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The Lampsacus spoons

 

Length: 13.400 cm
Length: 13.400 cm
Weight: 76.550 g

Gift of Henry Richard Charles Wellesley, first Earl Cowley

M&ME 1848,6-1,11-12

    The Lampsacus spoons

    Early Byzantine, 6th century AD
    Found at Lapeski (ancient Lampsacus), modern Turkey

    Morals and Frivolity

    'O handsome youth, do not believe too much in beauty', reads the Latin inscription on the front side of the bowl and handle of one of these spoons. A further inscription, on the back of the handle, this time in Greek, boldly adds 'You cannot be beautiful without money!'

    These six spoons were part of a large silver treasure discovered in Turkey. They were part of an original set of tableware consisting of a place setting of twelve. Six spoons are now in The British Museum as a result of gifts and purchases in the nineteenth century.

    Each spoon bears a verse and comment in Greek and/or Latin. The Greek texts were drawn from an anthology of epigrams known as the 'Sayings of the Seven Sages'; these were complimented with Latin texts from Virgil. As on this spoon, the serious verses were often matched by a witty rejoinder. Other pairs of inscriptions include: 'Love conquers all, and we yield to love' and 'Eat, you who are lovesick!'; "Imagine the end of life", said Solon in sacred Athens' and 'How one should live life!'

    The spoons are a characteristic type of spoon from Late Antiquity, with pear-shaped bowls attached by means of a disc to a tapering handle. The rims of the bowls are beautifully engraved with a wave pattern, inlaid in niello. Foliate patterns on the discs and backs of the bowls, together with the inscriptions, were also emphasized with niello. Both the superb craftsmanship and the clever inscriptions of these spoons typify the cultural sophistication of the Eastern Mediterranean in this period.

    D. Buckton (ed.), Byzantium: treasures of Byzant (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)

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