Liberating ancient Greek women from myth

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A tiny vase to be filled with wine for ritual tastings could be carried by a girl.

“Women in Athens, were they invisible?” asks Miss Chryssoulaki. “No!”

Greek myths, with all their blood and guts, are not for the faint of heart — and neither are parts of this exhibit.

Athena, the goddess of wisdom, came from the brain of her father, Zeus. Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, was born when Uranus was castrated by his son, who pitched his genitals into the sea. From the turbulence — “aphros” means sea foam in Greek — arose the erotic Aphrodite. She became both the lover and surrogate mother of the god Adonis, whom she shared with the goddess Persephone.

And we thought modern life was complicated.

Yet the mythical births of Athena and Aphrodite have real meaning to the modern mind: as a battle of emotion versus intellect. “Myths were a way to see human life,” Miss Chryssoulaki says.

In the exhibit, life is also reflected in sculptures and tiny objects such as a ritual bowl that a woman who baked bread for a living donated to a temple — representing about 10 percent of her meager income. Her name is noted on the bowl.

“You see, even poor, ordinary women left a mark; they played a role — and they were part of the life of the gods,” Miss Chryssoulaki says.

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