Saturday, January 31, 2009

ancient sports memorabilia

There's been a fair amount of press about this Roman figurine found by archeologists in Israel. The announcement (h/t Rogueclassicism) says that is was probably used as a weight for a scale and that it originally came from Asia Minor (present-day Turkey):

We can assume that this marble weight belonged to a family of merchants who originally came from somewhere in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. Being a precious object the weight was passed down from generation to generation in the family until sometime in the fourth-fifth century CE when an unidentified merchant was so unfortunate as to stay in the public building (a hostel??) which is currently being uncovered in the Givati car park in the City of David. A very severe tremor that struck the building resulted in its complete destruction. While exposing the building the marble image was discovered amongst its ruins which constitute silent testimony of the drama that occurred in this impressive structure prior to its collapse.

One thing that caught my eye was the possibility that this represented a boxer:
The stylistic motifs that are manifested in the image, such as its short hair style, the prominent lobes and curves of the ears, as well as the almond-shaped eyes suggest that the object most likely portrays an athlete, probably a boxer. Boxing was one of the most popular fields of heavy athletics in Roman culture and more than once Roman authors mention the demand by the Roman public in general, and the elite in particular, for boxing matches. Besides the prestige and the substantial amounts of money the victors of boxing competitions won, they were also afforded the support of the emperor himself, as in the famous case of Melancomas who was Titus’ favorite boxer.

So, we are possibly looking at the Mohammed Ali or the Lebron James of the second century. Knowing that, when I look at the figurine it seems oddly familiar...

1 comment:

cowboyangel said...

A Roman bobble-head? Cool.

I keep hoping they find an Olmec bobble-head.