Thursday, May 9, 2013

Irakleon Archeological Museum--The Free Part

The Irakleon Archeological Museum has some of the most famous treasures from Crete. We went there after exploring the harbor area. A side entrance leads to a free exhibit of statues and frescoes. This was our first stop.

The Dolphin Fresco was a decoration at Knossos Palace for the Queen's Megaron (a room with a bath and what must be the first water-flushed toilet), either on the wall or floor. It depicts two dolphins cavorting with some smaller fish in the sea. It dates from the Neopalatial period, 1600-1450 B.C.

Dolphin Fresco (click to enlarge)

Also from the Knossos Palace is the Blue Boy or Saffron Gatherer from the same period.

Blue Boy or Saffron Gatherer (click to enlarge)

The Ladies in Blue is a fresco restored based on other fragments. The blue background provides a nice contrast to the ladies, who are showing off their jewels and clothes, giving a sense of the richness and flirtatiousness of court women even 3500 years ago.

Ladies in Blue (click to enlarge)

These plaster relief frescoes depict two women richly dressed sitting on rocks. They might have been priestesses, since the fresco is assumed to come from a communal shrine in Pseira. This work also dates from the Neopalatial period.

Plaster relief (click to enlarge)

This lintel was possibly over the main entrance of Temple A at Prinias (known to the ancients as Rizenia) and dates from the Archaic period, around 600 B.C. The women have sacred headdresses and panthers lurk beneath their feet.

Lintel (click to enlarge)

Also from Temple A is this frieze of mounted soldiers. The horsemen are small relative to their horses and they face front to the viewer. These characteristics are typical of the period. The horsemen are shown to have a higher social status since the sculpture is found inside the temple.

Frieze from Temple A (click to enlarge)

This marble statue is a philosopher, probably Apollonios of Tyana, a neopythagorean teacher and doctor in Crete who visited Knossos and Gortyna. He's a mature man with a full beard and a walking staff, with books by his feet. The statue dates from 2nd or 3rd century A.D. and comes from the Roman town of Gortyna.

Philosopher (click to enlarge)

This marble statue of Athena Parthenos is a copy of the larger statue from Athens's Parthenon. Phidias sculpted the Parthenon version in the 5th century B.C. and this statue is from Gortyna in the 2nd century A.D. The original statue was iconic, symbolizing Athenian democracy and was a renowned masterpiece in the ancient world.

Copy of Athena Parthenos (click to enlarge)

This group of statues are the Greek gods Pluto and Persephone depicted as the Egyptian gods Sarapis and Isis. Pluto has an instrument to measure grain on his headdress. Persephone has the Isis symbols--the crescent moon, the solar disk, and a snake. She holds a sistrum (an Egyptian musical instrument) in one hand and probably had a leash that connected her to the statue of Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards Hades (the Greek version of the underworld/afterlife). Cerberus does not have an equivalent in Egyptian mythology. The set is an interesting blend of Hellenistic and Egyptian beliefs. The statues were found in Gortyna and date from the 150s A.D.

Persephone/Isis and Pluto/Sarapis (click to enlarge)

A small statue of the Greek god Pan features the horns, eyes, and hide of an animal. This also dates from the Roman period (2nd century A.D.) and was found in Gortyna.

Pan (click to enlarge)

These statues are part of a group depicting the killing of Niobe's children. The myth goes that Niobe boasted about having fourteen children while Leto, mother of the twin gods Artemis and Apollo, only had two children. Artemis and Apollo hunted down and killed Niobe's children. The statues show Artemis in hunting garb and Niobe protecting her young daughter. The original statues date from 4th century B.C. but these copies are from the 2nd century B.C. and found in Inatos.

Killing of Niobe's Children (click enlarge)

In the next post, we'll visit the paid portion of the museum.

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