The J. Paul Getty Museum

Grave Stele of Pollis

Object Details


Grave Stele of Pollis




Greek (Megarian)


Megara, Greece (Place Created)


about 480 B.C.


Parian marble

Object Number:



153 × 45.1 × 15.9 cm (60 1/4 × 17 3/4 × 6 1/4 in.)

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Object Description

The muscular warrior carved in low relief on this stele (gravestone) wears only a crested helmet and carries a shield, sword, and spear. He appears to be advancing into battle with his shield raised and his spear ready. The strap that suspended the sword hanging at his side was originally added in paint, as were other details of the decoration. The figure is identified in the Greek inscription written above him as Pollis: ΛΕΓΟ ΠΟΛΛΙΣ ΑΣΟΠΙΧΟ ΦΙΛΟΣ Η[Υ]ΙΟΣ: Ο ΚΑΚΟΣ ΕΟΝ ΑΠΕΘΝΑΣΚΟΝ ΗΥΠΟ ΣΤ[Ι]ΚΤΑΙΣΙΝ ΕΓΟΝΕ (“I, Pollis, dear son of Asopichos, speak: Not being a coward, I, for my part, perished at the hands of the tattooers.”). The tattooed enemy referred to in the epitaph were the Thracians, a tribe from the north that fought on the side of the Persian invaders in the war of 480–479 B.C. Although the Greeks were victorious, Pollis lost his life. The form of the Greek letters seen here was distinctive to Megara, a city located between Athens and Corinth.

In form, the stele retains the tall narrow shape popular in the Archaic period, yet its decoration looks forward to the early Classical period. Sculptors of the period from about 480-450 B.C. displayed a new interest in the representation of space, movement, and human anatomy. Shown mostly in profile view with accurate musculature and a foreshortened shield, the figure of Pollis conveys a sense of three-dimensionality. This effect is all the more remarkable, give the stele’s very shallow carving.

by 1988

Private Dealer (Munich, Germany)
Source: Based on a plaster copy made in 1988 for the Museum für Abgüsse Klassischer Bildwerke in Munich.

- 1990

Atlantis Antiquities, Ltd. (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1990.

Ancient Art from the Permanent Collection (March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004

Atlantis Antiquities, New York. Greek and Roman Art. 1990, no. 13.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 3rd ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1991), p. 20.

"Acquisitions/1990." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 19 (1991), p. 136, no. 6.

"Getty Museum Acquires Rare Stele," Minerva 2, 4 (1991), p. 34, ill. p. 34.

Supplementum Epigrahicum Graecum 41. Leiden: 1991, pp. 41, 404.

Birge, D. "Field Notes." Archeological News 17, nos. 1-4 (1992), p. 41.

Follet, S. "Bulletin epigraphique," Revue des Etudes grecques 105 (1992), p. 441, no. 21.

Podany, Jerry. "Faked, flayed or fractured? Development of loss compensation approaches for antiquities." In Loss compensation : technical and philosophical issues : proceedings of the Objects Specialty Group Session, June 10, 1994, 22nd annual meeting, Nashville, TN. Objects Specialty Group Postprints, vol. 2. Ellen Pearlstein and Michele Marincola, compilers. (Washington, D.C. : American Institute for Conservation and Artistic Works, 1994), pp. 45-46, 54, figs. 12-13.

Corcella, Aldo. 1995. "Pollis and the Tattooers." Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 109: 47-8.

Schaefer, Thomas. "Gepickt und Versteckt. Zur Bedeutung und Funktion aufgerauhter Oberflaechen in der spaetarchaischen und fruehklassischen Plastik," Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archaeologischen Instituts 111 (1996), pp. 25-74, p. 51, fig. 14.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 4th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 19.

Towne Markus, Elana. Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Antiquities. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 44.

Bodel, John, and Stephen Tracy. Greek and Latin Inscriptions in the USA: A Checklist (New York: American Academy in Rome, 1997), p. 9.

Onians, John. Classical Art and the Cultures of Greece and Rome (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), p. 38, fig. 29.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 6th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), p. 19.

Grossman, Janet Burnett. Greek Funerary Sculpture: Catalogue of the Collections at the Getty Villa (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), pp. 98-100, cat. no. 36.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection (Los Angeles: 2002), p. 18.

Recke, Matthias. Gewalt und Leid: Das Bild des Krieges bei den Athenern im 6. und 5. Jh.v.Chr. (Istanbul: Ege Yayinlari, 2002), Taf. 76b (incorrectly cited as 90.AA.120).

Spivey, Nigel and Squire, Michael. Panorama of the Classical World (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2004), p. 203, fig. 324.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 18.

Spivey, Nigel. Greek Sculpture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 122-23, 126, fig. 5.1.

Onians, John. European Art: A Neuroarthistory (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), pp. 81, fig. 50, ill.