Myrtle Wreath: Benaki Museum

This gold myrtle wreath caught my eye during my recent visit to the Benaki Museum in Athens.

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.  During the Hellenistic period, it was typical for wealthy individuals to be buried with a golden wreath as a final mark of their power and status.

The type of leaf used was symbolic.  For instance, oak was connected to Zeus, ivy was associated with Dionysus and laurel leaves were linked to Apollo. Myrtle represented the Greek goddess of love, beauty and sexuality: Aphrodite.

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