An ancient Greek drinking cup that was awarded as a prize to Spyros Louis, the marathon winner in the first modern Olympics of 1896, has been returned to Athens from a German university’s collections.
The Greek Culture Ministry announced that the 6th century BC clay vessel was considered lost for decades until a Greek archeologist named Giorgos Kavvadias discovered it in the University of Muenster’s collections during research he was conducting in 2014.
The Culture Ministry said in their statement that it was proved “beyond any doubt” that the double-handled wine cup that is painted with ancient runners was the one given to Louis after he won the 1896 race.
Following correspondence with Greek officials, the university agreed to return the cup, which was part of a private German collection housed at the university.
The statement said the collection had been put together by Werner Peek, a historian who lived in Athens during the 1930s. It is unknown how the cup ended up in Peek’s hands and eventually made its way to Germany, according to an Associated Press report.
Greece has, for years, been on a mission to repatriate items relating to its cultural heritage that was acquired illegally from nations and private collectors. In January of 2018 officials worked in conjunction with New York police to recover dozens of items from a billionaire’s private collection.
Of course, the largest repatriation campaign has focused on bringing the Parthenon Marbles back to Greece from England, where they are on display at the British Museum.
The vessel will be exhibited for the next three months in Athens at the National Archaeological Museum before being put on permanent display in Ancient Olympia, birthplace of the ancient Games.
Louis had no training in running and stunned the audience at the first modern Olympics at the Panathenaic Stadium. He was presented with a silver cup, which is on permanent display at the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center in Athens, and a silver medal— as well as the ancient drinking cup.
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