Public lives of women in ancient Greece revealed

Women’s participation in activities that allowed them to get out of the house and involved with public matters that had nothing to do with the household and family is the topic of the new exhibition that the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation has organized in collaboration with the Greek Ministry of Culture and the National Archaeological Museum. Starting December 10, an estimated 155 unique archaeological artifacts will go on display at the Onassis Cultural Center, the New York-based affiliate of the Onassis Foundation, through May 10. Some 128 pieces have come from Greek museums and the other 27 are on loan from international institutions including the Louvre, New York’s Metropolitan Museum and others. There is a white lekythos (oil flask) depicting the goddess Artemis from the State Hermitage Museum, a red-figure vase with Theano, a priestess of Athena in Troy, from the Vatican, as well as the funerary inscription of Polyxena, the youngest daughter of King Priam of Troy, from Berlin. The exhibits provided by Greek museums – most of them from the National Archaeological Museum – are equally impressive. They include a fragment of a red-figure vase with a woman seated on the top of a staircase – a scene from the celebrations held each summer in honor of Adonis. Much more will be on display for viewing by both the American public and Greeks of the diaspora, who always follow the events that the affiliate organizes, helping them to realize the importance of ancient and modern Greece, as Onassis Foundation President Antonis Papadimitriou pointed out at a recent press conference. Actresses Lydia Koniordou and Olympia Dukakis will join forces in «Powerful Voices,» a performance of excerpts from ancient Greek tragedies and comedies. As part of the exhibition, Sophocles’ tragedy «Antigone» will also be staged in the New York district of Harlem by high school students. «Worshipping Women: Ritual and Reality in Classical Athens» is curated by Dr Nikolaos Kaltsas, director of the National Archaeological Museum, as well as by Alan Shapiro, professor of archaeology at Johns Hopkins University. «We only chose one aspect of life, because we wanted to cover it completely and in detail,» said Kaltsas at the press conference. «Worship was the only area where women seem to have had power.» The first section explores the female deities of Athens and Attica in classical times, featuring goddesses and female heroes believed to have lived in the past. The second section is dedicated to priestesses and the third to rituals and traditions. The fourth section focuses on the way women participated in celebration, while the fifth and final section will explore the life cycle of ancient Greek women, from birth to the coming of age, marriage and death. The display will come to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens in June.

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