Often, buying holiday gifts for well-to-friends is like ‘bringing owls to Athens‘. We suggest a unique bronze owl inkwell from the late nineteenth century now mounted as a table – desk lamp with a painted metal shade .
The idiom, “to bring owls to Athens”, is an ancient Greek proverb ascribed to Plato by Diogenes Laërtius (d. 180 – d.240) biographer to the Greek philosophers. 1
It is said that an abundance of owls famously roosted in the rafters of the original Parthenon (before it was burnt down). The owls became a symbol of the city over the years and were sacred to Athena the goddess.
The silver coins of local Athenian currency featured an owl. The Athenians mined their own silver and from this they minted their own coins, so they had need of nothing more. The proverb is stating that to bring owls (either the birds or coins) to Athens would be a pointless exercise, because they have plenty of their own, anymore would be superfluous. 2
The owl symbolizes wisdom, intelligence, protection, and vigilance. During the Victorian period of the 19th century, owls found their way into nursery rhymes. Lamps and andirons were decorated with owls; the birds came to be associated with libraries and learning. The depiction of owls was just as prevalent during the Arts & Crafts movement.