Author: Sunnie Habgood
Sub-editor: Jacey Quah
Upon being offered the opportunity to tour the Hellenic Museum’s exhibit Gods, Greeks and Mortals: Greek Treasures Across the Millenia, I was beyond thrilled. This little taste of Greek culture in Melbourne’s CBD is most likely the closest any of us will get to experiencing Greece’s rich history and monuments for some time. With $7 concession tickets and its convenient location opposite Flagstaff Gardens and Southern Cross station, it makes it one of Melbourne’s unmissable attractions.
As an ancient history fanatic, I can’t help but associate a Greek museum with millennium-old statues and pottery similar to what you’d find in Disney’s Hercules, with tales of Greek gods and heroism plastered on everything in sight. The name of the museum’s exhibit invoked the idea that I’d be taken on a tour of relics from the early days of ancient Greece and its mythology.
The first section of the exhibit displays artefacts from Antiquity, a timeframe spanning from the 6th millennium BC to the 3rd century AD. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed when stepping into this period of history, as so much of my high school and university studies have been dedicated to this period when humans were on the cusp of advanced civilisation. As I wandered past the glass-panelled walls, in clear view was an impressive display of coins, weapons and pottery that had been carefully pieced back together. I marvelled at how the influence of ancient Greece had spread throughout history, with their pottery and armour still on full display in today’s society.
The exhibit then took an unexpected turn, with a transition into the Byzantine era of Greek history. As mentioned before, so much of Greece is watered down to just its ancient origins, as that era is consistently present in modern popular culture (Percy Jackson, I’m looking at you). But this era on display had me rethinking my view on its history, which is wrought with oppression after years of Roman rule and the founding of the Eastern side of their empire. The artefacts on display from the 4th century AD to the 1400s show a strong connection to Christianity, with almost all artworks on display depicting Christ and his followers. The immersion that I felt amongst such beautiful pieces, depicting Greek commitment to a faith extremely different from their own, was nothing short of powerful.
Next, the tour took a turn into the Post-Byzantine and Neo-Hellenic eras. While there were no articles clearly depicting the suffering amongst the Greeks during this time, the turmoil discussed in the exhibit’s signage begs the question: how did their citizens feel throughout these tumultuous few centuries? Their beautiful costumes and artworks illustrate resilient people who thrived through culture, religion and strong ties to family and their community. Towards the end of the exhibit, I found myself rejoicing as I reached the Neo-Hellenic period, as it marked the moment Greece won their independence. No country deserved freedom more than they did in 1821, and the paintings from the 19th century depicting their battles and victories had my heart soaring.
I was expecting a display of ancient relics accompanied by tales of myths and mortals, but was pleasantly surprised by what was a comprehensive tour through Greece’s rich history. The exhibit was like a physical walk through time, perfect for anyone who has any interest in history or some very impressive age-old statues and helmets. And I repeat – $7 concession tickets!
Do yourself a favour and visit the Hellenic Museum’s Gods Myths and Mortals exhibit, which will take you to Greece in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD.
Open Daily 10am-4pm
Former Royal Mint Building, 280 William Street, Melbourne 3000.
The Hellenic Museum, Gods, Myths & Mortals: Greek Treasures Across the Millenia, courtesy of the Hellenic Museum.