The Tomb of the Diver (dating between 480 and 470 BC) was found in 1968 in the Greek city of Paestum (ancient Poseidonia) in what was known as Magna Graecia, and today is part of the province of Salerno (southern Italy). It is displayed in the museum at Paestum, where I had the pleasure of admiring it a few days ago.
This particular grave is very important because it contains the only example of Greek wall painting that survives in its entirety. Most ancient Greek paintings have decayed over time: the original bright colours used also on statues appear white today because the original pigments have deteriorated.
The paintings on the four inner stone walls depict a symposium scene attended by ephebes, athletes, and people with garlands, lying down on triclinia, while on the slab that forms the roof there is the image of a diver, which gives the tomb its name.
This lonely young man, whose anatomy is very detailed, is diving into a waving stream of water, which can represent the open sea
This scene is a visual metaphor for the transition from life to death when the soul dives from life into the sea of eternity.
The platform from which the diver is jumping could be interpreted as the mythical Pillars of Hercules which marked the border of the world (the limit of human knowledge). The man is flying towards a world of knowledge, different from the one of the earthly knowledge given by the symposium and its features: wine, eros, art.