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New Exhibition Reveals the Significant Role of Horses in Ancient Athens

The significant role that horses played in the lives of ancient Athenians is highlighted in a new art and science exhibition that opened its doors in the Greek capital on Thursday.

Organized by the American School of Classical Studies, the “Hippos – The horse in ancient Athens” exhibition opened at the Makriyannis wing of the Gennadius Library, near the city center.

A highlight of the exhibition is a well preserved ancient horse skeleton from the Faliron cemetery – displayed for the first time – along with its archaeological context and zoological data.

Horse burial from the Faliron cemetary © Ministry of Culture / Hellenic Organization of Cultural Resources Development (H.O.C.RE.D.)

Curated by Professor Jenifer Neils, yhe exhibit will highlight the American School’s unique collaboration with the Ephorate of Piraeus and Islands for the conservation and study of the osteological material from the Faliron cemetery.

The exhibition will also display a variety of antiquities from Greece and abroad, such as marble reliefs, ceramic vases, and silver coins, ranging from the Protogeometric (1050-900 BCE) to the Hellenistic period (330-30 BCE).

These works of art, especially Attic painted vases, illustrate the ancient Athenians’ obsession with horse breeding and racing. The excavations at the Athenian Agora have produced much evidence for the organization and important role of the Athenian equestrian corps, the hippeis, in the form of inscriptions, tokens, and cavalry monuments.

One of the highlights of the exhibit, displayed for the first time in Greece, is the loan from the Florence Archaeological Museum of the life-size Hellenistic bronze horse head which once belonged to Lorenzo the Magnificent.

Medici Riccardi life-size bronze horse head, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Firenze (Direzione Regionale Musei della Toscana)

During the exhibition, six public lectures on ancient horsemanship will take place in Cotsen Hall, the School’s amphitheater. The lectures will also be available online through the School’s website (ascsa.edu.gr).

Ancillary programs will involve weekly educational tours for school children conducted by Steinmetz Family Foundation Museum Fellow Eleni Gizas.

The exhibition will open on January 20 and run until April 30.

More information on the opening hours and Covid-19 measures can be found at www.ascsa.edu.gr/events/details/hippos-the-horse-in-ancient-athens-en.

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