Ulrich Sinn at King’s College

The British Museum may persist in refusing to return the Parthenon Marbles, but London still offers the Greek visitor rare intellectual uplift which breaks the ice of a chilly February. The first Thursday of the month is traditionally the date of the annual Runciman Lecture in the great hall of King’s College London. The lecture is organized by the university’s Center for Hellenic Studies and its director Karim Arafat, who has written about Pausanias and, more recently, Athens. The founder and sponsor in perpetuity of the lecture is the renowned artist Nicholas Egon and his wife Matti, who were friends of the late Byzantinist, philhellene and writer Sir Steven Runciman, in whose memory the lecture is delivered to an audience of academics, diplomats and students of the university. The speaker this year was Ulrich Sinn, professor of archaeology at the University of Wurzburg who, as head of recent excavations at Olympia, spoke of finds from Byzantine Olympia, with its busy economic activity, and an important inscription indicating that the last Olympiad, the 297th, took place there in 385 BC, with the names of the winners from all over Greece. On top of the Temple of Zeus, the Christians of Olympia built a church that fitted in with the ancient structure and where they held services, evidence that Christianity and paganism coexisted peacefully. The Greek ambassador to London, Anastasios Skopelitis, who presented his credentials to Queen Elizabeth II last week, offered his warm congratulations to Professor Sinn and his wife, archaeologist Friederike Sinn, at the dinner given for them by the Egons at the Athenaeum Club on Pall Mall.