March 2017

Funerary altar of an actor

The grave of the tragic actor, Marcus Varinius Areskon, a prematurely deceased star of his time, was located near the eastern fortification wall of Thessaloniki.

The colours on the funerary altar erected in his honour are remarkably well-preserved. The deceased is shown as a hero or a king, wearing the chiton of a tragic actor. A female tragic mask is shown to his right, denoting that Areskon as an actor did not only play roles of military leaders or heroes, as his outfit signifies, but also women's parts as well.

The name Areskon (= one who pleases, who is popular), especially appropriate for an actor, is the same with his mother, Varinia Areskousa. Hence, they were a family of actors, though his mother was an actor of the popular 'mime' theatre, while Marcus managed to elevate himself to the "grand" theatre of drama contests and become a tragic actor, and at a very early age at that. Theatrical professions were traditional in antiquity and were often carried on from parents to children as a family business.