« The Tomb Monument of Kallithea. Prestigious Self-Representation of a Metic Family in Late Classical Athens »
In the third quarter of the 4th Century BC the prestigious so-called tomb of Kallithea was built near the center of Athens. An inscription tells that the builder was a metic from the Milesian colony Histria on the Black Sea coast.
The tomb consists of a high podium with an Amazon frieze at the final, which above shows a crepis with another frieze, which forms the base for a monumental naiskos. In that naiskos there are three statues: one of the grave owner, his son and a servant. The overall architecture is unusual for Attic tombs and was inspired by eastern monumental tombs, apparently directly from the Maussolleion of Halicarnassus, on which also an amazonomachy forms the base end. The amazon frieze of Kallithea shows evidence that here the attic amazonomachy was meant. With this issue the grave owner testified his knowledge of the Athenian history and integrates himself visually in the political fortunes of the city.
The second frieze shows antithetical animals as they were comparable to gold objects found in Scythian kurgans. Since Histria was near Scythia and stood in contact with the Scythian elite, the grave owner seems hereby refer to his home on the Pontos Euxeinos.
Histria in turn was a foundation of Miletus, which at the time of the erection of the Maussolleion of Halicarnassus belonged to the sphere of control of Caria. The design of the Kallithea monument could therefore be a reference to the origin of the histrian family. Miletus in turn ascribes his founding to the Athenian prince Neileus. By his unusual monument and the iconographical program the tomb owner could refer to the formerly attic descent of his family. Because in the naiskos are standing the statues of the deceased like Athenian citizens.
The metic from Histria is integrating and differentiating himself from the Athenian society with this monument and the friezes. On the one hand with the attic references he legitimized to have been built as a stranger such a magnificent monument in democratic Athens. On the other hand, it represents the career of his family and finally himself and by this generates a self-conscious family prestige, which culminates in the flaunted wealth of the grave owner.