Our knowledge of Egyptian history is as good as it is partly thanks to a gay politician that had to flee Britain after he was caught having sex with a soldier in Green Park.
The Rosetta Stone is one of the British Museum’s most prized objects, having been key to efforts to decode Egyptian hieroglyphs.
And now the Rosetta Stone is being added to the museum’s lLGBT+-themed tour after a surprising element of its story came to light.
While most credit scholars Jean-Francois Champollion and Thomas Young with deciphering the stone, the museum has said that William John Bankes also deserves recognition.
Bankes, a politician and Egyptologist, was instrumental in uncovering the meaning of the stone in the early 1800s.
But he feled from Britain after being caught having a romantic liaison with a soldier in London’s Green Park. At the time, sodomy was a grave crime in England and carried with it the death penalty – the last executions in England for sodomy had occurred only six years earlier, in 1835. To avoid seizure of his house by the crown, he signed his family home, Kingston Lacy, over to his brother before leaving.
The stone, featuring the same message written in three scripts, Ancient Greek, Demotic, and hieroglyphs, is now being included in the popular LGBT+ tours, which started last year.