ATHENS – A cup believed to have been used by Classical Greek statesman Pericles has been found in a pauper’s grave in north Athens.
The ceramic wine cup, smashed in 12 pieces, was found during building construction in the northern Athens suburb of Kifissia, Ta Nea daily said.
After piecing it together, archaeologists were astounded to find the name “Pericles” scratched under one of its handles, alongside the names of five other men, in apparent order of seniority.
Experts are “99 percent” sure that the cup was used by the Athenian statesman, as one of the other names listed, Ariphron, is that of Pericles’ elder brother.
“The name Ariphron is extremely rare,” Angelos Matthaiou, Secretary of the Greek Epigraphic Society, told the newspaper. “Having it listed above that of Pericles makes us 99 percent sure that these are the two brothers,” he said.
The cup was likely used in a wine symposium when Pericles was in his twenties, and the six men who drank from it scrawled their names as a memento, Matthaiou said.
“They were definitely woozy, as whoever wrote Pericles’ name made a mistake and had to correct it,” he said, Agence France Presse said, citing the newspaper.
The cup was then apparently gifted to another man named Drapetis (“escapee” in Greek) who was possibly a slave servant or the owner of the tavern, said archaeologist Galini Daskalaki. “This is a rare find, a genuine glimpse into a private moment,” she said.
Ironically, the cup was found on Sparta street, Athens’ bitter rival and nemesis in the Peloponnesian War that tore apart the ancient Greek city-states for nearly 30 years.
General of Athens during the city’s Golden Age, Pericles died of the plague in 429 BC during a Spartan siege. He was arguably the most prominent statesman, orator and military leader of the Golden Age of Greece.
Plutarch said he stood first among the Athenians for 40 years and chief among his many accomplishments was overseeing the construction on the Acropolis, a symbol of Greece to this day.
He lived from 495-429 B.C., an era regarded as one of the most important in human history because of Greek accomplishments.
The cup will be displayed in the autumn at the Epigraphical Museum in Athens.