The National Archaeological Museum in Athens is currently running a temporary exhibition ‘Glorious Victories: Between Myth and History’ marking the 2,500-year anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae and the Naval Battle of Salamis.
The impressive showcase gathers 105 Ancient 5th Century BC works from both its own collection and other prestigious Greek archaeological museums (including Thebes, Olympia, as well as the Konstantinos Kotsanas Museum of Ancient Greek Technology).
The exhibition brings to the fore aspects of the victorious struggle of the Greeks against the Persians and especially emblematic for the historical anniversary is the display of the bust of Themistocles, a Roman copy of an original work of the 5th cent. BC, from the Archaeological Museum of Ostia (Parco Archeologico di Ostia Antica).
The museological narrative tries to remain close to the descriptions of the ancient writers and the choice of the ancient works focuses on the sentiment of the spectator, the imagination and mainly the memories that emerge about the moments that people lived through back then. These moments determined their lives, ideas and beliefs, which were subsequently passed on to the modern western culture.
The exhibition consists of eight units, with the first six highlighting different episodes and battles of the Persian Wars. At the same time, figures of gods and mythical heroes enhance the historical narrative and interlink it with the mythical beliefs, according to which gods and mortals joined forces to achieve the overall victory, based on the value system of the ancient Greek world.
The narrative culminates in the two concluding units which present the resonance of the Persian Wars in pictorial art —ancient and modern— and their ideological significance.
Furthermore, in Hall 21, where the bronze group of a horse with jockey from Artemision is on display, there are presented in dialogue with it, five vases-masterpieces with representations of athletic and music competitions, denoting the value of victorious racing contest, individual and collective, not only in the war but also in the time of peace.
The exhibition is enhanced by digital projections that contribute to the creation of a scenic ambience, in order for the visitors to perceive the dramatic atmosphere of the events and the inspiring meaning of Nike (Victory), offering also in some cases complementary interpretive material.
Finally, ‘Glorious Victories: Between Myth and History’ is accompanied by a scholarly catalogue of 512 pages, published by the Archaeological Resources Fund. The anniversary volume includes 18 essays of eminent researchers in the domain of archaeology and art history, which elucidate the ways in which the Glorious Victories of the Persian Wars influenced political life, society, and the arts.
Dates: Ends Sunday, October 31, 2021
Time: Monday, Wednesday-Sunday, 8:00-20:00, Tuesday, 13:00-20:00
A: 44 28th Oktovriou (Patision), Athens
Images Courtesy of National Archaeological Museum/ Archaeological Resources Fund