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A taste of Ancient Greece

27 November 2017 by Chrissy Partheni

Travel through time, from prehistoric Crete and the Minoans to the Mycenaean palaces and tombs of the Peloponnese with our Ancient Greek collection.  Through the stories of our diverse range of objects you can discover the different phases of Ancient Greek history, including the sanctuaries of Artemis Orthia in Sparta, Hellenistic Ephesus and even lands as far as the Roman Cyzicus (now in Turkey), as well as learning how the interactions of ancient Greeks with other cultures facilitated the development of new ideas.

Aryballos 49.50.3

Aryballos 49.50.3  is a shape used for carrying perfumed oil. The town of Corinth was a centre for the perfume industry and the shape became extremely popular from the 8th to the 6th century BC.

Ancient Greek decorated pot

Aryballos 1981.1112.28

The potters of the Corinthian aryballoi gradually moved away from geometric style decoration; they explored new and imaginative ideas, inspired by Oriental designs (heraldic animals and beasts) they came to know through their exchanges and trade relations. Phoenician metalwork inspired them to use incision for anatomical and other details.

We may often think of the achievements of Attic Greek pottery but in the words of the classicist and archaeologist John Boardman, “ it is the Corinthian pottery which encouraged the Athenian painters to realise more fully the qualities of monumental narrative.”

Relief stele 59.148.254

Meanings for some of the objects in our collections are yet to be determined and many still pose a mystery. Is the enthroned man of the relief stele 59.148.254 a god or a heroic mortal and could the relief be either from a grave or a votive monument?  The feet on sculpture 14.1.90.7 are all different. Even more perplexing is that they have inscribed Greek names on them. Are they the names of the athletes or the winners? Or perhaps they are the names of the dedicators to a monument, perhaps from a Gymnasium?

When I spend time observing these objects, I’m always impressed with how much they convey with such little means. Their designs are simple but accurate, and they effectively express powerful, universal human feelings, like the grief of losing a beloved one, as seen in the final goodbye in the grave relief 7.7.75.1.

Amphora 1977.114.15

Time is always there, as is a sense of urgency: the halting gesture of goddess Athena on the amphora 1977.114.15 signals to interrupt the warriors’ game and their idleness suggested by their nearby neglected shields and spears.

I hope you’ll enjoy exploring all the objects in our Ancient Greek collection.

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Welcome to the National Museums Liverpool blog! Written by our staff and volunteers, we’ll give you a peek behind the scenes of our museums and galleries.

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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.