Who were the powerful players in the interconnected classical world? Ancient Greece and Rome probably come to mind. But a new exhibition at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles aims to bring another superpower to the stage: ancient Persia, in present-day Iran.
The Persian Empire spanned approximately 550 BCE to 650 CE and saw three main dynasties at this time: the Achaemenids, the Parthians, and the Sasanian. As the “dominant nation of Western Asia for more than a millennium,” according to the exhibit’s website, ancient Iran both influenced and was influenced by the traditions of Greece and Rome.
“[A]Next to Egypt, Persia is the nation that had the deepest and most sustained influence and impact on the classical world,” said Timothy Potts, director of the museum. Getty Magazine’s Erin Migdol.
“Persia: Ancient Iran and the Classical World” is organized by each consecutive dynasty. According to a statement, the show features royal carved reliefs and precious metal vessels intended for ceremonial use at banquets and often donated by courtiers, among other items on loan from museums across the United States, the Europe and the Middle East.
The links between the ancient Greeks and ancient Iranians were particularly close thanks to Alexander the Great, who conquered the Achaemenid Empire between 334 and 330 BC. of the ancient order and the introduction of Greek civilization into Western Asia,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. It took nearly 100 years for indigenous leaders to rise again.
“[A]All cultures interacted very closely, with the Greeks and Romans living in the East and with many foreign traders living in Greece”, Jeffrey Spier, the museum’s head of antiquities, says Getty magazine. “They shared art, religion, myth and culture. …Greece, Rome and Persia were the superpowers of the time.
Some of the exhibits are on display in the United States for the very first time, Spier explains in the statement. Curators have endeavored to show the stylistic progression of Iranian craftsmanship over time by displaying silver wine goblets and drinking horns dating from the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sasanian empires. The three periods have slightly different decorative touches, be it detailed inscription, a lion’s torso with a golden mane or the head of a gazelle. More than 700 years separate the oldest and the newest of the drinking vessels on display.
For visitors who want a truly immersive touch, the exhibit features an interactive reproduction of the palace of Persepolis, what the Getty calls “an ancient city of awe-inspiring beauty.” An immersive web experience titled Persepolis Reimagined accompanies this film on location. Each virtual trip offers a chance to learn more about the royal residence, see the palace as it would have looked nearly 2,500 years ago, and compare its former glory to the ruins that remain today.
The exhibit is part of a Getty series titled “The Classical World in Context.” Designed to deepen audiences’ understanding of what the classical world was really like, the first iteration debuted in 2018 and focused on ancient Egypt. According to the release, Thrace, an ancient Balkan kingdom known for its fine arts, is next.
The study of ancient Persia has sometimes suffered from a Western bias, Ali Mousavi, an expert in Iranian archeology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and a consultant researcher on the exhibition, recounts Getty magazine.
Mousavi recalls a former teacher’s casual tone about Persepolis, arguably one of the most important examples of ancient Iranian artistic and political prowess.
“OK, this is Persepolis,” the teacher said, showing a picture of the city to Mousavi and his classmates. “There is nothing to say about this site. It is only a transposition of Greek art.
Focusing on the influence of ancient Iran through physical artifacts has also posed a unique challenge for curators. Due to sanctions and other factors, the Getty was unable to include items on loan from the country of Iran itself. Instead, institutions like the British Museum and the Louvre offered artifacts from their collections.
The exhibit has personal significance for the Los Angeles area, home to the country’s largest Persian community, according to the Virtual US Embassy in Iran. Alireza Ardekani, cultural partner of the exhibition and executive director of the Farhang Foundation, says he has already seen Iranian guests engage positively with the material.
“I particularly remember one grandmother who brought her two grandchildren alone, and she was so proud to be able to share this story with her American-born grandchildren,” Ardekani told Paria Honardoust. daily noise, the student newspaper at UCLA. “They’ve never been to Iran, and that way they can find out about their roots and that’s something they can be proud of.”
“Persia: Ancient Iran and the Classical Worldis on view at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, Calif., through August 8, 2022.