Some 240 antiquities and historical items from 27 museums in Greece and abroad and 4 private collections are included in the new exhbition titled “Chaeronea, 2 August 338 BC: A day that changed the world” that opens at the Museum of Cycladic Art (MCA) in Athens on Thursday.
The exhibition highlights the importance the Battle of Chaeronea had in ancient times, at the transition from the Classical to the Hellenistic period. “The latter became an era in which Greek civilization was dominant for centuries and laid the foundations of what we call the Western world,” the MCA notes. “The theme is the battle that opposed the Macedonian army of Philip II against that of the allied Greek cities of southern Greece – and in particular the Sacred Band of Thebes and the army of Athens – a conflict that for the first time brought the eighteen-year-old Alexander to the front line of history: Alexander who was soon to conquer the world with his great campaigns in Asia.”
The exhibition was presented at a press conference on Wednesday by the Museum’s antiquity curators Panagiotis Iossif (professor, University of Radboud, Holland) and Ioannis Fappas (assistant professor, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki).
Several of the objects are on public view for the first time, with archaeological evidence originating in excavations of the Polyandrion of the Thebans and the Tumulus of the Macedonians, both sites of multiple burials. Some have not been fully published, while several were studied in detail during preparations for the exhibition.
One of the outstanding exhibitions is that of the tomb of the warrior from Igoumenitsa wearing unique battle gear, the historical Macedonian shield inscribed with the name of King Alexander, golden staters (coins) issued by Philip, Alexander, and his successors, and the bones of the Sacred Band of Thebes soldiers.
Relating to today
Andy Warhol’s ‘Alexander the Great’ (1981) portrait from MOMus-Museum of Contemporary Art, one version of his iconic work that was commissioned by Greek collector Alexandros Iolas, is also on show.
The show also honors Greece’s early archaeologists at the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th, including reports of their excavations (Panagiotis Stamatakis, Georgios Sotiriadis, respectively). In addition, it includes information on how the modern Greek state handled the battle and its monuments in its narrative, and how the newspapers of those times saw it. Slowly forgotten, the Battle of Chaeronea rekindled the public’s interest from the end of the 18th century, when the marble pieces of the fallen Lion of Chaeronia attracted visitors, academics, and locals.
The exhibition is divided into nine units. The last one, “The Battle of Chaeronea today” looks at how the battle can be reconstructed for younger generations that might not be familiar with museums. It includes a diorama of the battle with Playmobil figurines especially made by collectors for the show, with the help of Playmobil Hellas, and descriptions through comics.
“We examine the event itself, what follows, we see what this famed Hellenistic world that opens up after the battle of Chaeronea is, and we experience its consequences to this day. All the gold that the Western world used up to 1492 is the gold that Alexander brought in his campaign. In other words, objects that had very long-term consequences and that we are still experiencing today,” Iossif said.
Fappas, whose professional interest in Boeotia is long term, said that “the exhibition is unique because the objects are unique. If the specific objects did not exist, the exhibition could not have been done.” He especially thanked his colleagues at the Boeotia Ephorate of Antiquities and the Antiquities Ephorate of Thesprotia prefecture, “for trusting us with immovable objects for the exhibition.” He also thanked the Ministry of Culture’s conservation laboratory and the National Monuments Archive directorate, “which guards treasures and archival material of unbelievable significance for our homeland’s modern history.”
MCA president and CEO Sandra Marinopoulos said that the Museum wanted to provide a platform to new archaeologists, who can bring new thinking, creativity, and enthusiasm.
She also announced that in April 2024 the museum would host the first museum exhibition in Greece of 100 photographs by Cindy Sherman, whose work continues to inspire and influence modern art today. The show will be part of the Museum’s contemporary art program.
Museum of Cycladic Art
Stathatos Mansion, Vasilissis Sofias & 1 Irodotou Street (Kolonaki)
December 12, 2023 – March 31, 2024