A grave monument with “speaking symbols”

A well-known type of grave monument during the imperial times is the altar. An inscribed altar with engraved decoration, found built in the eastern part of the late wall of Dion, is of particular interest.

Sabinus and Nikandra
 made this grave
 from their own shoulders
 remembering death.

The metrical inscription informs us that the spouses Sabinus and Nikandra ordered the construction of a grave monument with the money they acquired by their work (from their own shoulders), while they were still alive having death in mind.

The text does not mention the profession that enabled the spouses to make this expense. However, the tools engraved on the three sides of the altar function as “speaking symbols” of their work and reveal that they were engaged with carpentry. The axe and the compass on the front side, below the inscription, were used for cutting and processing the wood, the plane on the left side for smoothing the wood and the ruler on the right side for the measurements.

Text and images on the grave monument complement each other and tell a life story in Dion at the end of the 2nd or the beginning of the 3rd c. AD.

Bibliography: P. Papageorgiou, Die Grabaltäre Pierias in der Kaiserzeit, Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani: Griechenland Bd. III.2, Αθήνα 2019, 44, 91-92, 7 (with previous bibliography).