The Ghost of a Leaf

In the Greco-Roman collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art there are frescoed wall panels from the villa of Fannius Synistor which stood in the countryside outside of Pompeii. These were painted sometime between 40 and 30 B.C. and were recovered from the ruins of the villa which was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

One panel from a small bedroom or sitting room has an unusual adornment. The curators write, “A grape leaf sillhouetted against the vertical porphyry surface appears to have blown in mysteriously, bringing a touch of whimsy to the otherwise severely ordered architectural decoration.”

A Roman Galley on the Thames


When County Hall was under construction on the south bank of the Thames in 1910, the wreck of an ancient ship was found by workers, buried in the silt. It was built of Roman design from English oak in the third century, when London was still the Roman colony of Londinium.

A romantic theory at the time held that the vessel was a warship sunk during the battle between Allectus and Constantius in the year A.D. 296, but it may have been a ferryboat.

Whatever happened to the ship?

It was removed from the river in one piece using a giant wooden crane. The London Museum acquired the wreck and displayed it until the 1930s. Presumably it is still owned by the Museum of London (as successor to the  London Museum). According to Richard Hingley’s book Londonium it is now in storage. Another source claims it “did not survive intact. Some timbers of the ship are now preserved at the Shipwreck Heritage Centre, Hastings, and at the Museum of London.”