CULTURE

Marathon treasures on display again

It is not only Marathonos Avenue that has changed, but also the newly asphalted road that leads to the renovated Archaeological Museum of Marathon and the two imposing shelters housing the Early Helladic cemetery (3200-2000 BC) at Tsepi and the Middle Helladic cemetery (2000-1600 BC) at Vranas. There are no signs of the abandoned museum of the 1950s and its worn-out display cases which used to repel visitors. The museum, which Deputy Minister of Culture Petros Tatoulis opened recently and which can now also cater to people with disabilities, has incorporated an atrium which features as the building’s highlight: It houses the trophy set up to celebrate the victory at the battle of Marathon, an overwhelming sight lit by natural light shining from the rooftop. «Marathon’s pride and joy,» according to the director of the local antiquities department, Georgios Steinhauer, consists of the restored parts of the Ionic-style pillar, the height of which is 10 meters. Everything is appealing in the small local museum which was completed in record time while constantly battling delays. It has mild colors on the walls, and the exhibits are nicely lit in their new glass display cases. The cast of the child of Marathon is the first sculpture visitors encounter before entering the first hall. Once they have stepped inside, a large photograph from the Cave of Pan, situated on the right of the hall, provides information about how Athenians honored the god after their victory against the Persians. The hall also contains fragments of vases from the Neolithic period and objects of daily use from the Early Helladic period. Finds on display include bottles with sculpted decorations, tiny jewelry with gold and silver bands, and many more. The sculptures hall welcomes its visitors with the oversized statue of a man lying down. The hall contains a second-century AD inscription referring to the official welcome of Herod Atticus, funerary stelae (gravestones) and the upper part of an arched gate from Herod’s farm. The two seated statues of Herod and his wife Regilla on display used to decorate the monumental entrance at the Mandra tis Grias location, while the double dedication to conjugal harmony implies that the farm was a gift of Herod’s to his wife. Even more striking, the next two halls contain seven Egyptian sculptures, where the Egyptian goddess Isis features prominently. Exhibits also include a sphinx and a huge oil lamp, found in an Egyptian temple in the southern side of the Marathon plain. Those who are interested in learning more about the temple, which dates to the Roman period, can visit the excavation site, located behind the former American base. The museum’s shelters are very tall and impressive, as the light shines in through the glass windows and highlights the details of the graves. «They had to create more internal space,» said Steinhauer. The Archaeological Museum of Marathon is situated at 114 Plataion, Marathon, tel 22940.55155.