Universiteit Leiden

Ommer­schans Sword
Ommer­schans Sword Bronze sword, 1500-1350 BC, found in the province of Overijssel

During Carel Stolker’s long rectorship, there were times when it was necessary to take up the sword. This huge prehistoric European sword could be seen to symbolise this. Or could it? This sword was not used for battles, but most likely signified the high rank of a dignitary. As a ceremonial emblem it is therefore comparable to the livery collar that distinguishes the Rector from other professors. It was probably less comfortable to wear though.

Vase painting of resting Athena
Vase painting of resting Athena Pottery, circa 480-470 BC, made in Athens

Athena, or Minerva as the Romans called her, is depicted here on a Greek vase. As the goddess of wisdom, she is the patron saint of Leiden University. In Graeco-Roman mythology, important notions such as wisdom, justice and peace were pre-eminently associated with women. On this vase, Athena has taken off her helmet and set her spear down. On the logo of our university, the spear lies on the ground even, and Athena is reading a book. Hester Bijl will be the first female Rector Magnificus of Leiden University. May Hester lead the university as a wise Pallas Athena.

Emperor Trajan
Emperor Trajan Marble statue, AD 100-125, found in Tunisia

Even the longest-serving rector knows, as Carel Stolker freely admits, that he too is a bit player in a long and turbulent history. Roman emperors were not quite as modest and had plenty of statues made of themselves. Emperor Trajan, for instance, who also served for a long term. He ruled from AD 98 to 117 and the Roman Empire expanded considerably under his reign. Here he is depicted as a strategising general. The goddess Medusa and griffins on his breastplate symbolise his power.