Heracles to Alexander the Great
7 April – 29 August 2011
The most important classical Greek cultural event for many years comes to Oxford: 550 treasures from the palaces and royal burial tombs in the city of Aegae (modern Vergina) create a vivid portrait of the Macedonian civilisation that produced Alexander the Great.The Temenid kings, descendants of the mythical Heracles (Hercules) ruled Macedon from the mid-7th to the 4th century BC, and the tombs of two of their great leaders " Philip II and his grandson Alexander IV " provide the focus for the exhibition's exploration of the male culture of war, hunting and religion. Sculptures, weapons and battle scenes are presented alongside jewellery and perfume vessels found in the tombs of the royal women, while palace life is reflected in the fabulous silver tableware used for banqueting .The massive site of Aegae is still being excavated, and some of the pieces shown here were dug up as recently as three years ago. The finds are causing great excitement among historians and archaeologists, shifting the whole focus of Greek art in the Classical period from Athens to northern Greece.
A battered but animated hunting frieze from the tomb of Phillip II, which looks as though it could have been painted in 15th-century Florence. It features one of the earliest portraits of Alexander the Great.A unique set of life-size clay heads found in the grave of a Macedonian queen from 480 BC. Two of them have wrinkles, sticking-out ears and large noses, and could represent demons.The so-called 'Lady of Aegae' may have been the mother of Alexander I. Her funeral adornments " brooches, pendants, a diadem and necklace, and the gold strips that would have been attached to the funeral shroud itself are breathtaking. Also on display are the silver, bronze and glass vessels with which she was buried: a portrait of monarchy defiantly glorious, even in death.The gold wreath of Queen Meda, described by a leading scholar as 'the single most beautiful gold object in the world' " a riot of myrtle leaves and flowers.