Excavations at the Panhellenic sanctuary of Isthmia in the Peloponnese uncovered remains of the balbides starting-gate from the stadion. There were a sixteen starting-gates (on the right of the picture) that were controlled by strings that passed along grooves leading to the pit where the ‘starter’ was positions. The gate ‘system’ appears to date to the 5th century BC, although its use may have been limited.
This relief was acquired by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1959 [inv. 59.11.19]. It was first recorded by Michel Fourmont in 1729/30, and was last known in 1753. The piece surfaced in the London sale at Sotheby’s of part of the collection of Lord Hatherton in 1959.
The relief dates to the second century AD. Although the name of the individual is lost, his father was Alexander (restored, [Ale]xandrou) of the deme Rhamnous in Attica. The relief marks from left to right, victories in the Panathenaic games (showing an amphora containing olive oil), the Isthmian games (with a pine wreath), Argive games (with a shield), and the Nemean games (with a celery wreath). Brian F. Cook has suggested that a further wreath would have appeared at the left end, above the now missing personal name: Delphi and Olympia are possibilities.
The relief is a reminder how cultural property can move from one country to another passing through historic collections.