The exhibition begins its North American odyssey in the country’s leading archaeology museum before continuing to the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, The Field Museum in Chicago and the National Geographic Museum in Washington. It brings together more than 500 priceless artifacts from 21 Greek museums, co-ordinated by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports. For Pointe-à-Callière, this achievement is another in the series of great international exhibitions it has produced over the years, including Archaeology and the Bible – From King David to the Dead Sea Scrolls and Japan, introducing Montrealers and visitors to some of humanity’s most impressive treasures.
A fascinating period
Greek Antiquity is a rich and spell-binding period, a time populated by mythical heroes and historical figures, under the watchful gaze of the gods on Mount Olympus. The exhibition is divided into six zones that introduce us to this great civilization and showcase rare and priceless artifacts. Visitors will meet many famous characters in Greek history, from Homer to Aristotle, Plato, King Philip II of Macedon and King Leonidas of Sparta. The heritage of ancient Greece, which we can still see all around us today in our politics, philosophy, arts and literature, mathematics, architecture, medicine and sports, is clearly illustrated in the exhibition. Visitors are invited on a tour of Greek history, starting in the 6th millennium BCE, explaining all these roots.
From Agamemnon and the siege of Troy...
We learned about the exploits and adventures of the heroic and legendary figures in the Trojan War through Homer’s epic poem the Iliad. Led by Agamemnon, the Greeks sailed a thousand ships all the way to Troy, where the Trojan Prince Paris was holding Helen captive. After laying siege to the city for ten years, the Greeks left an unexpected gift outside the gates: a giant wooden horse, filled with Greek soldiers. The unsuspecting Trojans brought the horse inside the city walls, leading to the fall of their city.
In the 19th century, German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, convinced that the accounts in the ancient Iliad were historically accurate, found “Royal Tombs” at Mycenae containing the remains of ancient elites and their fabulous grave goods. Schliemann was in no doubt that these remains were in fact those of Agamemnon’s. The exhibition showcases objects from the tombs of the Grave Circle A, including two magnificent golden burial masks originally attributed to Agamemnon. One of them, the original golden mask, has in fact never been shown outside Greece before.
To Alexander, larger than life
The exhibition takes us all the way up to the days of Alexander the Great, a larger-than-life figure who was only 20 years old when his father, Philip II, was assassinated. But Alexander was ready to succeed him, thanks to his education, his training and the formidable Macedonian army. Within barely a single generation, the ancient world was transformed from a series of independent city-states into a unified empire under Alexander the Great. The young prince who became king, emperor then god in the eyes of the world, died of a malignant fever at the age of 32. But his legend survived, as did Greece’s extraordinary legacy to the Western world.
The Golden Age of Ancient Greece
Between these two crucial figures, the exhibition focuses on the Golden Age of ancient Greece, in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE, when philosophy, theatre and the visual arts flourished, particularly in Athens. This was also the birthplace, under Pericles, of Greece’s greatest gift to humanity: democracy, government by the people. For the first time, citizens could express themselves, debate issues and vote. The exhibition also looks at the founding of the Olympic Games in 776 BCE, when athletes converged in Olympia from all Greek city states to take part in the Games.
Treasures of humanity
Among the highlights of the exhibition are a number of items never before displayed outside Greece: gold offerings from the royal tombs of Mycenae, including the mask that Schliemann first associated with Agamemnon, as well as a double-eagle necklace worn by one of the deceased, dated to the 16th century BCE.
Elsewhere in the exhibition, visitors will be able to admire a marble figurine from the island of Amorgos in Cyclades, dating to the 3rd millennium BCE and a superb ritual vase from Minoan Crete. There will also be exhibited bronze helmets with gold funerary masks from the graves of the Bottiaean rulers, not to mention a magnificent funerary vase illustrating the scene of Achilles avenging the death of his friend Patroclus, from the island of Delos and dating to the late 6th century BCE.
They will also see sculptures of Homer and other famous historic figures, and a superb votive relief to Asklepios, showing the god of medicine leaning on his staff, around which a snake is coiled, accompanied by his children as he receives the tributes of mortals whom he has cured. Lastly, there is a magnificent gold wreath of Queen Meda featuring two incredibly lifelike branches of myrtle, an aromatic plant, symbol of immortality, associated with goddess Aphrodite.
A hands-on experience
The exhibition offers visitors a whole range of interactives and items to handle, from a Cycladic female figurine to a reproduction of a warrior’s helmet and a sword. There are over twenty videos in the various exhibition zones, most of them produced by the National Geographic Society, the Acropolis Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens and the Canadian Museum of History.
