As The Field Museum explores 5,000 years of Hellenic history with a major new exhibition, associate curator William Parkinson reveals five items at the top of his must-see list.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: “This gold-plated diadem was the crown of Philip II, who united the city-states of Greece,” says Parkinson. “When his son, Alexander the Great, took over, he [went on] to create an empire.” The piece features the “Herakles Knot,” marking the Macedonian king as a descendant of Zeus.
“During the Persian War, Leonidas, the Spartan king, was horribly outnumbered. It’s said that before battle, the Persian king, Xerxes, told him, ‘We will blacken the skies with our arrows.’ And Leonidas replied, ‘And we will fight in the shade.’ This bust of Leonidas has the Spartan plume on top and ram tusks as part of the helmet. Pretty badass.”
“The last piece you’ll see is a marble statue of Alexander the Great, depicting him as a god,” says Parkinson. While Pan (the god of the wilderness) is usually rendered as part goat, Alexander sports only horns and a tail.
“This gold funerary mask from Mycenae was discovered by archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. He was trying to link the Homeric poems to specific sites. Mycenae is where Agamemnon launched the Trojan War, and when Schliemann came across this he said, ‘I have gazed into the eyes of Agamemnon.’”
“One of the stories we tell is the discovery of the human individual,” relates William Parkinson, “and one of the earliest objects in the show is an amulet showing a person curled up, as if supplicating to the Gods.” The small stone object dates from 4800–4300 BC.
Celebrating the profound influence of Greek culture on Western civilization, The Field Museum’s landmark new show, “The Greeks: From Agamemnon to Alexander the Great,” draws from the collections of 21 Greek museums and features more than 500 objects, many of which have never been seen outside Greece. “It’s not an art show,” stresses associate curator William Parkinson. “It’s about Greek culture, using this material to comment on the evolution of Greek politics, and economy, and ideology.” With that in mind, Parkinson offers five choice pieces that illustrate the essence of the exhibition. “The Greeks” runs November 25 through April 10, 2016, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., 312-922- 9410