Protected by stanchions in the Louvre in Paris, the Aphrodite of Milos, the most famous sculpture on the planet, is as reluctant to reveal her secrets as she’s been for over twenty-one centuries but I was hoping her place of birth would give us clues about investment strategies.
Since a master sculptor chiselled her out of a worthless block of marble in the first century BC, the Aphrodite has ran out of fingers to count cataclysms and wars. That is her original fingers–the arms of the Aphrodite have been missing since her discovery on the Greek Island of Milos.
There is a remote chance I might run across them while traipsing through the countryside of the Greek Islands.
Perched atop an ancient windmill that was converted into a rental bedroom I stare down at the village of Klima on the Island of Milos in the Cyclades. I am in Tripiti, less than half a kilometer uphill from the cave where a farmer accidentally uncovered the Aphrodite on April 8, 1820.
There are other caves in the hill below me, including 300 meters of underground Christian catacombs dating back to the time of Jesus. With over 4,000 burials, the catacombs are the world’s largest early Christian burial site after Rome’s catacombs. The village of Klima itself dates back three thousand years and at one time in antiquity had its own silver currency and alphabet.
In the horizon, in daytime, I marvel at the sight of four German-made wind turbines spinning in the strong winds that blow from Athens some two hundred kilometers to the north. At night, Venus—the planet named after the Roman version of Aphrodite—is first to shine after sunset and reminds me why the Ancient Greeks were such astronomers: the night sky is impossible to ignore in the hot and dark nights of the Greek Islands.
In a couple square kilometers of Tripoti there is enough history to keep scholars busy for decades. The Aphrodite would have witnessed the fall of the ancient Greeks–the founders of democracy–the fall of the Roman Empire, the Crusades, the Napoleonic wars, the Black Plague, the invention of sliced bread… During the Second World War the curator of the Louvre relocated her to the countryside to protect her from greedy reaches of the Nazi invaders.
Like the pesky cicadas and crickets of Milos, the Aphrodite has seen it all.
What if she could share her wisdom about wise investment strategies? Who better to give us something to transcend the advice of the week?
The Island of Milos has been the source of minerals for over ten thousand years, starting with obsidian, the glass-like rock that was cut as tools and weapons in prehistory. It provided silver and gold to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. It provided iron, marble, kaolin, sulphur and bentonite to a continuum of regents and entrepreneurs for over three thousand years.
Even now, there is controversy about a new gold mining project—some locals are looking to kibosh a new mine. But history tells us the islanders will want gold mining. Minerals have been the centre of the Milos economy for as long as someone could make records. Even now, as the wind turbines generate power, the island has become dependant on rare earths from China. Its kaolin is used in concrete and its bentonite is used in papermaking. The Milos islanders know the value of strategic minerals, just like their famous neighbours.
Some 1000 kilometers west in Turkey lies the ancient city of Troy. Aside from The Odyssey and a healthy respect for horses received as presents in the night, Troy is also gave us the gold measure, the Troy Once. It would be naïve to thing that that War of Troy was about a beautiful woman. It was about gold. Aphrodite can keep smiling, she knows history repeats itself.