© Ministry of Culture and Sports, © 16th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities
Three-dimensional reconstruction of the grave
The small Macedonian tomb at Potidea is located about 4 km to the south of the homonym settlement in the Halkidiki peninsula. It dates approximately to 300 BC and is of particular importance because of its content, and the precious insight it gives on ancient Greek painting.

Its simple Doric facade, 4.25 m high and 3.80 m wide, has two jambs at the ends and is topped by a pediment. Three stone blocks sealed the entrance from the outside, while inside there was a double-leaf poros stone door. The single-chambered barrel-vaulted tomb (internal dimensions: 2.75 x 3 x 3.30m) is built with poros stone blocks according to the isodomic masonry and all its external surfaces, including the facade, were plastered. It is paved with poros slabs. The vault-springing is lined by a painted course decorated with colored sprouts, leaves, grapes and fruits of ivy. Despite the recent pillage of the tomb, on the interior were found a bronze gilded wreath, two alabasters, a clay figurine and vases. Yet the most significant findings were two painted marble beds, now exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki. They were arranged to form a right angle inside the monument; the bones of two defunct were lying on them. The legs of the beds are decorated with spirals, palmettes and other vegetal motifs of a vivid red color, while the main frontal decoration is arranged in three parallel zones: the multicolor upper zone (14 cm wide) depicts half-naked and half-reclining women and men in line. The synthesis is suggestive of an open temenos (place of adoration), by the means of altars, springs, a sapling and a statue of the goddess Artemis. Among these totally Dionysian figures are the god Bacchus, the goddess Aphrodite (or perhaps Ariadne), an elder Silinos, Maenads and a winged Eros. The middle zone is brighter and depicts five similar couples of mythical griffons in line tearing up deers, a well-known motif. The difference in the technique used for this zone is impressive: there is an effort to imitate relief works of the time based on a multitude of striking colors. The lower zone of the bed beam depicts simply the outlines of couples of animals facing each other (lions, bulls, panthers, etc.), next to vegetal ornaments and large metallic craters. The painter of the Potidean tomb was undoubtedly a great artist, who could work with the same ease and speed on both the outlines of figures and the range of colors. It is noteworthy that he mastered well the technique of perspective, the syniziseis (form minimization in perspective) and the chiaroscuro.

The Macedonian tomb of Potidea was uncovered in June 1984.
K. Sismanidis, archaeologist
  See Also
Funeral beds