CHICAGO – In collaboration with the National Hellenic Museum (NHM), Chicago’s renowned Field Museum has just launched the largest, in the last 25 years, North American exhibition commemorating ancient Greeks.
“The Greeks: From Agamemnon to Alexander the Great” exhibition features select artifacts drawn from the collections of 21 Greek museums, presenting more than 5000 years of Greek culture.
Displayed in chronological order, the exhibition will take visitors on an extraordinary journey starting from Neolithic origins around 6000BC to the expansion of Greek culture into Asia and Africa under Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC.
“The quantity and breadth of the material is really astonishing, and while most traveling shows have maybe a hundred or a couple hundred objects, this show has well over 600 objects, so it’s huge,” said Field Museum Curator William Parkinson.
Exhibition highlights include artifacts from the tombs of the first rulers of Mycenae, and the earliest aristocrats of Archaic and Classical city-states. Many of these items are traveling outside Greece for the first time. Also included are amazing finds from the tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great.
“When you look at the crown of Philip II, the man who unified all of ancient Greece, it’s pretty astonishing,” Parkinson said.
Visitors will explore the individual lives of the Ancient Greeks including Minoan and Mycenaean rulers and priestesses, aristocratic warriors and ladies of Archaic Greece, athletes of classical Athens, and Philip II.
“Most traveling exhibits give a glimpse of the objects and focus on the history of the individual pieces, but this story is about people. It’s about learning about Greek culture through individuals,” Parkinson noted.
Among notable featured relics and finds are a burial depicting the ritual of burial and sacrifice in a funeral pyre described in Homer’s Iliad, artifacts from the tomb of Philip II, and inscribed pieces of pottery used to ostracize even the most powerful leaders of Classical Greek society.
A specialist in European and Eastern Mediterranean Prehistory, Parkinson emphasized the importance of recognizing Greek history and culture.
“Greece and the classical period is important for me because it was one of many different parts of the world that took a different trajectory, and for some reason that constellation came together in Ancient Greece and it worked in ways it didn’t work elsewhere,” he said.
In addition to “The Greeks” at the Field Museum, NHM will host related cultural programs, including a new exhibition in its Greektown home. “We are hosting the “Aegean: Creation of an Archipelago” exhibition, and this explores the actual environment of the Aegean,” said NHM Executive Director Elizabeth Martin. “We’re looking at how the islands were formed and how the materials found on the islands were used to create the items found at museums today,” she added.
“The Greeks” exhibition’s Midwest presence is the result of years of collaboration between a number of institutions and Greece.
“We’ve been working for years in both Greece and North America, and because of the organization on the Greek side it’s been really a fun process, and we been working with a great group,” Parkinson said.
From NHM’s side, the partnership marks a significant accomplishment further connecting the 1893-built Field Museum with the Greek-American community.
“It’s a new model for cultural intuitions to partner. It’s a great opportunity for us,” Martin said. “It goes beyond the collaboration on the exhibit…there was lots of nurturing involved because the Field Museum is over 100 years old and is very established,” she added.
“The Greeks” is organized by the Canadian Museum of History and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports in partnership with National Geographic Society and The Field Museum. The exhibition is co-presented in Chicago by The Field Museum and the National Hellenic Museum.
The exhibition is developed by the Hellenic Republic – Ministry of Culture and Sports – Directorate General of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage (Athens), The Field Museum (Chicago), the Canadian Museum of History (Gatineau, Canada), the National Geographic Museum (Washington, DC) and Pointe-a-Calliere, Montreal Archeology and History Complex (Montreal, Canada).
Tickets to “The Greeks” running from November 26 to April 17, will be included in both Discovery and All Access passes to the Field Museum. Special discounts are available for Chicago residents. Furthermore, membership to the NMH transfers over to the Field Museum for the duration of the exhibit.
More information on the exhibit is available at fieldmuseum.org and nationalhellenicmuseum.org.