Nelson, Neptune and Britannia at Greenwich

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Greenwich, Nelson pediment © David Gill

The Nelson pediment at Greenwich is full of classical allusion. It was designed by Benjamin West and completed in 1812 (not the inscription below the central group).

At the centre is the body of Nelson presented to the helmeted Britannia by a Triton on behalf of Neptune (at the left). A winged victory presents Neptune’s trident to Britannia, indicating that Nelson’s victory has provided control of the sea. A British sailor is adjacent to Neptune with the announcement ‘Trafalgar’.

On the other wide are the personifications of the nation states of Great Britain: Scotland (with a thistle), England (with a rose), and Ireland (with a shamrock). (Note the absence of Wales.) Between these ‘kingdoms’ and Britannia is a winged figure (a ‘Naval Genius’) reminding the viewer of the victories at the Nile and Copenhagen. The lion holds a tablet reminding us of the 122 (CXXII) battles fought by Nelson.

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Greenwich, Nelson pediment © David Gill

The pediment forms part of the Nelson Trail in Greenwich.

Thomas Bewick celebrations at NT Cherryburn

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Cherryburn © David Gill

This weekend marks the anniversary of the birth of the wood-engraver Thomas Bewick at Cherryburn in Northumberland on 10 or 12 August 1753 (see ODNB). The property is now owned by the National Trust.

Further information is available from the Thomas Bewick Society and the Natural History Society of Northumbria.

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Cherryburn © David Gill

Election promises at Corinth

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Erastus inscription, Corinth © David Gill

The dedication of a square next to the theatre at Corinth by an official named Erastus was ‘in return for his aedileship’ (PRO AEDILIT[AT]E). Erastus would appear to be have made an election promise, and the square, edged with the dedicatory inscription, demonstrated that he had kept to his side of the agreement.

Brian Shefton: Classical Archaeologist

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2017

Oxford University Press has published a series of essays on refugee scholars who found a home and a welcome at the University of Oxford from 1930.

My contribution was on Professor Brian Shefton (1919-2012), who was brought to England with his parents in the summer if 1933. His father, Professor Isidor Isaac Scheftelowitz, initially found a home at Montefiore College in Ramsgate before moving to Oxford in the summer of 1934. Brian was a scholar at Oriel College, Oxford, where he came under the influence of Paul Jacobsthal and (Sir) John Beazley. His studies were interrupted in 1940 when many refugees of German origin were interned on the Isle of Man. Brian enrolled in the Pioneer Corps of the British Army serving in Yorkshire and Scotland. In 1944 he transferred to the Education Corps.

At the cessation of hostilities Brian returned to Oxford to complete us studies, and in 1947 obtained a School Scholarship at the British School at Athens where he assisted with the excavation of Old Smyrna. During this period he collaborated with colleagues at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) on the publication of some of the pottery from the Agora excavations. One of his significant publications from this time was on the monument to Kallimachos from the Athenian Acropolis.

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Nike from the Kallimachos monument on the Athenian Acropolis © David Gill

In 1950 he was appointed Lecturer in Classics at Exeter, and in 1953 moved to King’s College, Newcastle (now Newcastle University). One of his achievements was the creation of the Greek Museum (now incorporated in the Great North Museum). Among his research interests was the distribution of Greek and Etruscan material in Central Europe, a topic no doubt inherited from Jacobsthal.

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Brian Shefton lecturing at the opening of the Great North Museum © David Gill

Gill, D. W. J. 2017. “Brian Shefton: classical archaeologist.” In Ark of civilization: refugee scholars and Oxford University, 1930-1945, edited by S. Crawford, K. Ulmschneider, and J. Elsner: 151-60. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Londinium: tombstone of Vivius Marcianus

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Vivius Marcianus, London © David Gill

The tombstone of Vivius Marcianus was found during the rebuilding of St Martin’s Church on Ludgate Hill in 1669 (RIB 17). (The church itself had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.) The gravestone was then placed in the Ashmolean Museum (that opened in 1683); it is now displayed in the Museum of London (since 1974). It is likely that this came from the cemetery outside (and to the west) of Ludgate.

Vivius Marcianus is described as a centurion of the II Augustan Legion. He is shown in the relief holding the centurion’s stick, vitis, in his right hand. The legion was based at Caerleon in south Wales. There is a possibility that he was attached to the staff of the governor.

The monument was set up by Januaria Martina, his wife.

Remembering migrants

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Ellis Island © David Gill

The luggage in the hall of Ellis Island is a poignant reminder of approximately 12 million migrants who passed through this entry point for the United States in the hope of a better life. It contains the National Museum of Immigration as part of the National Park.

The archaeology of ostracism

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Ostraka from the Eridanos in the Kerameikos © David Gill

German excavations in the Kerameikos, in the bed of the river Eridanos, revealed major deposits of pot sherds or ostraka with the incised names of individuals. They include:

  • Aristeides Lysimachou, candidate in the 480s
  • Kallias Kratiou, candidate in the 480s
  • Megakles Hippokratous, candidate in the 480s [or later]
  • Themistokles Neokleous, candidate in the 480s [or later]
  • Kimon Miltiadou, candidate in the mid 5th century

Although in some cases the date of the (successful) ostracism is known, the individual could have been a candidate in earlier voting.

These ostraka were used in the process of ostracism in the Athenian democracy to restrict the power of a person who had been seen as becoming too powerful. If sufficient votes were cast against an individual they were forced to go into exile.

Note that some of these ostraka come from the same pot.

Reference

Lewis, D. (1974). The Kerameikos Ostraka. Zeitschrift Für Papyrologie Und Epigraphik, 14, 1-4. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20180644

See also:

Lang, M. (1990). Ostraka. The Athenian Agora, 25, Iii-188. doi:10.2307/3601999