City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus

20 November, 2012 at 07:08 | Posted in Culture | Leave a comment
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Exhibition at Princeton dazzles with ancient art

By Michele A.F. Kidwell

Crossroads of the Mediterranean, crossroads of ancient civilizations, crossroads of many cultures from Greece to Turkey and from Israel to Egypt, Cyprus has been long renowned for its gracious beauty, which transcends epochs and nationalities.

This remarkable land enters the realm of mythology as the birthplace of Aphrodite and location where Helen, accompanied by Menelaus, tarried upon returning from the Trojan Wars.

Yet, reality equally intrigues: Cyprus is the chosen birthplace of Caesarion, Cleopatra’s son with Julius Caesar.

The installation traces the history of this fascinating site from its prehistoric origins to its artistic pinnacle—a glorious city once named Marion in the eighth century, when it was founded.

The Republic of Cyprus embarked upon a number of festive events to celebrate its assuming the presidency of the European Union. Among these, President and Mrs. Christofias hosted a concert at Lincoln Center; Ambassador Emiliou spoke to members of the Foreign Press Association; and Consul General Sophianou lectured at the European Union Studies Center at The Graduate Center of City University of New York.

Further, four extraordinary exhibitions have been mounted in Belgium, France, Cyprus, and now the United States. The City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus is fittingly held at the Princeton University Art Museum.

Over half the objects on display have been unearthed by the Princeton University Archaeological Expedition to Polis Chrysochous, Cyprus, directed by Professor Emeritus William A.P. Childs from 1983 to 2007.

The installation traces the history of this fascinating site from its prehistoric origins to its artistic pinnacle—a glorious city once named Marion in the eighth century, when it was founded.

It was subsequently called Arsinoe after the wife of Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphos during Ptolemaic and Roman times and is known in the modern era as Polis Chrysochous or City flowing with Gold.

There is no clear reason for Chrysochous’s name. Scholars propose that it may refer to someone’s name, to the fertile soil, to the area studded with copper mines, to Marion’s large number of goldsmiths, to the numerous golden tomb gifts found.

Yet, other towns with more gold offerings and a similar terrain do not have the word “gold” appear as part of their name.

The Exhibition

Spanning varying periods, the exhibition includes over 100 artifacts of painted frescoes, pottery, gold jewelry, seals, coins, as well as sculptures of marble, bronze, terracotta, and limestone.

Archaeology often involves uncovering layers of earth to reach the earliest strata, sometimes destroying evidence of splendid marvels beneath.

With the excavation context unknown, it may become difficult to determine an object’s origin and period of production, which is wonderfully not the case here.

Fortuitously, teams from Germany, England, Cyprus, Sweden, and the United States documented much of what they dug up while preserving vaunted treasures.

Due to its abundant copper and strategic position on the northwestern coast, Marion became the seat of one of the most important Cypriot kingdoms.

Because of its special commercial relationship with Athens, the city received in time many cultural benefits.

Pliny the Elder (the Roman author who described the destruction of Pompeii) wrote about a bronze caster from Cyprus called Styppax. This artist worked in Athens under Pheidias, who was in charge of the Parthenon’s construction, and created a statue for the great statesman Pericles. This fact is proof that artists from Cyprus labored in Athens and could transmit knowledge of the Greek classical style to their island home.

The objects from the Marion period are the high points of this show. They call attention to themselves by their exciting beauty and may blend artistic traditions.

Read more: City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus | Literary & Visual Arts | Arts & Entertainment | Epoch Times

The City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus exhibition is running at the Princeton University Art Museum through Jan. 20.

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