by Zoey James and Emma Moore
After a dark and stormy night, the skies cleared and we set sail for the port of Piraeus. Not only did it signal the end of our 11 day trip across the Grecian countryside and coastal regions, but also signaled the closing of our J-Term.
Once we arrived, we visited the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus to view the unique collection of Neoclassical reliefs and bronze statues. The port of Piraeus in particular is known for being one of the most democratic parts of Athens, both in an antiquity and today. It was a large multicultural center for metics in the fifth and sixth centuries, and is a hotbed of leftist activity today. In many ways, it is a fitting place for us to begin the last leg of our trip; Piraeus is both an ancient and modern cultural crossroads, and incapsulates the ideals of our journey.
Found in a shipwreck off the coast, the Roman neoclassical reliefs we examined are evidence of of how Romans came to Greece to study and copy works of art for profit. It is suspected that the copy of the Amazonomachy (pictured below) is styled after the inside of the shield of the cult statue of Athena that once stood in the Parthenon.
The number of full-bodied classical bronze statues is slim, with only twelve known of today. Upon their discovery, this cache of three statues increased the supply by 33%! These were found in a box while the city was creating a new sewer system. The bronze kouros is the earliest surviving bronze statue, dating back to around 520 BCE.
The Athena statue on display is very detailed and one of the most compassionate depictions of the war goddess. Aside from being distinct in features, she’s also unique for her style of dress, the type of helmet she’s wearing, and the emotion expressed in her posture.
There were also two statues of Artemis, the first emphasizing her feminine qualities, and the second likely taken from one of her sanctuaries.
This museum is unique for a multitude of reasons, but one of the most prevalent is the way it portrays the port of Piraeus. This museum shows us the duality of the art, weapons, and everyday goods of the ancient Athenians. In funerary reliefs we see the combination of wealth, cultural exchange, and grief. In the bronze statues we see the balance of femininity and masculinity. It’s the balance which created the ancient city of Piraeus and Athens, and what creates them today.
The quote below, featured in the museum (and also well known by all of Professor DeGroot’s “Imagined Cities” seminar), seemed fitting for our study of antiquities and the glimpses it gives us into the lives of those who made this journey across Greece thousands of years before us.
The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags…Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
After the museum, we ate at a wonderful pizzeria and retired to our bedrooms. Tomorrow there won’t be a blog entry because the class is having a well deserved break. But we’ll be back on the 27th!
On the 14th we visited a Refugee Center, and we’ve been mentioned in a post by one of the chairs of the foundation!