Alexander the Great conquered the Louvre

 Tête de marbre représentant Alexandre. © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism / Archaeological Receipts Fund/Musée du Louvre)

Marble head representing Alexander. © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism / Archaeological Receipts Fund / Musée du Louvre)

Eric Bietry-Rivierre

The museum focuses the treasures of the palaces and temples of ancient Macedonia. Gold, silver, marble, mosaics: a forgotten kingdom was hiding under the caption of one man.
Prior to being great, Alexander was Macedonian. More than the conquest and the myth is this context of an ancient kingdom located in the northern margin of Greece suggests that the Louvre. Its wealth and refinement were, there is little, unexpected. The venerable and many remains of Delphi and Athens, and more the legend of one man, they were in the shade. But here they reappear on the occasion of miraculous excavation, still in progress.

Vases, jewelry, weapons, dishes, sculptures dazzle like the sun today in the showcase of impeccable Hall Napoléon. As gold and silver between the black walls and the windows where the brushed stainless steel is an ideal setting! In this exemplary set design, signed Fryland Brigitte and Marc Barani, this profusion of rare metal objects reminded that Macedonia was originally fortunately endowed with natural resources. But even more artists and craftsmen of genius.

The jewelry reflects a degree of virtuosity and stunning sophistication. Similarly, the mosaics of river pebbles are a delicacy as it is easy to imagine that they competed with the works of Apelles. Whoever goes to the first painter in history was a favorite of Alexander. But lived in Macedonia as Pindar, Euripides, Zeuxis, Lysippus or Aristotle, tutor to the young prince, who, in Mies, participated in the excitement of the first university in the world. The Sorbonne, Fez, Padua and Oxford have their ancestor not far from Thessaloniki.

The intelligence of this company also remains in the clean lines of its cups and its Dionysian oinochoai. Parts so fresh that they seem out of the best factories of the nineteenth century. It still reads in the polychrome glass, carvings in marble. Most of these treasures were never out of local museums. They alternate with peaks of spears, shields, pieces of the star struck Macedonian bronze helmets and laminated with gold. Prior to accompany the dead, these funeral may have served the famous wars.

Chasseau lion mosaic, pebble coated. (© Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism / Archaeological Receipts Fund / Musée du Louvre) The phalanx ultimate weapon
During the reign of Philip II, father of Alexander, the Macedonians had learned to fight in phalanx. “The ultimate weapon would allow Alexander to dominate the whole known world,” says Commissioner Sophie Descamps, head of the Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman. “This horrible quadrangular mass moved in one piece, seemed to live like an animal and function as a machine,” Flaubert imagined it before. In passing, we note the rehabilitation of Philip II, who was yet to Demosthenes for a drunken brute of a double.

Yet here we will look in vain for a detailed account of the victories on the banks of the Granicus or Issus against Darius III. We will not see more Alexander and his 35,000 men shave Tyre, founded Alexandria with its lighthouse and its library. None of the Indus elephant in sight. Much less evocative of the cohort of admirers, of Caracalla in Louis XIV. However, we understand what led to such feats, and the impact they had on an entire culture. The course embraces indeed Macedonia since the fifteenth century BC until the conquest by imperial Rome.

It begins with a cleverly reverse chronology. We start from the most recent excavations to address the archeology of the nineteenth century. It discovered the first pieces of Roman art. And this marble sarcophagus, the pride of the Louvre, which is a funerary bed on which you can see the dead. It weighs seven tons. It dates from the late second century AD If the marble of Attica, it was revealed in Thessaloniki. Then the sense of time is restored and we discover Macedonia through broad themes: architecture (with the remains included in the decorations of the palace-size, giving full-scale), the objects of life Earth and funerary objects.

The most fascinating? These masks or helmets of bronze. Some seem to smile. And, of course, Alexander himself. In god Pan, with a spear, hunting lions with a friend, or in a rare marble portrait about contemporary is a young man who looks away.

Mosaïque de la chasseau lion, galets enduits. (© Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism / Archaeological Receipts Fund/Musée du Louvre) 

Chasseau lion mosaic, pebble coated. (© Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism / Archaeological Receipts Fund / Musée du Louvre)

Discoveries in bursts

1977 – Last day to Vergina (formerly Aigai), the first capital of the kingdom, several royal tombs. Among them that, intact, of Philip II, father of Alexander. Under a mound of 110 m in diameter and 12 m high resting his bones collected at the stake as the Homeric ritual. They were in a box decorated with gold star Macedonian.

1980 – Discovery of the necropolis of Sindos (sixth and fifth BC.) Near a gold river, near Thessaloniki. Its 121 graves testify to a high level economic and cultural.

1982 – The ancient writer Diodorus Siculus was right. Alexander’s father was murdered at the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra II in 336 BC. AD The location of the theater where the wedding took place is located at Aigai.

1987 – Opening of the probable fall of Eurydice, grandmother of Alexander. And discovery of a marble throne painted nearly two meters high.

2008 – In August, some burials are found in enigmatic Aigai. One has the crown of oak leaves in gold presented at the opening of the exhibition. It could have adorned the remains of Heracles, the illegitimate son of Alexander, who was assassinated by Cassander, one of the generals.

Tomorrow is to locate the tomb of Alexander somewhere near Alexandria. There is little chance that the double sarcophagus of gold, alabaster and glass has remained there. According to the ancients, Antony and Cleopatra would be used to replenish their coffers, Caligula would have taken the cuirass and Caracalla tunic, belt and a ring …

October 13 to January 16, Hall Napoleon of the Louvre.

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