Saturday, 18 February 2012

Robbery in Olympia

This is not the place to post an opinion on the paralysing economic problems of Greece. But sadly I am not surprised by yesterday's theft from the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games in Antiquity, which is one of three museums at the site of the ancient Games in Olympia. 
Museum of the History of the
Olympic Games in Antiquity
Cuts in staff numbers and salaries due to the austerity measures mean that these museums are more vulnerable than ever to criminals. It seems that armed thieves tied up and gagged the one female security guard, broke glass cases with hammers and grabbed sixty or so bronze and pottery artefacts, although exactly what has been stolen has not been reported yet.

All the artefacts in the museum, though, were relevant to the ancient Games and so depicted athletes, their equipment and their concerns. I was in that museum in late 2009 researching for The Boy with Two Heads and I took these photos. 

The athlete in the centre of the kylix (a drinking cup) is preparing for a long jump, holding weights to help him go further. I don't have a record of who the male statue is as he is of a later period than I was interested in for my research.

Nike, ancient Greek goddess of victory
The female statue is a modern copy of the flying Victory or Nike that stood on a 10 metre high column near the ramp up to the Temple of Zeus. The remains of the original, made by Paionios in about 421 BC, are in the larger Archaeological Museum nearby.

In May the Olympic Flame will be lit in the precinct known as the Altis, near the site of the most ancient temple still discernable (the Heraion) and about 200 yards from the museum that was raided. There’s a brief but pithy article about this on the Inside The Games website.  

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