Purloined Kouroi Recovered

Getty Images via ABC

Kouros-style marble statues, dated to the 6th century BC, are displayed on Tuesday at the National Archaeological Museum in central Athens.

The priceless artifacts were recovered by authorities three days ago during a sting operation in the Corinth prefecture of southern Greece, and specifically near the village of Klenia, which is located in vicinity of ancient Nemea. Two local men, identified as farmers, were charged with antiquities smuggling, while another is wanted.

The wanted man is allegedly the mastermind of the ring and has a previous criminal record with antiquities smuggling offenses.

According to reports, the two statues were dug up in the area eight months ago. The emblematic kouros, kouroi in the plural, were presented to the press during World Museum Day.

Speaking at the museum, Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos and Greek Police (EL.AS) Chief Eleftherios Economou detailed the efforts made by authorities to apprehend the suspects as well as an ongoing probe into possible overseas buyers.

The sculptures, 1.82 and 1.78 meters tall, are considered unique works dating back to the late 6th century BC. According to archaeologists, the fact that makes them unique is that they are almost identical works sharing the same facial characteristics.

The damage observed on them, cut limbs and a head is recent and probably caused by excavation machinery, although archaeologists said the statues will be restored in full.

via Priceless ancient statues recovered by authorities.

Plenty of press piling up on this one (I’ll add some more later) … a thought that just occurred to me was that these are probably depicting Cleobis and Biton, no? One or both of them were victors at Nemea and statuary of them might be appropriately found in that vicinity …

Addenda: the Cleobis and Biton claim comes from a paper by M. Miller; see, however: Sophocles S. Markianos, “The Chronology of the Herodotean Solon “Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, Vol. 23, No. 1 (1st Qtr., 1974), pp. 1-20, esp. the discussion in note  66 (sorry! had 23 there before … reading on a small screen) (The Miller paper is referenced there as well).

More coverage:

Ancient Greek ‘Austerity’

Location of Pieria Prefecture in Greece
Image via Wikipedia

In the wake of all that Greek ‘stuff’ that’s been happening comes an interesting item on a Greek precedent for ‘austerity’:

Ancient Greeks at the end of the 4th century BC apparently went through a period of austerity and curtailment of wasteful spending similar to that Greece is facing today, according to finds in tombs in Ancient Pydna recently brought to light by excavations conducted by the 27th Ephorate of Prehistorical and Classical Antiquities.

A recovery excavation in a land plot destined for the installation of a photovoltaic unit in the northwestern section of the fortified settlement of Ancient Pydna (in the present-day prefecture of Pieria) revealed two clusters of tombs dating back to the 4th and 3rd century BC respectively. The unviolated tombs bear witness to the passage from the age of wealth to an era of economic tightness in a region of strategic importance that was the most significant commercial center of the Macedonian kingdom.

At the end of the 4th century BC, Athenian custodian Demetrios Falireus, appointed by King Cassander of Macedon, issues a decree prohibiting the erection of opulent tombs or funeral monuments, and recommending curtailment of extravagance in funerary rituals. Thus, the 4th century BC tombs are impressive and ornately built, while those of the 3rd century BC are smaller and more frugal, deputy supervisor of the Pydna excavations Manthos Bessios told ANA-MPA.

Thus, where the 4th century tombs contained offerings made of precious materials, such as gold jewelry, elaborate vases and ivory-plated beds, the 3rd century BC tombs were smaller, less elaborate, and contained instead offerings of more mundane materials, such as clay, although both clusters of tombs were of men, women and children of the affluent social class.

via 3rd century BC Greeks went through austerity period | ANA.

The ANA coverage is alone in citing Demetrius Phalereus as the author of the decree in question … but as far as I’m aware, Demetrius was in charge of Athens. Was Pydna also part of Demetrius’ decree? Or has something been lost in translation here?

More coverage:

Iris (Summer 2010) is Available!

The Summer 2010 edition of Iris is out this month, and the theme of this issue is crime and punishment in the ancient world. Contents include:

* Romans behaving badly: crime and punishment in Rome
* Iris chat: Andrew Irvine, author of ‘Socrates on Trial’
* CSI Athens: the crime scene in ancient Greece
* Rules and rulers: law making and breaking in ancient world
* What lies beneath: off the beaten track in Northamptonshire
* Redemption and revenge: the story of Philoctetes

It also includes articles and features on outreach projects, news and reviews, puzzles, a what’s on section, translations, fiction, advice and more.

Iris magazine is part of The Iris Project, an educational charity which promotes access to Classics in inner city state schools and deprived urban areas. The magazine is sent free to state schools which don’t yet offer Classical subjects, and this is funded solely by subscriptions and advertisements in the magazine.

You can order a subscription at http://www.irismagazine.org/order.htm or by emailing editor  AT irismagazine.org. For more information on how you can help support the outreach work of the project or if you would like to make a donation, please get in touch at with us through our website.

Stephen G. Miller on Nemea

He arrived in Greece in the ’70s as a young archaeologist aspiring to bring to light the kingdom of legendary Ulysses or, at least, the palaces of King Phillip of Macedon. Destiny, however, and the University of California at Berkeley, led Dr. Stephen G. Miller to Nemea in the Peloponnese, southern Greece, where he unearthed the ancient stadium of the Nemean Panhellenic Games.

In an interview with ANA-MPA’s “Greek Diaspora” magazine, Miller said the excavation was carried out very cautiously, and frequently with bare hands.

“The first time I visited Greece I felt a sense of national identity,” he said, adding: “I felt that I’ve always belonged here and will belong here forever.”

Dr. Miler recently spent nine months at the site, despite the fact that he is no longer the director of the excavations. Moreover, he has played a decisive role in the revival of the Nemean Games in their ancient form. Participating athletes are obligated to wear attire similar to those worn by their fellow athletes during antiquity.

“I believe that this re-enactment and revival of the ancient Nemean Games makes us all feel a part of this magnificent Greek history,” he says.

Referring to propaganda attempts following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia to cast doubt on the Hellenic nature of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia, he said the ancient Greeks of the 7th century BC considered the Macedons as fellow Hellenes, adding that “their Greek identity is obvious given that the inscriptions of the ancient Macedons were written in Greek”.

Furthermore, based on the archaeological findings, the Macedonians participated in the Games of Nemea as one of the Greek tribes and this is an indisputable fact.

Turning to another subject, he said the New Acropolis Museum is exceptional, and stressed that the British Museum no longer has any excuse to keep in London the Parthenon Marbles, “the epitome of ancient perfection, the cornerstone of Western civilisation, of beauty and symmetry.”

“If my hand was missing, wouldn’t I ask for it back? The answer is self-evident,” he continued.

He stated that isolated sculptures such as the Aphrodite of Milos (Venus di Milo) or the Nike of Samothrace would continue to be on display at the Louvre, or other such artifacts in museums throughout the world, in order to showcase the perfection of the ancient Greek spirit.

“But the Parthenon Marbles must be returned to their home, to be housed in the New Acropolis Museum, to complete their historic whole,” he added.

via Stephen G. Miller: From Berkeley to Ancient Nemea | ANA.