May 09, 2014

The Museum of Olympia

Artifacts from Neolithic
 to Mycenean times

I had to choose between going to the museum shop to buy a book on the excavation and art or running to see the downtown city of Olympia which the bus was planning to bypass.  Since I’ll be going to the National Archaeological Museum on my last day here, I’ll do my best to find a book on Olympia which I hope they will have.  A book on the art of Olympia is worthy of owning.  We ought to know about our sister city and the sanctuary, after all.  We seem to pay attention to our sister city in Japan, but our Greek connection is silent, so far as I know.

Figure of Apollo in center
Labors of Herakles
The uncovering of the sanctuary begun in the 1870’s was mainly carried out by the German Archaeological Institute of Athens who funded the excavation of this and other sacred sites.  Work continues as I saw some archaeologists in the midst of a discussion around the Temple of Zeus.  The pediments from this temple were on display in the museum.  On one side was the figure of Apollo and on the other were the labors of Herakles.  

Nike of Paionios
The Nike of Paionios 5th C. BCE dedicated to Zeus for a war victory was on display in another room. 

Hermes carrying Dionysos
Then came the breathtaking Parian marble statue of Hermes.  Lights on the statue made it very difficult to photograph.  Its attribution to the sculptor Praxiteles in the 4th C. BCE is controversial.  Hermes is carrying the infant Dionysos to his nurses in Boeotia and he seems to have thrown his cloak over a tree trunk while he pauses for a moment.  The statue, although not complete, was found in the Temple of Hera in a thick clay deposit which helped to preserve it.  I had moved away from the group for a brief moment and when I entered the room I was alone with this statue for a good three minutes.  A very rare happening.  As Hermes is one of my favorites, it was thrilling to have been given this gift of communion with the god.  One must seize the moments when they come.