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Hellenic Museum, Melbourne

Hellenic Museum, Melbourne

Hellenic Museum, Melbourne

The Hellenic Museum was founded in 2007 and is based in Melbourne at the former Royal Mint building. The Hellenic Museum aims to promote “the celebration, understanding, and preservation of the artistic and cultural heritage of ancient and modern Greece.”

The museum’s collections include Cypriot Antiquities, Greek antiquities from southern Italy, and exhibitions focussing on Greek settlement in Australia. In 2013, the Hellenic Museum partnered with the Benaki Museum in Greece to house a permanent collection of antiquities for ten years.

Highlights of the Hellenic Museum, Melbourne

Cycladic Figurine

Hellenic Museum, Melbourne - Joy of Museums - Cycladic Figurine

Cycladic Figurine

This “Cycladic Figurine” is a female of the “Folded-Arm” type. This marble sculpture is a fabulous creation of the Early Cycladic Culture and was probably associated with prehistoric Aegean religious beliefs. This figurine has red pigment traces that are preserved on the neck and head. The pigment is cinnabar, a bright red mineral, which was very precious at the time as it was imported from outside the Aegean.

This masterpiece is of the Spedos type, named after an Early Cycladic cemetery on the Greek Island of Naxos, which is the most common of Cycladic figurine types. It has the widest distribution within the Cyclades as well as elsewhere, and the greatest longevity. All known works of the Spedos variety are female figures. Spedos figurines are typically slender, elongated female forms with folded arms. They are characterized by U-shaped heads and a deeply incised cleft between the legs.

Cycladic Figures originated from the ancient Cycladic culture, which flourished in the islands of the Aegean Sea from c. 3300 to 1100 BCE. The best-known art of this period and culture are the marble figures, usually called Cycladic “idols” or “figurines.” The Cyclades is a group of Greek islands, southeast of the mainland in the Aegean Sea. It centers on the island of Delos, considered the birthplace of Apollo, and is home to some of Greece’s most important archaeological ruins.

The majority of these marble figures are highly stylized representations of the female human form, typically having a flat, geometric quality. It is depicted nude with arms folded across the stomach, and the right arm held below the left. Featuring long, lyre-shaped head, a semi-conical nose, sloping shoulders, narrow arms, and rounded back.

In more recent times, artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and Moore respected and collected Cycladic art as models of how one can create emotionally charged yet highly abstracted forms.

Cycladic Figurine

  • Name:                  Cycladic Figurine
  • Date:                    2700 -2300 BCE
  • Period:                 Early Cycladic II
  • Type:                    Early Spedos type, attributed to the Fitzwilliam Master
  • Material:              Marble
  • Museum:             Hellenic Museum, Melbourne

Cycladic Footed Cup

Hellenic Museum, Melbourne - Joy of Museums - Cycladic Footed Cup

Cycladic Footed Cup

This “Cycladic Footed Cup” is a cup intended as a funerary offering during the Early Cycladic Period. This type of container was a typical Cycladic example and sits on a chalice-shaped foot. These types of Footed Cups may have complemented other Cycladic sculptures in funerary offerings and religious services.

Cycladic marble sculptures originated from the ancient Cycladic Culture, which flourished in the islands of the Aegean Sea from c. 3300 to 1100 BCE. The best-known art of this period and culture are the marble figures, usually called Cycladic “idols” or “figurines.”

The Cyclades is a group of Greek islands, southeast of the mainland in the Aegean Sea. It centers on the island of Delos, considered the birthplace of Apollo, and is home to some of Greece’s most important archaeological ruins.

Cycladic Footed Cup

  • Name:                  Cycladic Footed Cup
  • Date:                    2700 -2300 BCE
  • Period:                 Early Cycladic II
  • Material:              Marble
  • Museum:             Hellenic Museum, Melbourne

Cycladic Pyxis

Hellenic Museum, Melbourne - Joy of Museums - Cycladic Pyxis

Cycladic Pyxis

This “Cycladic Pyxis” is cylindrical with a lid. It is a vessel decorated with an incised herring-bone pattern. Such pyxi were common in burials of the Early Cycladic I period and was used as a container for jewelry or other small offerings.

Cycladic art originated from the ancient Cycladic culture, which flourished in the islands of the Aegean Sea from c. 3300 to 1100 BCE. The best-known art of this period and culture are the marble figures, usually called Cycladic “idols” or “figurines.” The Cyclades is a group of Greek islands, southeast of the mainland in the Aegean Sea. It centers on the island of Delos, considered the birthplace of Apollo and home to some of Greece’s most important archaeological ruins.

