1039 GMT October 21, 2019
The German millionaire-archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann had been excavating for some years at Hisarlık in northwestern Turkey, then newly established as the historical site of Homer’s legendary city, when he approached the museum in the 1870s with plans for an exhibition of his finds. Claiming lack of space, it turned him down.
Almost 150 years later, the museum is finally making up for that oversight, with the announcement of an exhibition later this year on the myths and historical truth of Troy – still the first major such showcase to take place in Britain, theguardian.com reported.
Featuring 300 objects dating from the Bronze Age to the present day, the exhibition will highlight how the stories of Helen, Paris, Achilles, and the wooden horse that ultimately brought down the city have inspired artists throughout history.
A loan from the Berlin museums will allow the British Museum to showcase almost 100 of Schliemann’s finds from the real city that inspired Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey – including pottery and silver vessels, bronze weapons and stone sculptures.
Alexandra Villing, lead curator for the exhibition, said the Trojan War was “one of the greatest stories ever told – about a war which has become an archetype for all wars”. The legend had lived so vibrantly for three millennia, she said, inspiring Roman, medieval and modern day writers and artists, because “it’s a story that really has it all – love and loss, courage and passion, violence and vengeance, twists and turns, triumph and tragedy”.
Among the works to go on display at the exhibition, opening in November, she highlighted an Athenian black-figure amphora dating from 530 BC, showing Achilles killing the Amazonian queen, Penthesilea – which is the moment when he falls in love with her. Villing described it as “one of the most iconic ancient images” to be highlighted.
The stories still resonate, she said, because “we feel they are so packed with human experience … Even in the original Homeric stories, and in Virgil’s version, and in the art of ancient Greece, these characters are portrayed with so much humanity, so much nuance and depth, that … they are amenable to interpretation through many different lenses.”