Paestum Museum

The museum on the edge of the Paestum archaeological zone is well worth a visit. It provides a lot more context for the visitor of the nature of the people who built and lived in this ancient city. I will just mention one of the exhibits that we encountered on our visit to the museum.

The most famous and fascinating exhibit in the Paestum Museum is a painted tomb dating from around 470 BCE. It was discovered in a small cemetery 1.5 kilometres south of Paestum June 1968. All four sides and the underneath of the lid of the slab tomb have been painted in the ‘Fresco’ technique that the great Italian artists made famous in the later Middle Ages. It is considered so significant in Archaeological history because it is “the only example of Greek painting with figured scenes dating from the Orientalizing, Archaic or Classical periods to survive in its entirety. Among the thousands of Greek tombs known from this time (roughly 700–400 BC), this is the only one found to have been decorated with frescoes of human subjects. ( Holloway, R. Ross…2006).

The top slab of the ‘cist’ tomb has the image of a human diving off a platform into what is apparently unknown territory; there doesn’t appear to be a literal swimming pool below him. Scholars are suggesting that this simple but beautiful image is not an attempt to capture a reality, but a philosophical or religious view of the transition from life to death. The other slabs of the tomb illustrate a ‘symposium’ or gathering of friends after the death which involves wine, music, song and perhaps a little eroticism. These tomb paintings do more than any tomb inscriptions could in giving us an insight into the behaviour of friends mourning the loss of a friend, 2500 years ago.

The images on the internal sides of the tomb

The images on the internal ends of the tomb.

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