THESSALONIKI — Greek police said Sunday they have arrested two 56-year-old men for trying to sell a rare Roman-era statue of the Greek goddess Hecate for 40,000 euros (about $48,000).
Police in Thessaloniki said they also arrested a 35-year-old farmer from nearby Pella, who allegedly admitted that he had found the statue on his farm and gave it to the two men to sell.
Police were made aware of the finding and an undercover police officer posed as a buyer and, after a month of negotiations, the two men were arrested Friday in possession of the statue as they went to meet the purported buyer, police said in a statement, adding that such statues are "extremely rare."
The marble statue, 33 centimeters (13 inches) high and 16 centimeters (six inches) wide and weighing 10 kilograms (22 pounds) , is from the second or third century A.D., a time when Greece was part of the Roman Empire.
It depicts three similar figures of Hecate joined together and facing in different directions. This is because these statues were used at crossroads, Michalis Tiverios, emeritus professor of classical archaeology at Thessaloniki's Aristotle University, told The Associated Press.
The statues, a few of which have been found, were placed on pedestals, where the directions were inscribed, Tiverios added. Hecate statues also marked boundaries.
In ancient Greece, Hecate was venerated as a goddess of the underworld, capable of both good and evil. She was associated with magic, witchcraft, the moon and creatures of the night such as ghosts. Her face was also depicted on doorways.
The arrested men, facing charges of illicit trade in antiquities, will appear before a magistrate Tuesday, police said.