Friday, December 19, 2008

Showcasing Women in Ancient Athens

Today's New York Times includes a review of the new exhibition at the Onassis Cultural Center, "Worshiping Women: Ritual and Reality in Classical Athens." This important new show, which runs through May 9th, was co-curated by Nikolaos Kaltsas, director of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, and Prof. Alan Shapiro of Johns Hopkins University, a mentor of mine who served on my dissertation committee. It includes objects from several Greek collections, not only those of the National Archaeological Museum but from smaller national museums like that at Brauron.

What makes this exhibition important is its challenge of the notion that women in ancient Athens lived lives of strict seclusion and restriction. While women could not participate in political life, it's true, one arena where they played a very important role is the religious life of the city. The exhibition explores the festivals and rituals in which women took part, as well as the representation of female deities in Athenian art.

This is a topic close to my heart -- my dissertation focused on images of female musicians on Athenian vases -- and I encourage anyone heading to New York or living there to check out this show. The Onassis Center is located at 645 Fifth Avenue, near 52nd Street; their website is www.onassisusa.org for more information.

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