Heracles to Alexander the Great
Heracles to Alexander the Great
Treasures from the Royal Capital of Macedon, a Hellenic Kingdom in the Age of Democracy
By Anjeliki Kottaridi with contributors
Publisher: Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
ISBN 13: 978-1-854442-54-3
Illustrations: 270 color, 5 black and white
Dimensions: 8 1/2" x 11"
Click thumbnails for a larger image.
• "The most stunning ... exhibition ever to have come from Greece to Britain" -Financial Times
• How Philip II incorporated Greece under the Macedonians to maintain the last great Greek empire
• New interpretations from archaeological finds and restoration at Philip's palace at Aegae
• Nearly 600 objects - including some of the most beautiful jewellery ever to be crafted
• Many works not seen before
Philip II of Macedonia and his son, Alexander, were the stuff of myths - myths they created and perpetuated through their conquests, buildings and art works. Nearly 600 objects of gold, silver, bronze and other materials demonstrate the extent of their power as well as their patronage of the arts. This material is contained in the catalog of a groundbreaking Ashmolean Museum exhibition, "Heracles to Alexander the Great."
The catalogue was written by archaeologist Angeliki Kottaridi and 13 contributors. The finds are from Aegae, the ancient capital of Macedonia, birthplace of Philip and Alexander, now the modern city of Verginia) during 30 years of excavations. Apart from a few items in New York in 2006, these pieces have never been seen anywhere.
Philip and Alexander were able to conquer Greece and extend their empire not only through land grabs and masterful military prowess, but by their adoption of Greek ideas from such as Plato and Pythagoras. At the same time, they integrated the heroes of Greek mythology into their new iconography - on statues, architecture, decorative objects and coinage they had produced by the best artisans of the Ancient World.
The exhibition, which was at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England, has been called "the most important Greek cultural event in many years." The spectacular royal tombs were discovered in the 1970s, remarkably preserved with much of their contents intact. An example of the sophistication and wealth of this royal family is the necklace (above) described as: "... the most beautiful piece of ancient Greek jewellery known to us" by historian Robin Lane Fox. It is a gold myrtle wreath adorned with 112 gold flowers that belonged to one of Philip's seven wives.
Of the epic tale that Phillip and Alexander wove for history, Dr. Kotaridis notes the tenancity of this myth to the Ancients. She notes that "Herodotus had claimed Alexander the Great did not just spring out of nowhere to take over the whole world." He was a scion of the Temenides dynasty that ruled the Macedonian kingdom for three and half centuries. As a 'descendant' of Heracles (Hercules) and Zeus, one example of Philip's political acumen is a magnificent armor suit that bears similarity to the mythological armor of Achilles (including gold straps and lions' heads as decoration - i.e., the labors of Heracles).
The objects tell of: Macedonian men in war and hunting; princesses, queens and high priestesses, fashion and ritual; the Symposium; about the building plan of the palace. Included is a remarkable marble bust of Alexander; portraits of Philip and Alexander from the gold and ivory mortuary couch found in the royal tombs; architectural remains; and banquet objects.
The rise of the mountain kingdom of Macedonia, its dominance of the Greek states and then the climactic struggle with the Persian Empire has left some of the most extraordinary archaeological remains to be uncovered in countries ranging from Greece to Afghanistan. This material, while scholarly, is presented in a non-academic manner. All illustrations are in color. The book will appeal to the general public, aficionados, history buffs, art historians and archaeologists
About Dr Angeliki Kottaridi: Honored in Greece for her contributions to archaeology, she discovered the tombs of the Macedonian royal family near their palace at Aegae in the 1970s. Director of the 17th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, she is currently supervising a program of restoration there funded by the European Union. A recent excavation was of a Macedonian fort on the island of Failaka in the Persian Gulf. Reviews about the Heracles exhibition and material, documented in the lush catalogue:
"...perfectly balances the scholarly with the artistic... dazzling display of archaeological finds... The Ashmolean, in a great coup, is displaying these objects for the first time outside Greece, in an exhibition that perfectly balances the scholarly with the artistic, the informative with downright glamour..."
"...a stunning exhibition... contains items that will require histories of Greek art to be rewritten. The effect is overwhelming, the most emotional exhibition experience of my lifetime..."