Other forms of pottery have been found in Early Cycladic sites. All pottery of early Cycladic civilization was made by hand and was typically black or reddish. The most common shapes are cylindrical boxes, known as pyxides and collared jars. The local clay proved difficult for artists to work, and the construction was crude, with thick walls and imperfections. Sometimes the pottery features naturalistic designs reminiscent of the sea-based culture of the Aegean islands.

Cycladic Pyxis

  • Name:                Cycladic Pyxis
  • Date:                  3200 -2700 BCE
  • Period:               Early Cycladic I
  • Type:                  Early Spedos type, attributed to the Fitzwilliam Master
  • Material:            Clay
  • Museum:            Hellenic Museum, Melbourne

Head of a Cypriot Herakles (Hercules)

Hellenic Museum, Melbourne - Joy of Museums - Head of a Cypriot Herakles

Head of a Cypriot Herakles (Hercules)

This “Head of a Cypriot Herakles” is the head of a statue of Herakles, also known as Hercules, wearing a lion’s head with a wide-open muzzle as head-gear.  It belongs to a series of Cypriot sculptures in which the Herakles is represented holding a club in his right hand.

Heracles (Greek: Ἡρακλῆς), was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus. He was the great hero of the Greeks, a paragon of masculinity and the ancestor of many royal clans who claimed to be Heracleidae, meaning descendants of Heracles. In the late sixth century B.C., the local Cypriot god was assimilated with the powerful Greek hero, Herakles. In Cyprus, he was represented bearded or beardless, wearing a lion’s skin and a short tunic and holding a miniature lion in his hand. Herakles was the divinity most often depicted in Cypriot sanctuaries.

This historical art piece has traits that are similar to statutes of the Phoenician god Melqart. Melqart was the god and guardian of the Phoenician city of Tyre. Melqart was often called “Lord of Tyre.” The Phoenician kings at Kition eventually identified Herakles with the Phoenician god, Melqart. The Greeks interpreted and identified Melqart with Herakles. As Tyrian trade and colonization expanded, images of Melqart may have been influenced by this Cypriot image of Herakles as much as Tyrian art forms may have influenced the Cypriot model.

Hellenic Museum, Melbourne - Joy of Museums - Head of a Cypriot Herakles 2

In Rome and the modern world, Heracles is better known as Hercules, with whom the Roman emperors, often identified themselves. The Romans adopted the Greek version of his life and works essentially unchanged, but added their anecdotal detail and his cult were adapted to Rome.

The Hercules Influence

The legends of Hercules/Heracles have followed the spread of Greek and Roman ideas and culture in many diverse corners of the world. Examples include:

  • Transmitted through the Greco-Buddhist culture of Northern India, Heraclean symbolism was transmitted to the Far East. An interesting suggestion is that the legends of the Hercules strongman influenced the Nio guardian deities in front of Japanese Buddhist temples.
  • Temples dedicated to Heracles were established across the Mediterranean coastal countries. The temple of Heracles Monoikos, meaning “the lone dweller,” built far from any nearby town upon a peninsula in what is now the Côte d’Azur, gave its name to the area’s more recent name, Monaco. According to an ancient myth, Hercules passed through the Monaco area, and a temple was constructed there, the temple of Hercules Monoikos. Because the only temple of this area was the “House” of Hercules, the city was called Monoikos
  • The gateway to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean, where the southernmost tip of Spain and the northernmost of Morocco face each other was classically called the Pillars of Hercules/Heracles. According to legend, Hercules set up two massive spires of stone to stabilize the area and ensure the safety of ships sailing between the two landmasses.
  • Heracles has been depicted as a protector of Buddha, in 2nd-century Gandhara Art.
  • Hellenistic-era depiction of the Zoroastrian divinity Bahram as Hercules was carved in 153 BCE at Kermanshah, Iran.

Labors of Heracles

According to Greek myths, Heracles was driven mad by Hera, and he slew his children. To expiate the crime, Heracles was required to carry out ten labors. If he succeeded, he would be purified of his sin, and, according to myth, he would become a god, and be granted immortality.

Despite the difficulty, Heracles accomplished these tasks, but two of the labors were questioned, so two more tasks were set. In the end, the hero successfully performed each added task, bringing the total number of labors up to the number twelve. The twelve labors were:

  • Slaying the Nemean Lion. He defeated a lion with his bare hands, and afterward, he wore the fur as a cloak to show his power of strength.
  • Slaying the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra
  • Capturing the Golden Hind of Artemis
  • Capturing the Erymanthian Boar
  • Cleaning the Augean stables in a single day
  • Killing the Stymphalian Birds
  • Catching the Cretan Bull
  • Steal the Mares of Diomedes
  • Obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons
  • Capture the cattle of the monster Geryon
  • Steal the apples of the Hesperides
  • Capture and bring back Cerberus

Head of a Cypriot Herakles (Hercules)

