles et sur les vases’, Annali di archeologia e storia antica / Istituto Universitario Orientale, Dipartimento di Studi del Mondo Classico e del Mediterraneo Antico, 10, pp. 151–161.

Younger, J. G. 2002. ‘Women in Relief : « Double Consciousness » in Classical Attic Tombstones’, in Rabinowitz, N. S. and Auanger L. eds., Among Women: from the Homosocial to the Homoerotic in the Ancient World, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, pp. 167–210

Annotation Authors and Editors
Created by Valérie Toillon