Greek Gods

I walked till my toes ached, in the Museuminsel (Museum Island) in Berlin. Couldn’t cover all the five museums; I managed Pergamon Museum and rushed through Altes Museum.

I’m not quite sure what hooks me to ancient sites and museums when I step into such sites. It almost gives me a trance. Maybe it’s this realisation that I am testing the limits of my capacity to abosorb what history in its enteirity has to offer. Wherever it is, Kajuraho or Polonnaruwa or this time, the Museumisel which is the closest I’ve been to the anceint history of the Mid-West, I’m carried away in a torrent of  sensations I haven’t yet found a proper way to capture or record to recall later. Simply put, it gives me a high.

Pergamon Museum confused me as much as it did astound me. It houses a collection from Turkey. Life size reconstructions of Pergamon Altar and Market complex. How is it possible to transport a chunk of history across the globe to a European city? Is it ethical? If Polonnaruwa was taken away from me and put in a Museum in London, how would I feel? Perhaps, one might say, it would be better off there; better preserved and all. But how could you strip a site out of context?

Pergamon was an ancient Greek city in 2nd century BC, now modern Turkey. The audio guide informed me the Pergamon Altar depicting the Battle of the Gods and Gaints and the market complex are masterpieces of Hellenistic Art and Architecture. I haven’t done Greece, so I don’t have a comparison to draw but the stuff is breathtaking. My colleague Sunil tells me that the best bronze Tara found in Sri Lanka is in London. And he feels it’s better off there. I’m not against sharing my heritage with the world…indeed, it is not merely mine. And as long as it is in a place and serves to bring people together than to provide them with narratives to justify wars, I’m happy. However, I want history to belong to the community, to the ordinary people. Not only to those who can afford high culture. And that’s the sad part about Colonial archeology. As much as it did open a door closed in pre-modern colonies to their history, something the colonies would have taken ages to discover themselves perhaps, it also stripped them from easy access to them. I could afford the 8 euros, and since I belong to the ‘professionally privileged’ category that gives me the freedom to move between places like Berlin and Galen-bindunu-wewa, for all the official reasons in the world, I could afford it. But if I am a poor Turkish sheperd -boy living in the vicinity of Bergama or ancient Pergamon, would I be able to see it?

So these are the gates of the market place, brought to Berlin in after the excavations in 1878. For more on the Pergamon Museum visit:

http://www.smb.museum/smb/standorte/index.php?lang=en&p=2&objID=3313&n=2

These are some of the photos I clicked hastily.

Athena in a flowing garment. Below, the bust of a youth that I cannot recall the name of

Tablets with Greek lettering.

Another bust…again, I’ve lost the name and context…

And a striking figurehead…

The next wing of the Pergamon museum took me to Uruk, Babylonia. This is called the Ishtar Gate.

Sumerian art…

On stone tablets…

The Altes Museum had a breathtaking array of sculptors, easily the best collection I have seen in my life. The life-like men and women, with supple arms and taught bellies spoke of eternal youth.

I’m not going to waste words on this. So I’ll just share the photographs and savour that moment, all over again, when I walked among the Greek Gods…

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I have more, of course, but perhaps, this is enough for the day! 🙂

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