When you have a line of platinum and diamonds worth the GDP of Britain running through the center of your hat, how, HOW do you still get it positioned off-center?
Episode 59: In which King Charles’ coronation celebration and crown jewel policy confuse the gods, as well as the rest of the modern world.
ROMA, GODDESS OF ROME (entering with VICTORIA, GODDESS OF VICTORY and BRITANNIA, GODDESS OF THE PROVINCE OF BRITAIN): Greetings, my fellow gods and goddesses. We have returned from the territory of Britannia, where we journeyed to witness a great triumphus ritual, as in Ancient Rome of old.
ROMA: I think I know a triumph ritual when I see one. The people gathered to watch an elaborate and wildly expensive procession through the streets; grandiose demonstrations of military prowess; leaders of various subject nations gathered to pay homage; the great treasures taken from conquered regions on prominent display—what about that doesn’t scream “Roman triumph” to you?
VICTORIA: They did forget the enslaved captives.
MINERVA: In more ways than one. Look, I know it looked like a Roman triumph, it sounded like a Roman triumph…
ROMA: And it culminated in a sacrificial ritual in a great temple!
MINERVA:…but it was a different ritual. I think. Upon reflection, I’m not sure I can back that assertion up.
MINERVA: It wasn’t a military victory. They were crowning a new king.
MARS: The world still has kings? Who get crowned in processions?
MINERVA: Isn’t that wildly expensive to design and produce the new currency for a nation of millions of people?
BRITANNIA: What’s your point?
ROMA: Wait, if there was no military victory, why were they parading the Crown Jewels of conquered nations?
MINERVA: Those jewels were taken centuries ago. And recently there’s been calls to return them to their original owners. Like the Koh-i-Noor Diamond taken from India. We talked about it, remember? Although I didn’t see that on display during the coronation.
BRITANNIA: I have been doing some reading on that diamond, and we obtained it fair and square! It was given as a gift to the nation of Britain from an Indian monarch when we acquired his territory!
MARS: Whoa, you conquered someone and they gave you a gift? And that gift was a massive diamond? Way to splash out and embarrass your conquerors.
BRITANNIA: That was nothing compared to what we gave him in return. We gave him his mother back. And he was a child, so that was a pretty big deal for him.
MINERVA: You were holding a child’s mother hostage?
ROMA: I have no problem with that approach.
MINERVA: I’m pretty sure that’s called a ransom, not a gift. The British monarchy must have removed the diamond from the coronation crown so they could give the diamond back to India.
BRITANNIA: Absolutely not. It’s scheduled to go on its own permanent display in the Tower of London.
MINERVA: Then maybe they removed it so they could avoid displaying the plundered wealth of former colonies?
BRITANNIA: Doubtful. They replaced it with precious jewels taken from South Africa.
MARS: I gotta say, I’m liking these people more and more. Glad we bothered to conquer them. I had my doubts at the time, but who knew there was such potential for rampart global destruction in such a pathetic little island?
BRITANNIA: Right. HERE!
ROMA: Wait, if Britannia has these jewels because she wrested them from the hands of conquered children, and we conquered Britannia, aren’t those jewels technically ours to recover?
MARS: Yeah, Italy has been increasingly assertive about demanding its cultural stuff back. And you know I love anyone increasingly assertive.
MINERVA: That’s not how that works. Italy can request items it believes were taken from its sovereign geographic territory, as defined by modern international boundaries. Countries can’t demand things derived from territory they had conquered at some historical time or another (glares at Turkey).
VICTORIA: Wait, why? These are cultural treasures, right? Ancient cultures don’t align with modern political boundaries. Why would the current political alignment of a spot of ground the treasures were found on be the determining factor in ownership?
MINERVA (putting on helmet, reaching for her spear): Excellent question. But I’m already bored. Let’s help Roma’s claim along here the old fashioned way.
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Be sure to check in on the continued repatriation adventures of Minerva, Mars, and Roma (and occasionally Britannia). To explore the politics of returning artifacts across international borders, enroll in CLAS-A 301 Classical Archaeology, coming Fall 2024, no pre-reqs or previous experience required. Or for more exploits of the Roman gods, and how their myths shaped ancient and modern societies, enroll in CLAS-C 102 Ancient Roman Culture, coming up Spring 2024, and earn GEC credits while you’re at it! Can’t get enough of Ancient Greece and Rome? Earn a Classics Minor in just 15 credits!