Athens.- The “Alexander S. Onassis Benefit Foundation”, in cooperation with the National Archaeological Museum, will present at the Onassis Cultural Foundation in New York on December 5, an exhibition entitled “Athens-Sparta” from the the 8th to the 5th Century B.C. Greek Minister of Culture George Voulgarakis will attend the opening ceremony.
According to Dr. Nikolaos Skaltsas, director of the National Archaeologicdal Musuem and supervisor of the “Athens-Sparta” exhbition, the artifacts will include ancient works of art, urns, and arrow and spear heads from the battle of Thermopylae in the 5th century B.C. The exhibition, which will be on display at the Onassis Cultural Foundation until May 12, 2007, will consist of 289 artifacts.
The cover of the 300-page catalog shows a warrior, his head bent in thought, a detail from a piece of Athenian pottery in the Archaeological Museum.
“The exhibition is of historic, cultural and artistic interest that closes a cycle of events marking the foundationʼs 30th anniversary, the 30th anniversary of the death of Aristotle Onassis and the 100th anniversary of his birth,” Papadimitriou said.
The exhibition will trace both Laconic and Attic artistic developments from the 8th to the 5th centuries B.C., with a focus on the historically overlooked achievements made in Spartan art during this period. Highlights of Athens-Sparta will include a marble head of Leonidas, from the 6th century B.C., and Laconic bronze figurines of hoplites, from the 8th to the 6th centuries B.C., with loans drawn from institutions across Greece, including the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum.
This exhibition furthers the Centerʼs mission to bring in-depth understanding of all facets of Greek culture to American audiences.
Athens-Sparta will consist of three sections representing the cultural development of the two most important city-states in ancient Greece, along with an introduction that will focus on the two citiesʼ formations. The first section will explore their artistic, social and cultural developments from the Late Geometric Period through the Archaic period (8th to the 5th centuries B.C.),including metal work, pottery, and public monuments. While Sparta was not making the same strides in monumental structures as Athens during this period, it did flourish in other areas including metal work, ivory sculpture, and pottery. In the first half of the 6th century B.C., Sparta was one of the most important centers for artistic production, particularly for bronze works, as shown in such rare pieces as a black-figure hydria depicting riders and warriors, from 555-550 B.C., and a relief votive stele representing an enthroned couple, from 550-525 B.C.
The two other sections in Athens-Sparta will represent the artistic development during the 5th century B.C., in the broader context of the continuously changing dynamics between the two cities, during the Persian Wars (500 B.C. to 449 B.C.) and the Peloponnesian War (431 B.C. to 404 B.C.). These momentous events greatly influenced each city-stateʼs culture and artistic development, as represented through the magnificent artifacts in the exhibition, including an Attic black-figure lekythos from 500-490 B.C., and a Nike figurine from the late 6th century B.C.
In the 5th century B.C., Attic art made advances in the areas of sculpture and pottery which led to the popularization of these art forms, examples of which include a votive relief with the Delian Trinity from the late 5th century B.C., and the silver Tetradrachm of Athens from 450-404 B.C.
In contrast, there is a remarkable decrease of excavated Laconic artifacts from this period, with scant metal work pieces and little evidence of advancements in Laconian pottery. The archaeological evidence of Laconic monumental stone sculpture from the Classical period is also considerably less than that of the Archaic period. Athens-Sparta will feature a rare example of stone sculpture from this period: the bust of the Statue of Hoplitodromos, from 480-470 B.C., one of the most widely studied artifacts in the exhibition. The statue depicts a running hoplite (a heavily armored foot soldier), known as the Spartan king Leonidas, who led a small force of soldiers against the much larger Persian army in Thermopylae in 480 B.C., during the Persian Wars. Leonidas and all of the soldiers died in the battle, which became a symbol of the Spartan willingness to sacrifice oneself for the greater good of society.
This exhibition will include loans from the Acropolis Museum, Epigraphical Museum, Kerameikos Museum, National Archaeological Museum, the Numismatic Museum, 3rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, the Archaeological Museum in Marathon, the Archaeological Museum in Olympia, the Archaeological Museum in Rhodes, the Archaeological Museum in Sparta, all located in Greece. Athens-Sparta will also include pieces from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; and the American Numismatic Society, in New York.
Contributors to the exhibition catalogue will include, in addition to the curator, Dr. Donald Kagan, Hillhouse Professor of History and Classics at Yale University, Dr. Paul Cartledge, Professor of Greek History, Chairman of the Faculty of Classics, and a Fellow of Clare College, at the University of Cambridge, as well as eminent Greek historians and archaeologists like Georgia Kokkorou Alevras, Professor of Classical Archaeology at University of Athens, Dr. Yanis Pikoulas, Professor at University of Thessaly (IAKA), Editor of Horos, Dr. Yannis Touratsoglou, Emeritus Director of the Numismatic Museum and of the National Archaeological Museum, and Ismini Trianti, Professor of Classical Archaeology at University of Ioannina.
Athens-Sparta is curated by Dr. Nikos Kaltsas, Director of the National Archaeological Museum. Dr. Kaltsas is the author of a prize-winning book, Sculpture in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens (2002), as well as many other widely published archeological studies of ancient Greece. Dr. Kaltsas is also a member of the Central Archaeological Council, the Central Council of Modern and Contemporary Monuments, and the Committee for the Conservation of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Onassis Cultural Center will organize a series of scholarly conferences, a lecture program, and dramatic readings of Thucydidesʼ history of the Peloponnesian War.