CULTURE

Museum of the Olive explores the unseen sides of two city-states

An intriguing, thematic exhibition which shatters misconceptions was inaugurated yesterday by Minister of Culture George Voulgarakis at the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil. In the «Athens-Sparta: from the 8th Century to 5th Century BC» exhibition, Spartan civilization plays a leading role, without there being any doubt however of Athenian influence on its literature and arts. Militarist Sparta did not focus as much on epic creations as Athens so famously did, but creativity flourished in other areas, such as in metalwork and ceramics. About 150 objects shed light on the political, cultural and economic story of the two ancient Greek city-states from the 8th to 5th centuries BC. Nevertheless, a comparison of the two is not the intent, even if the parallel narratives of the exhibition reveal both their similarities and differences. The first room of the exhibit is dedicated to the two cities up until the time of the Persian Wars, with objects such as bone figurines from the Temple of Artemis Orthia in Sparta, a statue of a kore from an Attic workshop and a Laconian commemorative relief of the Dioskouroi. In the second room, historically focused on the period from the Persian to Peloponnesian wars, a marble statue of «Leonidas,» a rare example of Spartan sculpture, draws the most attention. Estimated to have been created between 480-470 BC, it portrays a soldier, most likely the Spartan king. Surrounding the sculpture are other important works: arrow heads from the battle of Thermopylae, a copper helmet of an Assyrian soldier who fought at either Marathon or Salamina, and a gravestone from a mass grave, which was discovered at the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos during recent excavations for the Athens metro. The exhibition, which runs until October 26, first went on display last December at the Onassis Cultural Foundation in New York City. The recent inauguration of the exhibit coincides with the opening of a new hall in the museum (where there will be copies of olive presses from antiquity in working form) as well as of the multipurpose room where the «Athens-Sparta» exhibition is housed. For more information, call 27310.89325.