Top museums to lend antiquities

Some of the world’s major museums will contribute portions of their ancient Greek art collections for display during the Olympic Games at Athens’s National Archaeological Museum, its director said Thursday. «The works that are coming are significant,» museum director Nikolaos Kaltsas told The Associated Press. Kaltsas said the exhibit will be named «Agon,» which means contest in ancient Greek. The exhibit opens in July and closes in October. «Agon» will exhibit 235 sculptures and vessels from 18 foreign and Greek museums, including the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan in New York City, the British Museum in London and the Vatican in Rome. Greek museums will contribute 164 of the works and the exhibit will span 6,000 years, from prehistoric 6500 BC to the Roman first century. The exhibition «is special because it is not only about athletic games. It is about games in general, on all levels,» Kaltsas said. «It is the athletic games, the musical games, the dramatic games of the theater, the artistic games, the poetic games.» Except for the Olympics, which were held starting 776 BC, various other competitions were held throughout ancient Greece to honor the 12 mythical gods of Olympus. The exhibit will be separated in thematic categories that depict mythology, athletic games, spiritual games and victory. «This is the uniqueness of the exhibition. Until now there were many exhibitions for athletic games, but I do not think there has ever been an exhibition about all these games,» Kaltsas said. The Metropolitan will lend the exhibit three vessels found in southern Italy, which depict ancient tragedies dating to the Classical period. The British Museum will provide pots from the same period, while the Vatican will lend the exhibit Roman copies of Greek originals – including a statue of Sophocles. The National Archaeological Museum is a top tourist attraction and is considered the country’s most important showcase for ancient Greek artifacts. The 113-year-old building is being renovated ahead of the Olympics after sustaining minor damage during a powerful earthquake in September 1999. Archaeological sites and museums throughout the country are also undergoing massive improvements before August.