  • Name:            Head of a Cypriot Herakles (Hercules)
  • Date:              500 BCE
  • Period:           Cypro-Archaic II
  • Providence:   Cyprus
  • Material:        Limestone
  • Museum:       Hellenic Museum, Melbourne

Greek “Illyrian type” Helmet

Hellenic Museum, Melbourne - Joy of Museums - Greek

Greek “Illyrian type” Helmet

This Greek “Illyrian type” Helmet is a military bronze helmet, with ribs on the crown that were used to attach the crest. Its earliest styles were developed in ancient Greece, in the Peloponnese, during the 8th and 7th centuries BC (700–640 BC). Representations on Corinthian vases show that the “Illyrian” type helmet was developed before 600 BC.

The helmet was misleadingly named as an “Illyrian” type due to the many early finds coming from Illyria. The Illyrians were a group of ethnic tribes in antiquity, who inhabited part of the western Balkans and the south-eastern coasts of the Italian peninsula. Today this area corresponds to Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, part of Serbia, and most of Albania.

Hellenic Museum, Melbourne - Joy of Museums - Greek "Illyrian type" Helmet 2

According to archaeological evidence, the earliest “Illyrian” type helmets were developed in a workshop in the northwestern Peloponnese, possibly Olympia. The Illyrian type helmet was used by the ancient Greeks, Etruscans, Scythians and became popular with the Illyrians.

Greek “Illyrian type” Helmet

  • Name:              Greek “Illyrian type” Helmet
  • Date:                600 – 550 BCE
  • Providence:      Olympia, Peloponnese, Greece
  • Material:           Bronze
  • Museum:          Hellenic Museum, Melbourne

Goddess with Diadem

Hellenic Museum, Melbourne - Joy of Museums - Goddess with Diadem

Goddess with Diadem

This “Goddess with Diadem” is a Roman copy of the head of an Athenian cult statue of a peplos-clad goddess. We can only speculate on the original complete form of this statute and which goddess the figure represented. The Greeks created images of their deities for many purposes. A temple would house the statue of a god or goddess and might be decorated with relief scenes depicting myths.

The most popular greek Goddesses included:

  • Aphrodite – Goddess of beauty, love, desire, and pleasure. Her Roman counterpart is Venus.
  • Artemis – Virgin goddess of the hunt, wilderness, animals, young girls, and childbirth. Her Roman counterpart is Diana.
  • Athena – Goddess of reason, wisdom, intelligence, skill, peace, warfare, battle strategy, and handicrafts. Her Roman counterpart is Minerva.
  • Demeter – Goddess of grain, agriculture, harvest, growth, and nourishment. Her Roman counterpart is Ceres.
  • Hera – Queen of the gods and goddess of marriage, women, childbirth, heirs, kings, and empires. Her Roman counterpart is Juno.
  • Hestia – Virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and chastity. Her Roman counterpart is Vesta.

In Ancient Greece, mythology was at the heart of everyday life. Greeks regarded mythology as a part of their history and legacy. They used myth to explain natural phenomena, cultural variations, enmities, and friendships. Greek mythology was embodied in Greek arts, such as vase-paintings, votive gifts, and statues. Divine images were also standard on coins and drinking cups.

Goddess with Diadem

  • Name:                 Goddess with Diadem
  • Date:                    430 BCE
  • Material:              Parian Marble
  • Museum:             Hellenic Museum, Melbourne

Hellenic Museum, Melbourne - Joy of Museums - Myrtle Wreath

Myrtle Wreath

This “Myrtle Wreath” is a gold wreath imitating natural myrtle and was found in the royal tombs of Macedonia, Asia Minor, and southern Italy. Wreaths of Myrtle were associated with the Goddesses Aphrodite, Demeter and Persephone. The crowning of the dead with a wreath signified that they were worthy of being rewarded in eternal life after death. Most of the Myrtle Wreaths that survive today from antiquity were found in graves.

Greeks wore wreaths for special events and received them as athletic and artistic prizes and honors. The myrtle leaves and blossoms on the myrtle wreath were cut from thin sheets of thin gold, stamped and incised details, and then wired onto the stems.

Myrtle Wreath

  • Name:                 Myrtle Wreath
  • Date:                    4th – 3rd Century BCE
  • Period:                Cypro-Archaic II
  • Material:            Gold
  • Museum:            Hellenic Museum, Melbourne

Hellenic Museum, Melbourne

  • Name:                 Hellenic Museum, Melbourne
  • City:                    Melbourne
  • Country:             Australia
  • Founded:            2007
  • Location:            Melbourne, Victoria

Explore Museums  in Australia

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“Life is short and Art long; the opportunity fleeting, experience deceitful, and judgment difficult.”
– Hippocrates

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Photo Credit: GM

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