Friday, March 1, 2013
An Exhibition of Greek Art to Canada and the Opening of Aristotle’s Lyceum
This past week Greece’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos, was on an official visit to Canada. One of the announcements that he made in Ottawa was that in 2015 a major exhibition of Greek antiquities will be on exhibit at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec, across the river from Ottawa. Twenty Greek museums will contribute to the 500 works of art and artifacts. According to the Hellenic Foreign Minister this will be the largest such exhibition in North America for over 30 years.
The long sought-after Sanctuary of Apollo Lyceios where Aristotle ca 335 BC established his philosophical school called the “Peripatetic School” was discovered finally in 1996. Here was one of the three most famous gymnasia in ancient Athens. The others were the Academy where Plato held forth and Kynosarges. The Lyceion (Lyceum in Latin) was located on the western bank of the Illissos river (no longer visible, alas). Today it is on the north side of Rigillis Street, between the Athens Conservatory on Vas. Constantinou Avenue and the Military Officer’s Club on Vas. Sophias Avenue. The small church of Ayios Nikolaos is at the edge of the site. After the excavation of the palaistra and gymnasion on the 1.1 hectare plot, the site was hidden from view by a tall fence. Recently the archaeological site has been developed for public access and will open in the mid-summer according to the 3rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities.
The remains consist of a gymnasion with a large peristyle courtyard. The rooms that ringed the open space were used for both activities related to athletic exercise and the ephebeion. This was for training of 18-20 year-old aristocratic young men for military service and citizenship. The building complex was abandoned in the 4th century AD after a long period of limited use.
With the almost 2 hectare grounds behind the Byzantine and Christian Museum immediately to the north a large park is being developed into a park-like setting as well. The two areas will be connected and open to the public during normal archaeological site hours.
So there are good things, Greek archaeologically speaking, to look forward to both in Athens and Canada in the coming months and years!