I know the burning question you all have.
I do: since the very opening seconds of the Olympic opening ceremony, you have been able to think of nothing else but possessing one of those scythes being wielded by rustic peasants in Danny Boyle’s Green And Pleasant Land.
Or – wait – were you more anxious to secure a one-eyed olympic mascot, dressed as Sherlock Holmes, just for yourself?
Wait no longer, and look no further. For with a haste which could be deemed either efficient or indecent, London is selling the Olympics.
I suppose London has finished with it. When I walk past the one eye mascot, Wenlock, I just feel sad and deflated these days. The party is over, girls and boys, time to clear up the tickertape.
Actually, I think the scythes are all gone. In fact, when I click on the pageantry section a piece of cyber-tumbleweed blows plaintively across the screen. The scythes have all been snapped up, it seems. Along with all those stovepipe hats, I assume.
That’s the thing about auctions. You have to arrive at the right time.
In Babylon, 500 years before Christ, you got your wife by auction.
It worked like this, according to Ancient Greek historian Heroditus, you turned up at the village market place and all the blokes stood round while the women were auctioned off. Prettiest first, second prettiest next, and so forth.
Heroditus writes: “The rich men who wanted wives bid against each other for the prettiest girls, while the humbler folk, who had no use for good looks in a wife, were actually paid to take the ugly ones, for when the auctioneer had got through all the pretty girls he would call upon the plainest…. to stand up, and then ask who was willing to take the least money to marry her—and she was knocked down to whoever accepted the smallest sum. The money came from the sale of beauties, who in this way provided dowries for their ugly…sisters.”
Ludicrous? Possibly. But not as ludicrous as the flaky closing days of the Roman Empire. When the Praetorian Guard bumped off the resident emperor, Pertinax, before auctioning the Roman Empire itself off.
Brave new world, which demands the highest price-per-soldier’s-head for world domination: would-be emperors vied for how much each guard would be paid to buy their loyalty. Didus Julianus offered the highest price, 25,000 sestertii each; and ascended the throne on March 28.
Buying Rome turned out not to be such a great strategy. Money – mark this well – loses to might in any rock-paper-scissors situation. Septimius Severus marched on Rome claimed the throne: he had the highest bidder executed on June 1 193.
In the light of such auction fodder, the current scramble for The Olympics seems less extreme. If you still want a piece of the action, it might be noted that there is a sea of those odd Olympic mascots – Wenlock and Mandeville – still for sale in prices ranging from the £4,000 mark.
These include Sherlock Wenlock, which has been standing on Regent’s Park Green trail during the festivities; there is Westminster Abbey Wenlock, and you have just one day left to buy Gemstone Wenlock, the contribution of the Royal Geological Society, who is currently going for just over £5,000.
I know your fingers are itching.