Complementing the exhibition
Many activities have been organized in conjunction with the exhibition. A free digital application designed by the New Media Laboratory of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Greek Studies at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia will keep visitors informed before, during and after their tour of the exhibition. There is also a prestigious publication on the Greek collection, produced by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports; a catalogue has also been produced by the Canadian Museum of History and the partner museums in the consortium, surveying the themes and the key items in the exhibition. A number of major lectures will be given, at both Pointe-à-Callière and the Université de Montréal in early 2015, looking at major figures in Ancient Greece and archaeology issues. Tours and visitor activities, the Port Symphonies, Greek Independence Day, Greek cuisine on the menu at the Museum’s restaurant and films are just some of the events and attractions surrounding the exhibition.
Pointe-à-Callière wishes to thank the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and its Directorate General of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage for producing this exhibition in co-operation with a consortium of four North American museums directed by the Canadian Museum of History. Aside from Pointe-à-Callière and the Canadian Museum of History, the consortium consists of The Field Museum in Chicago and the National Geographic Museum in Washington. The Museum also wishes to emphasize the assistance of Jacques Perreault, Director of the History Department and Professor of Greek Archaeology at the Université de Montréal, for his expertise as a member of the museum’s scientific committee in creating this exhibition.
Pointe-à-Callière, the only major archaeology museum in Quebec and all of Canada, is a museum complex rising above a concentrated number of national historic and archaeological sites that illustrate the history of Montréal, Quebec and the rest of Canada. It opened in 1992, on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of the founding of Montréal. Pointe-à-Callière’s mission is to raise awareness and foster an appreciation of Montréal’s history, and to forge bonds with regional, national and international networks concerned with archaeology, history and urban issues.
Presented in Pointe-à-Callière from December 12, 2014 to April 26, 2015, The Greeks – Agamemnon to Alexander the Great was produced by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports (Athens, Greece), Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex (Montréal, Canada), the Canadian Museum of History (Gatineau, Canada), The Field Museum (Chicago, USA) and the National Geographic Museum (Washington, DC, USA).
The Greek Embassy in Canada and the Canadian Embassy in Greece are working together to promote the exhibition. The exhibition is also being supported by the Department of Canadian Heritage through its Travelling Exhibitions Indemnification Program. The Museum wishes to thank its sponsors: Société de transports de Montréal (STM): Hôtel InterContinental, Aéroports de Montréal, Traditours, the Hellenic Community of Greater Montréal, Tourisme Montréal, Pacart and La Presse.
The Museum is subsidized by the City of Montréal.
North American Partner Museums
Pointe-à-Callière, Museum of Archaeology and History, Quebec
Pointe-à-Callière, the only major archaeology museum in Quebec and all of Canada, opened in 1992 to mark the 350th anniversary of Montréal’s founding. The museum complex rises above a concentrated number of national historic and archaeological sites that illustrate the history of Montréal, Quebec and the rest of Canada. Its mission is to raise awareness and foster an appreciation of Montréal’s history, and to forge bonds with regional, national, and international networks concerned with archaeology, history, and urban issues.
December 12, 2014 to April 26, 2015
Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau, Quebec
Located in Gatineau, Quebec, the Canadian Museum of History is Canada’s largest and most popular cultural institution, attracting over 1.2 million visitors each year. The Museum’s principal role is to enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the events, experiences, people and objects that have shaped their country’s history and identity, as well as to enhance Canadians’ awareness of world history and culture. It also presents remarkable international exhibitions devoted to human history and cultures. It is the museum directing the consortium of four museums presenting the exhbition in North America.
June 5 to October 12, 2015
Field Museum, Chicago
Created on September 16, 1893 (known at the time as the Columbian Museum) to mark the Universal Exposition, the Field Museum today is devoted to education, focusing on biodiversity, civilizations and their respective connections. Its collections, in four main departments (anthropology, zoology, botany and geology) and its outreach and research programs are specifically designed to appeal to all ages. Along with the John G. Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum is part of the Museum Campus located on Lake Michigan.
November 24, 2015 to April 10, 2016
National Geographic Museum, Washington
The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest educational non-profit organizations. It reaches an audience of over 400 million people every month through its official publications, including National Geographic magazine and other periodicals, radio shows, films, books, maps, educational programs, interactive media and spin-off products. The museum dedicated to this organization, located in Washington, gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy many different temporary exhibitions based on the research and materials contributed by explorers, photographers and scientists working for National Geographic over the years.
May 26 to October 9, 2016
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