Thursday March 5, 2015 Search
Weather | Athens
20o C
11o C
News
Business
Comment
Life
Sports
Community
Survival Guide
Greek Edition
Greece shells out for Germany, lends Olympic treasures

By Catherine Hickley

The idea of Greece making whopping loans to Germany might sound far-fetched as the debt-laden home of the Olympic Games staggers from one bailout to the next.

Yet the borrowed booty now on show in Berlin, evidence of Greek largesse, is impressive. The countrys museums lent the Martin Gropius Bau more than 500 treasures for the biggest exhibition about ancient Olympia. Many of the items have never been shown before. Some were only recently excavated.

Rapacious centaurs, a weighty discus, some sculpted six- packs and cultish offerings are among the exhibits in this celebration of the human body, the Olympic spirit and Greek- German cooperation. German archaeologists have worked at the site in the western Peleponnese for 135 years and the show also documents the history of the excavations.

So those for whom life has lost meaning since the end of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London need not despair. The games are on again in Berlin.

Running, wrestling, javelin, long-jump, bare-fisted boxing, chariot-racing and torch relays are among the disciplines illustrated in ancient statues depicting the Usain Bolts of their day, as well as on pottery and on coins.

Pankration was a crowd-pleasing martial art where anything went, bar biting and scratching. Health and safety regulations were lax, and javelin and discus events were perilous for those sitting in the front rows of the stadium.

Bull barbecue

Conceived to honor Zeus, the games were accompanied by many processions, religious ceremonies, oracles and the sacrificial offering of 100 bulls that were then served to the public. (I guess wed call that a barbecue today.)

Prizes included huge amphorae of oil and precious metals, gold laurels and -- no surprise -- medals, or small coins depicting sporting disciplines, many of which are on display. The Olympic Village was basic and crowded. Athletes used strigils to wash; metal tools to scrape dirt, sweat and perfumed oil from the body in the days before soap hit the shops.

One of the most beautiful exhibits comes not from Greece, but from the Vatican -- the sculpture of a female runner poised to race, in a short tunic tied over a shoulder with one breast bared. Women were banned from watching the games and were barred from taking part, too. Yet they did have their own games in honor of the goddess Hera, where unmarried girls took part.

Many bronze objects have been preserved, among them pots and little sacrificial figures, a wonderful figurine of a horse and the tips of spears.

Oath to Zeus

Before the games, temporary wells were dug to provide drinking water in Olympia. It was not permitted to remove any sacrificial objects from the site after the event. So they were disposed of in the obsolete wells, which offered them protection.

The games were held in Olympia for more than 1,000 years, petering out in the fifth century, when Christianity replaced cult practices. They took place every four years in the late summer and athletes had to swear at Zeuss altar that they would train for at least 10 months beforehand.

A reconstruction of Olympias Zeus temple is the centerpiece of the exhibition. It reveals that centaurs cannot hold their drink at a party. The western gable of the temple shows the wedding of Pirithous, who made the mistake of inviting the creatures -- part man, part horse -- to the festivities.

The sculptures from right to left show the frisky beasts losing control as the wine flows, attempting to carry off women and boys until the humans fight back and regain control of the situation.

With the presidents of Greece and Germany as patrons, the message of the exhibition is clear: culture binds, even in times of economic and political strife.

And German-Greek cooperation on the excavations has been a success story worthy of celebration. In 19th-century contracts that were well in advance of their time, there was no agreement to divide the spoils, so there is no antagonism of the kind that haunts Greek-U.K. relations over sculptures taken from the Parthenon, known as the Elgin Marbles.

Mythos Olympia; Kult und Spiele (The Myth of Olympia; Cult and Games) is showing at the Martin Gropius Bau through Jan. 7, 2013. Information: http://www.gropiusbau.de [Bloomberg]

ekathimerini.com , Monday September 10, 2012 (12:13)  
Ancient site of Philippi unveils candidacy for UNESCO list
Greek selections at the 17th Thessaloniki doc fest
Thessaloniki doc fest returns with tribute to Austrian, Romanian filmmakers
Arcade Fire rocker rallies for Greece in new song
Extra US expat tax seminar for Americans living abroad
More than 400 US citizens have registered for the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce Tax Seminar on March 10 for US citizens, including thousands of Greek Americans, who live in Greece. I...
Art collector Ion Vorres dies at the age of 91
Acclaimed art collector Ion Vorres died on Friday at the age of 91, leaving behind the chief oeuvre of his life, the Vorres Museum in Paiania, eastern Attica. A native of Messinia in the sou...
Inside Community
Inside Gastronomy
Inside Travel
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
RECENT NEWS
1. Industrial products offset agricultural exports losses
2. BoC disposing of 41 properties across Greece
3. RAE offers gift to natural gas power plants
4. Emergency intervention by BoG to acquire T-bills
5. Valavani offers debt penalty write-off
6. Police, ministry dodge blame for migrants order
more news
Today
This Week
1. Up the creek without a paddle
2. Greek officials have ruffled feathers in Brussels for not having good diplomatic manners
3. Panousis says no official decision on undocumented migrants
4. More Germans booking holidays in Greece, tourism chief says
5. For Greece, a lesson from Ireland, Kenny says
6. ECB glimpse of Cyprus debt shows limits of bank cleanup
Today
This Week
1. Greece to make international protest over Turkey reserving Aegean air space
2. A fierce battle looms
3. SYRIZA feeling the pain
4. The Greek tax drama
5. The unlikely winners of Greece's surrender on euro
6. Tsipras reversal draws Greek sympathy as party rumblings rise
Find us ...
... on
Twitter
... on Facebook
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright 2015, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.