An ongoing series looking at history through a single object in the archaeology collections at Israel’s national museum.
And it’s worth seeing.
Before reaching its current home in a display case in Jerusalem, this small disc of glass and gold was buried in the catacombs beneath Rome 1,700 years ago, looted, kept in the castle of a Polish countess, stolen by Nazis, sold on the antiquities market in Vienna, tracked down and reclaimed by its previous owners and then purchased again.
In 70 CE, Roman legions destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, taking Jewish captives and the Temple treasures back to the imperial capital. The image of the Temple’s seven-branched menorah was carved onto the Arch of Titus, built to celebrate the defeat of the Jews.
Two or three centuries later a Jew died in Rome and was buried in the catacombs, along with an image of that same menorah in gold leaf pressed between two round pieces of glass. The descendants of the exiles from Judea had come to use the image of the Temple’s candelabra to represent themselves.
Read it all. Matti’s a great storyteller.