The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

September 13, 2016

September 13, 1925

This old news item lets us view the construction site where antique Roman mosaics were discovered. It is brief and interesting so we are not excerpting this article.

In 1996 a series of mosaic floors was accidentally uncovered during highway construction in the modern Israeli town of Lod, 15 Km (9 miles) from Tel Aviv. 

Lod is ancient Lydda, which was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 66 during the Jewish War. Refounded by Hadrian as Diospolis, Lydda was awarded the rank of a Roman colony under Septimius Severus in A.D. 200. It remained in Roman hands until becoming a Christian city and eventually succumbing to Arab conquerors in A.D. 636. The discovery immediately prompted a rescue excavation, undertaken by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which revealed a series of mosaic floors that measured approximately seventeen meters long by nine meters wide (fifty by twenty-seven feet). Debris covering the floors contained pottery and coins of the third and fourth centuries A.D., suggesting that the mosaics were laid in about A.D. 300. The large rooms in which the mosaics were found probably belonged to a private house and served as a series of reception or audience halls where visitors were met and entertained. The mud-brick walls, once covered with frescoes, had collapsed and preserved the mosaics. The plan of the entire complex has yet to be determined as excavations are ongoing and have revealed yet more mosaic floors during the winter of 2009/10.

Many Roman mosaics have been found in Israel, but the discovery at Lod has attracted considerable attention because the mosaics are of exceptional quality and in an excellent state of preservation. The three best-preserved and most interesting panels have been selected for the loan exhibition that is to tour America during the next couple of years while a permanent display venue is constructed at Lod. In 2009 a major gift from Shelby White and the Leon Levy Foundation was made to enable the Israel Antiquities Authority to conserve the mosaic and establish the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Archaeological Center.

In reference to the gifts making possible the sharing and care of these treasures we quote from an obituary in Forbes for Leon Levy (September 13, 1925 to April 6, 2003):

Leon Levy [was] a Wall Street investment genius ...

The son of a well-known economist and businessman, Levy attended City College in New York, served in the U.S. Army and then began working at a small brokerage firm as a research analyst. An avid student of psychology as well as history, Levy was a contrarian investor. Recently, he had made a small fortune betting that high-flying technology shares would decline. ....

Levy was pessimistic about the U.S. economy, telling Forbes in December that he expected it to be “worse than at any time since World War II” .... He based this prediction on his inability to find shortages of any goods like computers, cars, cell phones and other innovations.

Levy made his early fortune from building up Oppenheimer & Co. , a securities firm. He was one of the first Wall Street leaders to understand the future growth of the mutual fund industry. In 1959 he formed the first Oppenheimer mutual fund. Today, the Oppenheimer Group has 60 funds worth more than $120 billion.

After selling Oppenheimer in 1982–the company is now part of Fahnestock Viner Holdings –Levy and his partner Jack Nash Jack Nash formed Odyssey Partners, a private investment partnership, which took large investment positions and acquired companies as well as valuable real estate, such as the IBM building in Manhattan. Forbes estimated his fortune at $750 million in 2002.
Levy’s philanthropy was far-reaching. He has donated $100 million over the past 20 years to New York’s Bard College, where he was chairman of the Jerome Levy Economics Institute (Jerome was his father). Recently, he had been teaching a course there on the financial markets, based on the insights from his autobiography, The Mind of Wall Street: A Legendary Financier on the Perils of Greed and the Mysteries of the Market.

Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, said, “He had an unimaginable combination of sensitivity, cultivation and refinement. At the same time, his analytic sharpness and risk taking were excellent. He had absolute unqualified loyalty in building this institution. He was like a second father to me and unbelievably on my side for over 20 years.”

Levy had also accumulated the finest collection of Roman and Greek antiquities in the U.S., which adorns his New York apartment. Recently, he gave $20 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a new Roman wing, $6 million to Rockefeller University to fund a brain research center, $5 million for a new visitors’ center at the New York Botanical Garden and $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union to fund civil liberties in a period of increased government surveillance. For 17 years, until the terror bombings in Israel curtailed the activity, Levy funded an archeological excavation at the ancient port of Ashkelon in that country, which was administered by Harvard University.

Speaking of Levy, Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum, said, “A justly renowned collector whose knowledge of and respect for ancient cultures has educated, inspired and benefited the institution, its staff and its public.”

Levy never retired. He was still chairman of the board of Avatar Holdings, a Florida real estate operation, where he was a major shareholder. He was president of the board of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., where he was involved in managing its endowment. Levy, a personal friend of Maurice Greenberg , chairman of American International Group, was a senior adviser to AIG Global Investments. He was also a trustee of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and vice chairman of New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts.

This summer Levy was planning to join an expedition headed by explorer Robert Ballard to search for sunken vessels in the seas between Bulgaria and Egypt....

Here is a larger photo of the lions in the mosaics.

(photo by Assaf Peretz)


Standard tropes beautifully rendered.

No comments: