Naiskos in the Funerary Architecture of Ancient Greeks

A type of tombstone in ancient Greece, mostly in the fourth and fifth centuries BC. It imitated the shape of templum in antis. It, namely, it looked like a small temple in classical order with antas, columns or pillars and a decorative pediment, also decorated with figures in the facade. The pediment (frontispiece) was usually filled with family scenes in high relief, where the dead appeared inside the house alongside the living. Also “[some] of the Hellenistic inscriptions found in the Bay of Grama, [in the Ionian Sea of Albania], are placed inside a naiskos, and in this case the religious context is an invocation of Castor and Pollux, [the] Dioskouroi [in Greek and Roman mythology], for a safe passage across the Adriatic, rather than funerary” (“Naiskos” 2020).

Funerary naiskos of a young soldier (Aristonautes, son of Archenautes, of the deme Halai). Pentelic marble, found in the Kerameikos necropolis in Athens, ca. 350–325 BC. Photo by Marsyas (2005). CC BY 2.5. Photo and caption source: “Naiskos” (2020). In: Wikipedia. Wolna Encyklopedia.

The naiskos form developed from an Attic tombstone stelae in the second half of the fourth century BC.; initially simple in shape, with time they had acquired a more complicated form referring to the facade of a Greek temple with a pediment supported by columns.

The facade of Naiksos also appears as a decorative motif  in the funerary “black-figure and red-figure pottery of Ancient Greece at the Loutrophoros and the Lekythos and the red-figure wares of Apulia in South Italy, [the fourth century BC.]” (“Naiskos” 2020).

A similar style of funerary tombstones can be also observed in the so-called aedicula, typical of Roman art.

Featured image: Naiskos-style funerary stele of Cyzicus (an ancient town of Mysia in Anatolia, in the current Balıkesir Province of Turkey), with high-relief decoration; epitaph inscribed on the plint: “Attalos, son of Asklepiodoros, greetings!” Made of marble, from the second quarter of the second century BC. Stele of funerary banquet represents, from left to right, a servant holding a round object, perhaps a model of the Arsinoeion in Samothrace, a seated woman, a half-reclining man holding a phiale in which a snake is drinking, a boy cupbearer. Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Denon, ground floor, room 11 (Musée du Louvre, Paris, France). Photo by Jastrow (2008). Credit given by W. H. Waddington, (1854). CC BY 3.0. Image cropped. Photo and caption source: Wikimedia Commons (2021).


“Naiskos” (2020). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <>. [Accessed on 28th February, 2021].

“Naiskos” (2020). In: Wikipedia. Wolna Encyklopedia. Available at <>. [Accessed on 28th February, 2021].

“Naiskos stele of Cyzicus” (2021). In: Wikimedia Commons. Available at <>. [Accessed on 28th February, 2021].

PWN (2007). Słownik terminologiczny sztuk pięknych, p. 274. Kubalska-Sulkiewicz K., Bielska-Łach M., Manteuffel-Szarota A. eds. Wydanie piąte. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN.

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