9.07.2014

Whose Cup Is It Anyway?

Simon the Shoemaker, also known as Simon the Cobbler, was a friend of Socrates and fellow philosopher. From the many mentions in literary sources we know that he lived in Athens by the Agora, but not within it. He isn't as well known as his buddies for a simple reason: he sounds too good to be true, a manual worker who spouts wisdom in between shaping shoes, so he was long dismissed as a fictional figure, as made-up as mythical Troy people used to claim.

Then the archaeologists excavating the Agora dug up a house right on the edge of the Agora - the boundary stone is visible in the photo below. The finds show that the house doubled as a workshop for a cobbler, as is clear from the discovery of eyelets for laces and hobnails for boot soles. Finally they found the remains of a cup on which had been inscribed, post-production, the name Simon:



Some continue to doubt the existence of Simon the Cobbler, and whilst there is no graffito saying "Socrates was here" ... the archaeological evidence overwhelmingly suggests that not only did he exist, but that this was his house.

The Agora web site has a good synopsis about the: Agora Monument: House of Simon the Cobbler; from whence the photos above come. The Agora also produced The Athenian Agora Picture Book series which can be downloaded from their web site as PDFs here: and to learn more about Simon, I'd recommend their Socrates in the Agora.

People really did incise their names into cups, the way children's clothes are still labelled with names today (and the way I suspect children still carve their names into desks).

Another cup is a little more controversial. Although it was found in a 'secure' archaeological context in the workshop of Pheidias at Olympia, in a proper excavation ... with this inscription on its underside ....
Φειδια ειμι 
I belong to Pheidias

... and with terracotta moulds used to create the drapery of Pheidias' chryselephantine statue of Zeus ... there is one little problem with the cup. Whilst the cup is of the right period, persistent rumours have been around since the excavation in the 1950s that a waggish student added the inscription. The cup itself is genuine, the "I belong to Pheidias" may or may not be.

The recent announcement of a cup belonging to Pericles was met with equal scepticim. David Meadows had the best English coverage: Cup Used by Perikles? | rogueclassicism and Ta Nea the best Greek coverage: Βρέθηκε το κρασοπότηρο απ' όπου έπιναν ο Περικλής και η παρέα του! - Πολιτισμός - Επικαιρότητα - Τα Νέα Οnline


The small skyphos was found in a more humble tomb in Kifissia, now a northern suburb of Athens.
"On one side, below the handle were engraved six names in the genitive: Aristeidou, Diodotou, Daisimou, Arrifronos, Pericles and Efkritou."


The cup was turned over then the names scratched in, so the inscription is upside down.


Was the Pericles named the Pericles? It seems so. The excavators feel that the men were named in order of seniority, so Arifron coming before Pericles would suggest it's his elder brother who is named, and when one adds the rarity of the name and its combination with Pericles, the odds are stacked in favour of it being the Pericles.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I do not moderate comments, but I remove spam, overt self-promotion ("read [link] my much better post on this") and what I consider hate speech (racism, homophobia etc).

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.