The organizers themselves compare the exhibition with a large-scale epic, the core of which was Alexander’s eastern campaign.
– This exhibition is full of amazing things. She represents the Hermitage, the only museum in the world that can thus tell about all the countries through which Alexander the Great passed with the help of his exhibits. – said Mikhail Piotrovsky. – If you come to the Hermitage, you will never see these things, not because we do not exhibit them. You only have to walk for several months to see each of these exhibits. And here they are all gathered together and placed in the context of the story.
But it is more likely that this story is not about military, but about cultural conquests: the spread of Hellenism, Greek culture on a vast territory from Macedonia to India. And this story is not limited by the chronological framework of Alexander’s biography. Here you can see how the image of Macedonia lived on through the centuries, influencing a variety of peoples and civilizations.
“We are talking not only about Alexander’s journey, but also about time travel,” explained Anna Trofimova, head of the Department of the Ancient World of the State Hermitage Museum, curator of the exhibition. She also conducted a tour for the first guests.
The first part of the exposition is dedicated to classical Greece and immerses visitors in the atmosphere in which Alexander grew up. Here you can see craters (vessels for mixing wine with water) with plots from the Iliad, a very important work for Macedonia. As a child, he played it and then got inspired by rereading throughout its campaign. There are weapons and armor here, surprisingly preserved for his time. One of the most valuable exhibits not only in the section, but in the entire exhibit is an olive funeral wreath made of very thin, leaf-like sheets of gold.
The second part tells of the campaign in the East itself, during which Persia, Egypt, Central Asia and part of India were conquered. Here are sculptures of the Egyptian Ptolemaic rulers, founded by a childhood friend and commander Alexander.
Anna Trofimova drew attention to the Fayum portrait.
“A wonderful example of how Hellenic and Egyptian cultures merge,” he explained. – The Greek technique of wax tempera and the purely Egyptian custom of mummy portraits, which were inverted in tombs.
Another unique exhibit is a falar, a decorative item on an elephant’s harness. In the battle with the Persians, the Macedonian troops first met war elephants, which, however, did not prevent the Greeks from winning.
Alexander considered himself the reincarnation of Achilles, compared to Hercules and therefore tried to repeat and surpass his feats. These motives led him to India, where, in addition to military victories, he also left a cultural mark.
In the window with images of Buddha, the curator of the exhibition explained that the figurines that we all know arose under the influence of ancient plastic arts.
In the final section, the transformation of the Macedonian image through the centuries can be traced. Each age had “its” Macedonian and different peoples tried to make it part of their tradition. In this sense, the image of Iskander is especially interesting, in the Islamic world. Here he was revered as a righteous Muslim king. An example of this is a medieval book, where the Macedonian is depicted as a sultan.
In the era of absolutism, the monarchs, of course, of course, turned to the image of Alexander. Then Louis XIV commissioned engravings depicting the battles of Macedonia for his offices. And Catherine the Great herself transcribed the history of Macedonia for her grandchildren; the book is also on display.
And the exhibition ends with a comic area, but at the same time philosophical, for the photographs. Here they placed a conditional design of the barrel of Diogenes. Any visitor can climb on it and feel like a thinker who once asked Alejandro “Don’t block the sun.”