Friday, October 6, 2023

The Theft of A Statue of Sappho: Cicero, In Verr. 2.4.126,127

[126] Nam Sappho quae sublata de prytanio est dat tibi iustam excusationem, prope ut concedendum atque ignoscendum esse videatur. Silanionis opus tam perfectum, tam elegans, tam elaboratum quisquam non modo privatus sed populus potius haberet quam homo elegantissimus atque eruditissimus, Verres? Nimirum contra dici nihil potest.  ...

[127] Atque haec Sappho sublata quantum desiderium sui reliquerit, dici vix potest. Nam cum ipsa fuit egregie facta, tum epigramma Graecum pernobile incisum est in basi, quod iste eruditus homo et Graeculus, qui haec subtiliter iudicat, qui solus intellegit, si unam litteram Graecam scisset, certe non sustulisset. Nunc enim quod scriptum est inani in basi declarat quid fuerit, et id ablatum indicat.

--Cicero, In Verrem 2.4.126


The statue of Sappho that you took from the municipal building was such a perfect fit for you that it almost seemed like you were entitled to it.  For the sculpture crafted by Silanian was so perfect, so delicate, and so intricate that not just anybody—not just any country—could have it except the most polished and learned person:  you, Verres! Of course it would make sense for you to take it...[127]


But words cannot express how much loss was felt from the theft of the Sappho statue. For not only was the statue exquisitely carved, but there was also a famous Greek epigram of hers inscribed on the base, which any learned scholar of Greece with any amount of sense would have taken it too if he actually understood Greek. Now only the inscription remains, an empty base showcasing what used to be on the pedestal before it was stolen.

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