macedonian art


Tomb of Anthemia

Naoussa, Greece

3rd century BCE

This is a graceful, two-chamber monument with an Ionic facade of four semi-columns which support the entablature and the pediment. In the pediment’s hollow, a semi-declining couple is depicted in fresco. The three fleuron points which decorate the pediment retain their intense red and blue colours untouched, while the whole vaulted roof of the antechamber is painted with water lilies and fleuron (anthemia) in white and violet tones on a light blue background. The tomb gets its conventional name from these flowers.

The facade’s entrance was blocked by simple stone plinths, while the passageway from the first to the second chamber used to close with a monumental two-leaved marble door, which today we see fallen to the chamber floor. Inside the main death chamber, a four-sided stone base is preserved which contained some kind of metal vessel or reliquary with the bones of the dead.

Alexander The Great in front of the tomb of Achilles.

This painting in the Louvre Museum is a work of Hubert Robert (1733 -1808) done around 1754.

The subject taken from the Greek rhetorician Claudius Aelianius or Aelian (Varia Historia, XII, 7), writing in the second century CE, and shows the Macedonian king having the tomb of Achilles opened in order to pay a homage to the Greek hero of the Trojan War.

Achilles’ relationship with Patroclus is a key aspect of his myth. Its exact nature has been a subject of dispute in both the classical period and modern times. Thus in 5th-century BCE Athens, the relationship was commonly interpreted as pederastic. Nowadays some see it as a love relationship of an egalitarian homosexual couple. It is the same case as the relationship between Alexander the Great and Hephaestion. The relationship between the Macedonian king and his dearest and closest friend and confidant, lasted their whole lives, and was compared, by others as well as themselves, to that of Achilles and Patroclus. Hephaestion and Alexander grew up in a time and place where homosexual affairs were seen as perfectly normal. Roman and later writers, taking the Athenian pattern as their example, have tended to assume either, that their sexual relationship belonged to their adolescence, after which they left it behind, or that one of them was older, the lover (erastes) and the other was the beloved (eromenos). Claudius Aelianus takes the latter view when he uses just such an expression when describing the visit to Troy: “Alexander laid a garland on Achilles’ tomb and Hephaestion on Patroclus’, indicating that he was Alexander’s eromenos, as Patroclus was of Achilles.” No other circumstance shows better the nature and length of their relationship than Alexander’s overwhelming grief at Hephaestion’s death. The many and varied ways, both spontaneous and planned, by which Alexander poured out his grief are overwhelming. In the context of the nature of their relationship however, one stands out as remarkable. Lucius Flavius Arrianus “Xenophon” (Arrian of Nicomedia, ca. 86 – 160), in his work Ἀλεξάνδρου ἀνάβασις says that Alexander “… flung himself on the body of his friend and lay there nearly all day long in tears, and refused to be parted from him until he was dragged away by force by his Companions.

This painting by Robert (known as Robert des Ruines) is close to Panini, who was his teacher during his long stay of 11 years in Rome, and it is considered to be one of the first productions of the French artist in that city. In the painting by the French vedutista, an architectural fantasy, we see a pyramid similar to that of Caius Cestius in Rome, the ruins of a temple with Ionic columns inspired by the temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum and a round temple, after the Roman temple of Vesta, or the temple of the Sybile in Tivoli. The statue standing at the left-hand side of the canvas is the so-called Antinous of the Belvedere, or Antinous Admirandus, the famous statue in the Pio-Clementino Museum of the Vatican. This statue, correctly identified as a Hermes in the 19th century, was long taken to be a depiction of the beautiful Bythinian lover of Emperor Hadrian, one of the great “eromenos-erastes” relationship of the antiquity.

‘The Abduction of Persephone’ wall painting, in the royal Tomb of Persephone,  Vergina, Greece.

One of the most significantly surviving frescoes from the 4th century BC, found in one of the royal Verginian tombs of Philip II, The Tomb of Persephone. To consider its importance we can analyse its important contribution to the Greek myth, Greek art, and death of one of the most influential Greek rulers in history, whilst comparing its similarity to Ovid’s poem.


Palace of Phillip II

Aigai (todays Vergina), Macedonia

336 BCE

length 78 m, height 13.60 m. 

At the foot of the hill of the Acropolis, in a raised terrace that dominates the area and is marked by an ancient oak tree, the impressive remains of the palace lay. 

The floor plan of the ancient housewas of a peristyle courtyard with rooms surrounding it.  The house coudl accomosdate 4,000 residents and 500 guests.

The palace is organized around a large colonnaded courtyard and includes a temple dedicated to Hercules Patroos and luxurious banquet rooms for the king and his officials. In one of them the mosaic floor was preserved beautifully.

The  architect was famous Pytheas, who designed the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (355-350 BC), one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and the temple of Athena Polias in Priene in Asia Minor. This important monument, dating back to the second half of the 4th century BC, was a major attraction of the building program of Philip II. It should have been completed in 336 BC, when King to excuse the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra to the king of Molossos Alexander of Epirus.

Alexander The Great Cutting the Gordian Knot by Giovanni Paulo Panini (1691-1765), between 1718-1719, Baroque, Oil on canvas, 73, 3 cm x 59,7 cm, Walters Art Museum

The Macedonian ruler and general have entered the town of Gordium (in present-day Turkey) in 344 BC. In that city was the chariot of Gordius, the father of the legendary King Midas. The yoke of the wagon was fastened by a complicated knot. It had been prophesied that the one who could loose the knot would become the ruler of Asia. Instead of trying to untie the impossibly difficult knot, Alexander just cuts it with his sword. He went on to conquer Asian kingdoms as far east as Afghanistan. To suggest Asia Minor and the ancient past, Panini introduced a bystander wearing a turban and placed the scene in front of an altar dedicated to Zeus, ruler of the Greek gods, enthroned with his thunderbolt.


Monument of Aemilius Paullus


167 BCE

9 m. high

the monument commemorates the Roman victory in the Battle of Pydna against King Perseus of Macedon. The partially completed pillar was intended to be a base for a portrait of King Perseus. It was originally created to make the Macedonian presence known in Delphi to remind the Delphians of the tradition of friendship existing between them and the royal family. However, the monument was taken over by Aemilius Paullus to celebrate himself and Rome’s victory noting that, “it was only proper that the conquered should give way to the victors.” The Monument of Aemilius Paullus stood in front of the Temple of Apollo along with two other commemorative pillars to Eumenes II of Pergamon and Prusias II of Bithynia. However, this pillar dominates over the other two. The completed monument was a bronze equestrian statue atop a rectangular pillar that soared over 9 meters high. While the equestrian statue that was originally on top of pillar no longer remains, the cuttings in the plinth show that the horse would have been in a rearing position. An inscription near the base of the altar survived, which translated reads, “Aemelius, son of Lucius set this up from the spoils which he took from King Perseus and the Macedonians.”


O μακεδονικός τάφος του Αγίου Αθανασίου. (4ος αιώνας π.Χ)