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The Actor and the Mask - I | by Egisto Sani
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The Actor and the Mask - I

Epitaph for “M. Varenius Areskon”, Tragic Actor. Rectangular funerary altar dedicated to Marcus Var(e)inius Areskon, by his mother, Var(e)inia Areskousa, and another member of his family, in 170-200 AD.

On the front side a relief represents the upper part of a frontally standing man clad in a military costume and raising his right hand. A female mask in the upper left corner of the relief, with traces of color still clearly visible on the lips and hair, is not part of the actor’s equipment (he is depicted in military costume) but simply identifies the figure as an actor. Moldings above and below; tympanon with central rosette and leaves , a preserved akroterion complete the altar.


The inscription of four lines carved above and under the relief reads:


Λ(ούκιος) Σηνάτιος Οἴκιος καὶ Οὐαρε | νία Ἀρέσκουσα Μάρκῳ Οὐαρ[ε] | νίῳ Ἀρέσκοντι τῷ τέ | κνῳ μνήμης χάριν

Lucius Senatius (probably an unknown member of the family) and Var(e)inia Areskousa to her son Marcus Var(e)inius Areskon in memory


The cognomen shared by Marcus and his mother, “Areskon” and “Areskousa”, signifies “he/she who pleases” or “who is pleasing or popular”. This is consistent with the assumption that both were members of a family of theatrical artists — although, since women did not act in the official theatre, Var(e)inia must have belonged to one of the “paratheatrical” professions. Her son, however, became a tragic actor and won fame and fortune, as may be deduced from the monument commemorating him.


Source: Triantafyllia Giannou, “ Theatre and Music in Roman Macedonia”


Funerary altar

Ca. 170 – 200 AD

Thessaloniki, Archaeological Museum Inv. 9815


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Taken on August 29, 2017