Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Ladies of Morgantina

Alexander lived during the rich days when the Classical Greek art had reached its apogee. We can only guess what beautiful architecture and statues he may have grown up with and may have surrounded him. In whatever I see, I always wonder if it is something that Alexander may have known or if it was the product of his spreading of Hellenism.

Once in a while though, I find myself confronted with striking objects or out of common statues and on such occasions these questions surface once again. This is exactly what happened in the small but very fine Archaeological Museum of Morgantina, Sicily that exhibits quite a few special artifacts.


For now, let’s focus for a moment on a group that is generally called The Ladies of Morgantina. It is the strangest pair of women I’ve ever seen, in fact only marble acroliths: two heads, three feet and three hands. The statues themselves would have been made of wood, now gone, to which the extremities were attached. The faces have that serene expression, typical for the classical period with almond-shaped eyes and enigmatic smile, which led experts to date them to around 530 BC. The heads and hands are perfectly well preserved while the feet are strangely worn, perhaps because of repeated caresses by their worshippers. The Ladies’ hair and their jewelry like diadems and earrings were probably made of some precious metal and the statues themselves were wrapped in a mantel of linen or wool, the head covered with a veil. They must have looked extremely true to life.

Lots of speculations and debates have surrounded these statues but in the end most scholars agree that both are female and could represent Demeter and her daughter Persephone. The position of their fingers suggests that they must have held an object in their hands.

The way they sit today in Morgantina’s Museum does them credit. A simple wire construction hidden by dark tulle outlines the body of these goddesses while the spotlights lay the accent justly on the acroliths, making them again very respectable as they stare at their visitors from the height of their podium. They have a very dignified posture and pose, accentuated by the correct light and their timeless smile.

It is a great pleasure to see these goddesses right here where they belong after having traveled around for many years. They were smuggled out of the country after illegal digging in the second half of last century and eventually found their way to the United States. Shortly after 2005 they luckily came home to Morgantina and it is no surprise that they are a prized possession of the museum.

[For more pictures click on this link to the Morgantina Museum]

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