CULTURE

Ancient coins: The power and the myths

Students visiting the National Archaeological Museum and the Numismatic Museum in Athens these days are invited to observe how through the use of the euro, the European Union?s common currency, each member state keeps its memories alive while stating its identity.

Inspired by Pegasus and guided by archaeologist Nikoletta Xydea, the youngsters will discover ancient coins and the wonderful world of Greek mythology. The journey promises to be equally exciting for adults as well, provided they have the time to make two stops.

Similarly to coins, ?Myth and Coinage: The Use of the Myth,? the exhibition which opened at the National Archaeological Museum and the Numismatic Museum on April 15, has two sides. A dialogue between Greek mythology and ancient coinage, it would not be as intelligent without the precious aid of Alpha Bank?s Numismatic Collection.

There is no doubt that coins are seductive, powerful symbols of their societies, not only in terms of political and financial power, but also because they are an art form in themselves. A visit to both major Athenian museums, with a coffee break in the middle, is an opportunity to admire how people have expressed their adoration of gods and heroes and endorsed political systems and ideologies through the ages.

The journey begins at the Archaeological Museum and the ?Illustration of the Myth,? which showcases mythical figures such as the Chimera, Medusa and demigod Hercules — figures who did not enjoy the powers of the Olympian gods yet played an important role in peoples? lives.

Over at the Schliemann Residence, home to the Numismatic Museum, ?The Use of the Myth? explores the depictions on coins, including nature, deified rivers, nymphs and symbols of natural phenomena. Other themes here include the mythology surrounding Alexander the Great and how ancient leaders identified with gods and heroes.

Curating the joint exhibition are the directors of the two institutions, the National Archaeological Museum?s Dr Nikos Kaltsas and the Numismatic Museum?s Despina Evgenidou, along with Dr Dimitra Tsangaris, curator of Alpha Bank?s Numismatic Collection. The exhibition runs to November 27 and is accompanied by a fully illustrated bilingual catalog.

National Archaeological Museum, 44 Patission, tel 210.821.7724; Numismatic Museum, Iliou Melathron, 12 Panepistimiou, tel 210.363.2057