Gluttony from The Seven Deadly Sins, by Pieter Coecke van Aelst, c. 1550. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Frederic R. Coudert Jr., in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Hugh A. Murray, 1957.


Volume XIII, Number 2 | spring 2020


After being tortured, an Athenian named Herostratus confessed to having set fire to the Temple of Artemis during the fourth century bc in order to attain long-lasting fame. Ephesian officials executed Herostratus and ordered his name removed from public record and never to be uttered again. Despite these injunctions—known as damnatio memoriae—Herostratus’ name appeared in the writings of Strabo and Theopompus. The term Herostratic fame thus refers to “fame gained at any cost.” “Herostratus lives that burned the Temple of Diana,” wrote Thomas Browne in 1658. “He is almost lost that built it.”

Never make a defense or apology before you be accused.

—Charles I, 1636

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The Colosseum, attributed to Robert Eaton, c. 1855.
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Monumental Mistakes


Fitness instructor carves his girlfriend’s name into the Colosseum.

c. 1850:

Thompson of Sunderland makes his mark on Pompey’s pillar.