The legacy of Alexander the Great
As the Alexander the Great: 2000 Years of Treasure exhibition gets set to sail to Australia, we take a look at the myths and realities surrounding this prodigious leader
Brilliant tactician, drunken barbarian, commanding general, compassionate man - all these have been used to describe Alexander the Great. The enigma that surrounds Alexander is as great as his epithet. The intrigue associated with him, his influence and his status, is evident even today.
Although he died at the tender age of 32, the impact he had on spreading Hellenism throughout the world was astounding. All of this and more is about to be explored in the latest exhibition for the Australian Museum in Sydney.
"No ruler in history appeals to the imagination as much as Alexander the Great," says the media release to accompany the exhibition Alexander the Great: 2000 Years of Treasures. The exhibition is exclusive to the Australian Museum in Sydney and will showcase over 400 objects from classical antiquity through to the modern age from both Western and non-Western origins.
Two years ago, Frank Howarth, Director of the Australian Museum, travelled to St Petersberg Russia, to meet with the director of the State Hermitage Museum, Professor Mikhail B. Piotrovskjy, to begin negotiations to secure one of the largest exhibitions of the State Hermitage. He was told of the exhibition through an antiquities expert from Macquarie University, with whom the museum works closely with.
At that stage, the museum was looking at exhibiting something on the Mediterranean, looking specifically at Alexandria. With Alexander being instrumental in the creation of Alexandria, this exhibition coming to Australia was almost meant to be.
"We have a history at the Australian museum of mounting exhibitions about aspects of the world's great cultures," Mr Howarth told Neos Kosmos.
"It is an interest of ours in talking to the Australian communities about these amazing cultures that shaped the modern world in various ways - that we learnt from or had direct influence," he said of how exhibitions are selected for the Australian Museum.
The legacy of Alexander the Great through the treasures of the State Hermitage, which begins on 24 November, not only concentrates on Alexander the Great in the particular time of 323 BC, it's encompasses the whole story, the legend and influence of this conqueror.
The exhibition takes place in four definite parts to showcase all the intrigue that surrounds one of the most famous generals in history and starts with examples of how the Alexander the Great 'myth' has been represented in art and culture over the centuries.
"He's had enormous influence and it comes out in art, culture, engravings, tapestries; all sorts of things even up until the 18th and 19th centuries," explains Mr Howarth, "and one of the most beautiful of those is the image of Alexander's head, which is actually from a clock from the 18th century."
The second part of the exhibition delves into the story behind the man; who he really was; who influenced him; the people that taught him; and the heroes he looked up to, particularly Achilles and Heracles. It's about understanding the man.
"The third part looks at what he actually did," explains Mr Howarth, "his conquests in his very brief life, how he united the various groups the league of Corinth, Macedon and other parts of what is now Greece into a unified country, and how he then spread Hellenism East and took over the Persian Empire."
The final segment of this four part exhibition is a review of the legacy of Alexander the Great itself.
"It's more about the Hellenistic traditions, not long after he was around, up until about the 8th century AD, when Hellenism really influenced a great deal of the modern world, the Romans and subsequently other societies," Mr Howarth says.
"What is important is that he spread Hellenistic ideas around the world," says Mr Howarth of the legend's living legacy.
Even though the director himself hasn't actually seen the physical exhibition, he says staff of the museum who have seen the exhibition have boasted about the amazing objects that will soon reach Australian soil.
"It's one thing to read a catalogue to see the image to say it's that big, that tall, that heavy, but to actually see it in real life I am really looking forward to it," he says with anticipation.
One of the historical figures Alexander the Great influenced was Catherine the Great, 18th century Empress of Russia and founder of the State Hermitage. She was fascinated by the leader and like many other European rulers of the time, wore images of him. It was this fascination that spawned the collection at the State Hermitage that is unsurpassed in terms of its breath and the extent of its treasures.
"I really like the stories where there was or is a modern influence," explains Mr Howarth of his own fascination with the general.
"His influence on Catherine the Great and why she was motivated to create firstly the State Hermitage museum and why she added the Great to her name - it was like a homage to Alexander the Great, a number of people wanted to emulate him."
Mr Howarth explains that his influence on art, culture and design was at the Baroque end of classical Greece.
"It added a layer of flamboyance and exuberance to the more traditional end of Greek society and design and in that way he influenced design, particularly the eras of the great empires. Hero figures were looked up to and Alexander the Great was at the top of that, so people like Catherine the Great who embodied heroism and heroes in design, Alexander embraced that."
- Register Now
- Paedophilia charge for Greek Australian
- More Greeks calling Australia home
- Greek Adelaide church in hot water again
- Golden Dawn's Australian aspirations uncovered
- ND and SYRIZA in Golden Dawn row
- Man sues Qatar over drinks car accident
- Marxist reporter won praise for his work
- AFP show support for Cyprus
- Sixth place for Alcohol is Free
- Bank of Sydney celebrates Marrickville branch
- 8 May 2013 | 12 Votes
- 15 May 2013 | 9 Votes
- 8 May 2013 | 8 Votes
- 3 May 2013 | 8 Votes
- 13 May 2013 | 7 Votes
- 30 Apr 2013 | 6 Votes
More from this Section
- Marxist reporter won praise for his work
- Eurovision 2013: The kitsch and the high notes
- Myth versus reality: Athens during the peak of the crisis
- The Constantinople spirit
- The outfit says it all
- Unravelling Greece's crisis
- Crossing into the unknown
- Tall tales
- Paying tribute to old masters' paintings
- The dictatorship
Final evacuation site of the Anzacs marked for posterity
Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias is considering measures that could lead to far-right Golden Dawn being outlawed
Mitchell Duke and Trent Sainsbury of the Mariners are among 12 Australian-based players selected for a Socceroos training camp
The businessman hopes to bring international interest to the complex
Mum's the word for a special comedy event for the Pansamian House
In this opinion, Andreas C Chrysiafis looks at the resilience of the Cypriot people facing this new crisis
Vettell leads at the top of the Formula 1 points table with an emphatic win in the Bahrain Grand Prix
Is Greek Easter the only time young Greek Australians make it to church? Neos Kosmos investigates what draws young parishioners.
The new series of MasterChef Australia is already in hot water before it's even started
Thanasi Tiliakos' scholarship to Scots College is a dream come true
The teams that started as underdogs beat the favourites at home on Wednesday, setting up an appetizing mini-league.
23-year-old Greek born athlete was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma back in 2011
The Spanish coach also brings with him assistant Pau Marti to join Michael Valkanis
Coach Giorgos Donis sacked in the aftermath of the Thessaloniki club’s elimination from the Greek Cup
An anti-racism bill aimed at reining in the ultra-right Golden Dawn party by imposing tougher penalties on the incitement of racist violence has caused a major rift
PAS Giannina upset PAOK at Thessaloniki to take the lead at the Super League play-offs
Urban guerrilla group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire and a string of armed robberies remain in custody
Two buildings owned by Brisbane's Greek community won't be demolished, the Council says, while the plans are underway for the restoration of historic Belvedere House