Museum is the only Canadian venue for the international tour of The Greeks

March 14, 2008

Museum of Civilization is the only Canadian venue for the international tour of The Greeks

Gatineau, Quebec, March 14, 2008 — Athens, Sparta, Troy and Constantinople — the names echo the incredible history and power of ancient empires. The Greek world left a significant imprint on Western culture and civilizations. Discover 8,000 years of history in the Museum’s upcoming must-see exhibition, The Greeks.

Opening on May 30 at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, this exhibition presents a stunning array of more than 180 artifacts from the prestigious Benaki Museum in Athens. This exceptional collection includes sculptures and ceramics, jewellery and embroidered textiles, paintings, metalwork, religious icons, toys, figurines, lamps, wooden chests and more. These artifacts provide an insight into the diversity of Greek art, culture and society.

“Ancient Greek civilization has had an enormous influence on the social, cultural and political life of much of the world,” said Dr. Victor Rabinovitch, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. “We’re delighted to bring this complex and fascinating story to a Canadian audience, especially through such a diverse and exquisite collection of artifacts.”

The objects in the first section of the exhibition, Prehistory and Antiquity (7000 BCE – fourth century CE), are from a time when agriculture and animal husbandry were first established on Greek soil, and up to the early centuries of the Common Era, when Greece was part of the Roman Empire. The artifacts bear witness to the unparalleled sweep of Greek civilization, which continues to influence the world today. One striking example is a crown of oak leaves and flowers in engraved and embossed gold leaf from the Hellenistic period. Another is the marble head from a statue of Paris, a figure in Greek mythology that dates from the Roman period.

In The Byzantine Period section (fifth century – fifteenth century) objects span 1,000 years, beginning with the fall of Rome in 476 CE, when only the eastern section of the Roman Empire survived. The Byzantine Empire’s, linguistic and cultural heritage remained essentially Greek and many of its traditions, symbols and institutions were drawn from its Hellenistic and Roman past. The artifacts in this section reflect political, artistic, intellectual and religious influences that extended far beyond the borders of the Byzantine Empire and include objects such as a processional cross from Constantinople made from moulded, hammered, engraved and punched copper.

In the third section, The Greeks in the Ottoman Empire (fifteenth century – eighteenth century), the artifacts represent the period when the Greek world fell into the hands of the Ottoman Turks. The richness of the artifacts attests to the resilience of Greek culture under foreign domination and shows that Ottoman rule did not signify the end of the Greek world. One of the objects in this section is an elegant chalice in gilded silver plate, inspired by the ornamentation on European watches imported into the East.

The last section, Towards an Independent Greek State, displays objects from the early decades of the nineteenth century, when the Greek people rose up against the Ottoman Empire and gained their independence. Some artifacts in this section date from the 10-year Greek War of Independence while others attest to the enduring power of Greece as a defining force in the Western imagination and identity. One such object is a magnificent oil painting of the English poet Lord Byron in Gree