Major New Archaeological Museum Exhibit Celebrates Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis



New exhibit at Athens’ Archaeological Museum commemorating the Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis. Credit: AMNA

The new temporary exhibition at the National Archaeological Museum, titled “Glorious Victories: Between Myth and History” is part of the celebratory program for the 2,500-year anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae and the Naval Battle of Salamis.

The major new exhibit opened to the public yesterday and will run until the end of February, 2021.

The helmet of the great Greek General Miltiades, who fought at the Battle of Marathon almost 2,500 years ago. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The exhibition includes 105 ancient works and even a model of an Athenian trireme from the 5th century BC, which bring to life once again the victorious struggle of the Greeks against the Persians.

The display includes objects from the National Archaeological Museum as well as other museums across Greece, including the Archaeological Museums of Astros, Thebes, and Olympia. Other items are from the Konstantinos Kotsanas Museum of Ancient Greek Technology, which displays faithful recreations of Ancient Greek inventions.

The bust of Themistocles. Roman copy of a Greek original from 470 BC. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Especially iconic for this very historical anniversary is the bust of Themistocles, a Roman copy of an original work from the 5th century BC, which is usually displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Ostia (Parco Archeologico di Ostia Antica).

This Roman-era bust, created in the “Severe style”, was based on a Greek original, which dated back to circa 470 BC. That original has been described as “the first true portrait of an individual European.”The exhibition consists of eight units in total, with the first six units dealing with different episodes and battles of the Persian Wars.

Artifacts showing the military attire of the Greek hoplites and Persian warriors and written dedications to the winners in the large sanctuaries of antiquity are included in the historical riches of the exhibit.

The striking helmet of the great general Miltiades, and arrowheads from the battlefield of Thermopylae, along with fragments of vases showing scorch marks from the burning of Athens by the Persians, are also on display.

Priceless figures of the gods and the mythical heroes of that time enhance the historical narrative and interlink it with the belief system of ancient Greece, according to which gods and mortals joined forces to achieve the overall victory, based on the value system of the time.

The Jockey of Artemision. Created approximately 150-140 BC, it is an extremely rare example of a bronze statue from Ancient Greece, rediscovered in the twentieth century. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The exhibition culminates in the two concluding units, which present the resonance of the Persian Wars in pictorial art —  both ancient and modern — and their ideological significance to the world.

The stunning bronze statue of a horse and jockey from Artemision, lost in a shipwreck in antiquity but rediscovered off Evia in the twentieth century, is also on display, along with five vases which are masterpieces of the art, showing representations of athletic and musical competitions.

The scenes on the vessels denote the meaning of victorious contests for the individual and the collective in the world of the ancient Greeks, not only in wartime but also in peace.

The exhibition is enhanced by digital projections which contribute to the creation of a powerful atmosphere in which visitors may more easily perceive the drama of the events and the inspiring meaning of Nike (“Victory”).

This not-to-be-missed exhibition will run until the end of February 2021.