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Sevso Treasure

  The Sevso Treasure is a hoard of silver objects from the late Roman Empire, that may be illicit antiquities.

The treasure trove consists of 14 large decorated silver vessels and the copper cauldron which contained them, and has been dated to the late fourth or early fifth century AD.

Most notable is a large dish, 70 cm in diameter and weighing nearly 9 kg, which bears the inscription:

Hec Sevso tibi durent per saecula multa
Posteris ut prosint vascula digna tuis
May these, O Sevso, yours for many ages be
Small vessels fit to serve your offspring worthily.

The location, archaeological context and provenance of the find remain unknown. The existence of such a hoard first came to attention in 1980 when a single piece in the possession of two antiquities dealers from Vienna was offered for sale in London. Further pieces reached the market, and what is believed to be the complete hoard was acquired by a consortium headed by Spencer Compton, 7th Marquess of Northampton.[1]

Documentation from the Lebanese Embassy in Switzerland stated that the treasure had been found in the Tyre and Sidon regions of Lebanon, and on that basis the consortium negotiated to sell the collection to the Getty Museum for $10 million. When that deal fell through, the treasure was put up for sale in New York in 1990 by Sotheby's, described as being from "what was once the province of Phoenicia in the Eastern Roman Empire".

The sale was halted when documentation was found to be false, and the governments of Croatia, Hungary and Lebanon made claims of ownership. In November 1993, the New York Court of Appeals in New York rejected their claims and found no case for removing the treasure from the possession of the Marquess of Northampton 1987 Settlement (a Trust established by the Marquess of Northampton).[2] The silver was locked away in a bank vault while further legal proceedings followed. The Marquess sued his solicitors Allen & Overy for damages in relation to advice given during the purchase of the silver, and that case was settled out of court in 1999 for a reported £15 million.[3]


21st century developments

On 25 June 1999 in written answers to questions in the House of Lords, the British government confirmed that it had no further interest in the case.[4]

In September 2006, London auctioneer Bonhams announced that it would exhibit the treasure privately, in a move seen as a prelude to a sale by private treaty or by auction at a future date.[1] A spokesman for the Ministry of Education and Culture in Hungary, which still claims the Treasure, said it had informed the UK authorities that the treasure must not be sold.[5] On 12 October 2006 further written answers were given in the House of Lords, from questions by Colin Renfrew, Baron Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, particularly relating to Hungary's possible revised claim to the treasure since its admission to the EU.[6] Bonhams went ahead with its private exhibition of the Sevso Treasure on 17 October 2006.[7]

In March 2007 The Art Newspaper reported that a further "187 silvergilt spoons, 37 silvergilt drinking cups, and 5 silver bowls", previously unknown, but part of the original hoard, were reputed to exist.[8]

See also

  • Cuerdale Hoard
  • Hoxne Hoard
  • Mildenhall Treasure
  • Snettisham Hoard


  • Antiques Trade Gazette, 30 September 2006
  • Ruth E. Leader-Newby — Silver and Society in Late Antiquity: Functions and Meanings of Silver Plate in the Fourth to Seventh Centuries
  • Marlia Mundell Mango and Anna Bennett — "The Sevso Treasure" in Journal of Roman Archaeology Suppl. 12:1, 1994.

Further reading

  • Leo V. Gagion, Harvey Kurzweil and Ludovic de Walden — "The Trial of the Sevso Treasure: What a Nation Will Do in the Name of Its Heritage" in Kate FitzGibbon, ed. — Who Owns the Past? Cultural Policy, Cultural Property and the Law. (Rutgers University Press, 2005) ISBN 0-8135-3687-1


  1. ^ a b Antiques Trade Gazette, 30 September 2006.
  2. ^ Republic of Croatia, et al. v. Trustee of the Marquess of Northampton 1987 Settlement, 203 A.D.2d 167, 610 N.Y.S.2d 263 (1994); Republic of Croatia, et al. v. Trustee of the Marquess of Northampton 1987 Settlement, 232 A.D.2d 616, 648 N.Y.S.2d 25 (1st Dep't 1996).)
  3. ^ The Times, 8 May 1999.
  4. ^ Hansard, 25 June 1999.
  5. ^ "Sevso Treasure Up For Sale" at – Hungarian Ministry of Education and Culture.
  6. ^ Hansard 12 October 2006
  7. ^ Art Newspaper, Times and Guardian
  8. ^ The Art Newspaper: "The silver missing from the Sevso hoard?"
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sevso_Treasure". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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