The Tomb of the Diver (Paestum)

20190601_131036 tuffatore

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.

22 thoughts on “The Tomb of the Diver (Paestum)

      1. Ciao Luisa, non mi vergogno a scriverti che sono andata a cercare sul dizionario il significato di alcune parole del tuo articolo..Mi piace leggere quello che scrivi ma devo capire..

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ho il traduttore..e trovo tutto quello che voglio sapere.. . Non si tratta di questo.. Volevo ringraziarti.. Perché mi fai venire voglia di conoscere di capire.. Per te e qualcuno come te, ho scritto un articolo qualche minuto fa.. Buona serata grazie Luisa

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      3. Sono io a ringraziare te per la gioia che le tue parole mi procurano.
        Sai, sono stata un’insegnante di inglese in una scuola superiore, e quello che mi piaceva procurare nei miei studenti era il piacere e la motivazione a conoscere, approfondire.
        Ora cerco di fare lo stesso con i miei corsisti all’Università per la Terza Età del mio paese, e anche qui.

        Un abbraccio

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  1. This painting is extraordinary, especially because it decorates a tomb. The bright colours and the cheerful atmosphere all contribute to endow it with a sense of freshness and hope. Somehow we lost it along the centuries. Perhaps we can still learn from antiquity, lessons on the art of living. Salve!

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  2. Bellissima! Ho potuto ammirare la lastra del tuffatore alla mostra I Greci in Occidente a Palazzo Grassi, Venezia. Sono passati moltissimi… issimi… anni, ma ricordo ancora l’emozione provata alla sua vista. La scena del tuffo ha forte significato simbolico. Grazie per aver fatto riaffiorare un bel ricordo!
    🌺

    Liked by 1 person

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