Victory Monument from Greece


Victory relief now in New York © David Gill

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.

From Octavian to Augustus


Bronze Augustus, National Museum, Athens © David Gill

On this day, 16 January 27 BC, Octavian was awarded the title Augustus ‘by decree of the Senate’.

This equestrian statue of Augustus was found in the sea between Ayios Evstratios and Euboea in 1979. It is now in the National Museum in Athens (inv. X 23322).

Celebrating Hadrian in Athens


Colossal portrait of the Emperor Hadrian, found in Athens, 1933. Athens, National Archaeological Museum inv. 3729. © David Gill

The National Archaeological Museum in Athens is celebrating the reign of the emperor Hadrian in an exhibition, “Hadrian and Athens: Conversing with an Ideal World“.

Eleusis in Cambridge


Caryatid from Eleusis, Fitzwilliam Museum © David Gill

One of the caryatids from the Roman ‘lesser propylaia’ in the sanctuary of Demeter at Eleusis was obtained by E.D. Clarke and now resides in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. It is currently part of an art installation by Hugo Dalton.

Another caryatid from the ‘lesser propylaia’ is now displayed in the Eleusis Museum. Both appeared in the documentary, ‘The Sacred Way‘, by Michael Wood (1991).


Caryatid from Eleusis, Eleusis Museum © David Gill

The lesser Propylaia was a benefaction of Appius Claudius Pulcher.


Lesser Propylaia, Eleusis © David Gill


Dedicatory inscription, Lesser Propylaia, Eleusis © David Gill

The Value(s) of UNESCO


Statue of Liberty © David Gill

One of the many roles for UNESCO has been the recognition of World Heritage Sites around the world. The news that both the US and the State of Israel will be withdrawing from the funding of UNESCO raises deep concerns.

The 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property has had a major impact on the way that countries can protect their cultural property in the face of organised looting and damage. Over 300 items have been returned to Italy from North American public and private collections as a result of this benchmark for cultural property. (The value of this Convention is discussed on “Looting Matters“.)

Among the WHS locations in the USA is the Statue of Liberty that was inscribed on the list back in 1984. As UNESCO states, the statue “endures as a highly potent symbol – inspiring contemplation, debate, and protest – of ideals such as liberty, peace, human rights, abolition of slavery, democracy, and opportunity”.

Dog and cat in the Kerameikos


Athens, National Museum 3476 © David Gill

In 1922 the marble base of a kouros was found built into Themistoklean Wall in the Kerameikos in Athens. On the right hand side four youths watch as a god and a cat confront each other.

The sculpture is dated on the orthodox chronology to c. 510 BC.


Athens, National Museum 3476 © David Gill