Feature: Greek antiquities' untold imprints on "what we fought for" in 1821

Source: Xinhua| 2020-03-01 03:33:44|Editor: yan
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ATHENS, Feb. 29 (Xinhua) -- At a museum in Athens these days, history buffs are thrilled to have a fresh glimpse of what imprints Greek antiquities have left on the 1821 Greek War of Independence.

On display at the National Archaeological Museum are Greek antiquities along with 18th and 19th-century paintings, engravings, and editions relating to the war.

The exhibition, which opened on Feb. 11 and will run through July 5, is part of a cluster of events marking the bicentennial of the start of the Greek revolution, which ended centuries of Ottoman rule in Greece.

The exhibition is named "These are what we fought for...Antiquities and the Greek War of Independence" -- a well-known quote from the memoirs of General Ioannis Makrygiannis, a leading figure of the revolution, who also urged Greeks to defend their cultural heritage from looting.

A total of 26 antiquities from the museum's collections are on display "in dialogue" with the same number of works of the 18th and 19th centuries.

"It combines antiquities with paintings and editions of the 19th century and a few from the 18th century showing how antiquities helped in the ideological preparation towards the revolution," Despina Kalessopouloum, an archaeologist and museologist, said when giving Xinhua a tour.

"On the other hand Europeans who loved remnants of the past will see with greater interest the new Greek issue: the demand for liberation," she added.

At the time, Greek and other European artists backing the revolution portrayed Greece as a female figure resembling classic Greek statues.

"They depicted Greece symbolically ... in many cases using the figure of Goddess Athena," Kalessopoulou noted, referring to the goddess of wisdom and warfare in ancient Greek mythology.

"There are lithographs from 1822, for example, showing Greece being resurrected and Athena looking from above, and around the scene are inscriptions referring to great ancient Greek generals, great poets and writers from ancient times to stress this connection," she explained.

One part of the exhibition features the plundering of antiquities, which had taken a heavy toll on the integrity of many monuments.

Visitors can see fragments left behind following the looting of the ancient monuments such as the Acropolis of Athens, the treasury of Atreus at Mycenae in southern Greece, and the temple of Aphaia on Aegina island.

"It shows how these antiquities were transferred to European museums. The process of this transfer was looting and destruction of monuments -- not only material destruction," Kalessopoulou said.

"In many cases, several ancient treasures were broken, destroyed and lost forever," she said. "Information about them was also lost. We do not know details about many of these monuments, because there was no scientific study which should have been made."

Strolling through the galleries,Greek and foreign visitors lavished praise on the exhibition's way of narrating the entire story.

Maria Dimou, a Greek visitor, told Xinhua that she had seen how Greek antiquities influenced the West but lacked "a clear picture of how Greek warriors during the 1821 revolution had been influenced by Greek antiquities."

"I found the exhibits superb, and I liked the way they were linked," she said.

Patrice Rouby, another visitor, said: "What intrigued me the most, as a Frenchman, is that I discovered that we, too, participated in the Greek war of independence, which is great."