A mistake lies at the heart of this post—
I remember, during the Trojan War, was Euphorbus,
Panthous-son; got shot in the chest once
by Menelaus’s heavy spear; recently, at Juno temple
in Argos, I recognized the shield I carried on left arm
—Pythagoras, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (translated of course by the redoubtable Charles Boer)
Italy recently celebrated the return of a national treasure after the Metropolitan Museum gave back a sixth-century B.C. Greek krater by the painter Euphronius that tomb robbers dug up outside Rome during the 1970s. Stolen property is stolen property. But how curious that an ancient Greek vase, which centuries after it was made came into the possession of an Etruscan collector (a kind of ancient Elgin) living on what is now the outskirts of Rome, and then ended up buried for thousands of years below what became modern Italy, is today Italian cultural patrimony. By that definition, Elgin’s loot is arguably British patrimony.
—From a nice piece in The New York Times about why the Elgin Marbles should stay in England.
When I came across Euphorbos in Ovid I thought I was reading about the krater-painter Euphronius or perhaps one of his earlier incarnations, and when I discovered that the two men had different names the inspiration for this post was almost totally deflated—I was going to talk about the similarities between the idea of metempsychosis presented in Ovid through Pythagoras, the transformation (metamorphosis) of bodies and the accompanying perseverance of their obstinate souls, as when Arachne continues busily weaving her tapestries long after Minerva transforms her into a spider, compared with the evolution of antiquities as presented in the piece from the New York Times, where a cultural artifact like the Parthenon means many different things to many different people over the course of its long lifetime even as it still retains the same general appearance (if we exclude its being draped in a giant swastika by the Nazis). But I suppose such thoughts will have to wait until I find a better coincidence to inspire them.