“Eretria: Insights into an Ancient City”

The temporary exhibition “Eretria: Insights into an Ancient City” will be hosted at the National Archaeological Museum from April 26th to August 25th, 2010.

The exhibition, which is co-organized by the National Archaeological Museum and the IA’ Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and is an initiative of the Swiss School of Archaeology, will narrate the past of the city of Eretria and central Euboea from their origins until Late Antiquity. The aim of the exhibition is to present in a lively and original way the life of an ancient Greek city through excavation finds, drawing reconstructions, models and video projections. The exhibition is realized with funds from the Swiss School of Archaeology, the only permanent archaeological mission outside Switzerland. Since its foundation in 1964, the Swiss School of Archaeology excavates and studies the ruins of ancient Eretria in Euboea. All the buildings that have been researched by Swiss archaeologists have been preserved and most of them are open to the public.

The exhibition includes 437 ancient artifacts and is structured in four sections.

The first section is dedicated to the city’s historical course through the ages. The area of Eretria has been continuously inhabited since the beginning of the 3rd millennium B.C. Although the remains of the Mycenaean era remain scarce, Eretria first flourished during the subsequent Geometric period (8th century B.C.). It played an active part in the creation of commercial relations with the East and participated widely in the first phase of the Greek colonization in Northen Greece (Mende, Methone, Dikaia), South Italy and Sicily (Pithekoussai, Cumae, Zankle). The objects exhibited in this section shed light on the first settlement, the prosperity of the city in the Geometric period, the commerce and colonies, as well as the development of the alphabetical writing system.

The second section concentrates on topics related to the city’s everyday life. Following a period of recession during the 5th century B.C. as a result not only of the Persian wars but also of its opposition to Athenian domination, the city is reorganized and flourishes during the 4th century B.C. New public buildings, as well as luxurious private houses are built, substantiating the city’s well being. Public life is presented through exhibits connected to the function of the Agora, the Stoai and the Gymnasia. On the other hand, private life is represented by architectural remains of houses, household utensils, as well as groups of objects related to marriage, women’s life, children and domestic cult practices.

The religious life of the Eretrians is reflected in the cults and sanctuaries that have been located and researched. The patron god of Eretria was Apollo Daphnephoros, whose sanctuary underwent successive phases of reconstruction, from the end of the 8th century onwards. Apart from the sanctuary of Apollo, the exhibits are also linked to the sanctuaries of Athena, Artemis, Demeter (Thesmophorion) and the North Sacrificial area. The finds from the Iseion also confirm that the worship of the Egyptian goddess Isis was the main foreign worship of the city, while the cuirassed statues from the Sebasteion bear witness to the emperors’ worship during Roman times.

The last section touches upon topics of death and afterlife through the presentation of the necropoleis, graves and grave offerings. The burial customs vary according to the time period, the identity of the deceased and his/her social and financial situation. During the Geometric period, the cinerary urns reveal that cremation was a dominant practice for eminent adults, while the common practice for children was burial in clay vessels. Grave offerings, such as gold diadems and other jewelry, adorned the deceased before burial, while weapons were usually placed in the grave to highlight the heroic status of the dead. Superbly painted lekythoi, bronze mirrors and jewels represent the customary offerings deposited in the graves of the Archaic and Classical period. Finally, the rich finds from the Macedonian-type “Tomb of the Erotes” reflect the ostentation which was so prominent during the Hellenistic era, while the glass and clay vessels exhibited are typical grave goods of Roman times.

The exhibition also features drawings and models in a 1:50 scale representing some of the most important buildings of Eretria. Watercolors illustrate landscapes of Eretria during ancient times or scenes of everyday life, while the accompanying videos invite visitors to discover the city of today, with its archaeological remains and different phases of excavation. The scientific catalogue of the exhibition consists of entries and photographs of 437 items, compiled by distinguished Swiss and Greek archaeologists.

The opening hours of the exhibition are the same as the National Archaeological Museum’s opening hours
. Following the National Archaeological Museum, the exhibition will be presented at the Antikenmuseum Basel and Sammlung Ludwig, from September 2010 until January 2011.

Participating Museums:

National Archaeological Museum
Archaeological Museum of Eretria
Archaeological Museum of Chalkis
Archaeological Museum of Olympia
Archaeological Museum of Samos
Numismatic Museum Benaki Museum
Musei Capitolini
Montemartini Collection