Sparta’s Gift to the City of Spartanburg, S.C., Mysteriously Disappears

The statue of Leonidas at Sparta

A statuette of Leonidas given in 1971 to the city of Spartanburg, South Carolina, as a gift from the city of Sparta, Greece, has disappeared, local newspaper The News Tribune reports.

The statuette was discovered missing when a certificate from the Greek municipality was uncovered last month.

The certificate, which references the missing statuette, was sent on Feb. 4, 1971, by then-Prefect of Laconia Spelios Vanikiotis.

The document reads: “To the city of Spartanburg, whose citizens, by their magnificent bravery at Cowpens have resurrected the magnanimity and the heroism of ancient Sparta, I present this statuette of Leonidas, the universal symbol of voluntary self-sacrifice in defense of the fatherland of virtuous men of Laconia, the mother of which I have the honor to serve.”

The certificate from the city of Sparta, Greece, found in storage at the Spartanburg, S.C., City Hall.

While there’s no record of what the statuette looks like, Spartanburg city planner Natalia Rosario figures it would likely be somewhere between 6 and 18 inches. Leonidas statues — based on the warrior king of ancient Sparta, Leonidas I — are often depicted in full armor, wearing a helmet with a fin-like plume.

The News Tribune speculates that the gift was given to commemorate Spartanburg and Sparta becoming sister cities. But Rosario says she could not find any information that this actually happened.

Leonidas, meaning “Son of the lion,” was a warrior king from the Greek city-state of Sparta, and was the seventeenth ruler of the Agiad line, a dynasty which claimed descent from the mythological demigod Heracles.

He had a notable victory in the Second Persian War, where he led the allied Greek forces to a last stand at the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC) while attempting to defend the pass from the invading Persian army.