Myrtle Wreath

Having recently returned from a trip to Athens, I could write endless blog post about the archaeological marvels I “found” there.  Instead, I thought I would focus on one single object. An object which caught my attention with its incredibly intricate craftsmanship: a gold, myrtle wreath from the Benaki Museum.

The wreath dates from the Hellenistic periodic (4th-3rd cent. BC), a time which saw a new wave of Ancient Greek colonisation and the advancement of Greek art and culture throughout the Ancient world. Although some aristocratic Ancient Greek women wore elaborate hair decorations on a daily basis, most wreaths were only worn during celebrations or for athletic competition due to their immense fragility.  However, it was often typical for wealthy individuals to be buried with a wreath as a final symbol of their power and status, particularly golden wreaths during the Hellenistic period.

The type of leaf imitated in the wreath also denoted its symbolism.  For instance, oak was connected to Zeus, ivy was associated with Dionysus and laurel leaves were linked to Apollo.  Myrtle, as we see depicted in the image above, represented the Greek goddess of love, beauty and sexuality, Aphrodite.

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