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'Competition in ancient Greece' at the Caixaforum in Zaragoza, Spain


The history of ancient Greece, as we know it, is full of heroic acts, triumphs of warriors and achievements of athletes. The Homeric epics, the victories of the Olympic athletes or the adventures of Heracles are characterized by intense competition. The competitive spirit of the ancient Greeks was present in all aspects of domestic and religious life. Rivalry and competition might be seen as negative emotions, but they can also be viewed as a positive, unifying and creative expression of a thriving culture. The Greeks believed that excellence could be achieved with a balance between mind and body; through athletic ability, they sought an impeccable physique, and through philosophy, science, and appreciation of the arts, they cultivated the mind.

'Competition in ancient Greece' at the Caixaforum in Zaragoza, Spain

This exhibition offers an understanding of this competitive spirit in all aspects of life in ancient Greece through a selection of treasures from the spectacular 'collection' of the British Museum. Sculptures, coins, ceramics and jewellery, with iconic pieces such as the frieze from the mausoleum of Halicarnassus, which portrays the battle between the Greeks and the Amazons, a marble bust of Euripides, one of the three great poets of the Greek tragedy, or the Diadumenus statue of Vaison-la-Romaine, a marble sculpture of an athlete tying a ribbon on his head as a mark of victory.


What made the daily life of the Greeks and their mythological legends so competitive? On the one hand, this competitive spirit was due the topography of Greece itself: the numerous city-states were separated by mountain and sea. Although these communities shared a common language, religion and legendary past, they maintained their differences and encouraged a culture of rivalry with honour.

'Competition in ancient Greece' at the Caixaforum in Zaragoza, Spain
Warrior dancing. Kylix pottery of black figures. c.575-550 BC. Made in Athens found in Siana,
Rhodes [Credit: © The Trustees of the British Museum]
'Competition in ancient Greece' at the Caixaforum in Zaragoza, Spain
Iphigenia, award-winning tragedy painted on a glass Krater of red ceramic scrolls
c.360-350 BC. Made in Puglia, Southern Italy. Found in Basilicata, Italy
[Credit: © The Trustees of the British Museum]
'Competition in ancient Greece' at the Caixaforum in Zaragoza, Spain
Gold lion-headed pendant c.450-400 BC. Supposedly from Akarnania, central Greece
[Credit: © The Trustees of the British Museum]
'Competition in ancient Greece' at the Caixaforum in Zaragoza, Spain
Block of a frieze with a battle between Greeks and Amazons. Marble relief, c.350 BC. From the Mausoleum
of Halicarnassus, present-day Turkey [Credit: © The Trustees of the British Museum]
'Competition in ancient Greece' at the Caixaforum in Zaragoza, Spain
Euripides. Marble head. Roman version (c.69-96 AD) of a full-length Greek statue (c.330-300 BC)
Probably found in Italy [Credit: © The Trustees of the British Museum]
'Competition in ancient Greece' at the Caixaforum in Zaragoza, Spain
Hero or athlete. Marble statue. Roman (1st century AD) from a Greek original
(c.320-300 BC) [Credit: © The Trustees of the British Museum]
'Competition in ancient Greece' at the Caixaforum in Zaragoza, Spain
Niké winged with clothes shaken by the wind. Marble statue, c.100. AD. Halicarnassus
[Credit: © The Trustees of the British Museum]
On the other hand, the polytheistic nature of these Greek communities, with families of Titanian and Olympian gods, protagonists of stories of power struggles and quarrels among both themselves and with mortals, instilled a competitive character widely portrayed in epic poetry, Greek theatre and the visual arts. The stories of Heracles, the superhero of Greek mythology, were based on overcoming and triumphing over the insurmountable challenges posed by his enemies or the gods. Finally, a strong sense of superiority over other cultures neighbouring the Greek world also contributed to their desire to compete.


Competition in Ancient Greece - the second exhibition to emerge from the agreement signed between the Obra Social "la Caixa" and the British Museum in 2015 - examines this competitive spirit characteristic of Ancient Greek society through more than 170 objects.



Many of the pieces on display are masterpieces that have been restored for the occasion and are being presented for the first time outside London. This is the case of the sculptures and the fragment of the frieze from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, never before given on loan.

The exhibition has been organised by the Obra Social 'la Caixa' and the British Museum and will be on display at the Caixaforum in Zaragoza, until 11 November, 2018.

Source: Caixaforum [August 08, 2018]

TANN

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