Campus Art Walk: Column & Capital


Throughout the 2008-09 academic year, the Current will be taking a look at the stories behind some of Penn’s most well-known, and most obscure, pieces of public art. The tour continues with the Roman column and capital.

The small green along Smith Walk between 33rd and 34th streets holds three relics excavated from an ancient city with a familiar name.

While the limestone column and capital actually sits on the grass in three pieces, it was once a single piece that dates back at least 2,000 years. The ruins were excavated near Amman, Jordan, which in Roman times, was called, “Philadelphia.”

The column and capital were a Bicentennial gift to the City of Philadelphia (through the Penn Museum) from Abdullah Salah, ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and were actually the first gifts the City ever received from a foreign nation. Originally, the relics sat near the Penn Museum, but were later moved to the green near the 1958 wing of the Chemistry Complex, where they remain today.

At the dedication of the objects, Salah said, “This column, from the first Philadelphia, the biblical Rabbat-Amman, has endured for over 2,000 years. We are pleased that, for centuries into the future, it will join the great archaeological collections of this Museum for all to witness as a treasure and a symbol for enduring freedom and independence which we commemorate today.”



Originally published on April 23, 2009