MEDEA'S MAGIC: THE GOLD OF ANCIENT VANI





2008 EXHIBITION AT THE FITZWILLIAM MUSEUM, CAMBRIDGE - THE GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM, TBILISI

The Greek myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece is one of the oldest myths of a hero's quest. It is a classic story of betrayal and vengeance. According to the Greek epic poem the Argonautica written in the 3rd Century BC by Apollonius of Rhodes, it begins when Jason's Uncle Pelias killed Jason's father, the King of Iolkos in Thessaly, Greece and usurped his throne. Jason's mother brought her son to the wise centaur Chiron (half man, half horse) who hid him away and raised him on the Mountain of Pelion.


When Jason turned 20, he journeyed to see Pelias to reclaim his throne. At a nearby river, Hera the Queen of the Gods approached him disguised as an old woman. While carrying her across the river he lost a sandal and arrived at court wearing only one. Pelias was nervous when he saw Jason without a sandal, for an oracle has prophesied that a man wearing only one sandal would depose him. Jason demanded the return of his rightful throne. Pelias replied that Jason should first accomplish a difficult task to prove his worth. The task was for Jason to retrieve the fabled hide of a supernatural ram the Golden Fleece. It was kept in a mysterious land called Colchis (western modern Georgia) situated on the eastern periphery of the known world. 


Jason assembled a team of great heroes for his crew and they set sail aboard the Argo for the kingdom of Colchis. In Greek mythology, Colchis was a fabulously wealthy place known for its precious metals. It was considered "the farthest voyage", the land where the sun rose.The arduous journey of the Argonauts took them through the narrow straits of the Bosphorus between the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara and across the Black Sea.



                                                              



When the Argonauts arrived in Colchis they were welcomed at the palace of King Aeëtes (Æëtes) who reluctantly promised to surrender the golden fleece on the condition that Jason alone could complete yet another series of challenges. The King's daughter, the priestess-enchantress Medea fell deeply in love with Jason and promised to use her magic to help him perform the tasks - on the condition that he pledge undying love and matrimony. After completing the final task - killing the sleepless dragon that guarded the fleece, Jason sailed triumphantly away with Medea to Iolkos.



BBC News-Fitzwilliam Museum- Ancient Gold-Georgian National Museum Tbilisi

Gold pendant with female bust and two sphinxes, Grave 24 Vani 2nd half 4th cent. BC
                                                          


Metalworking, whether in gold, silver, iron or bronze, was a traditional focus of Colchian art and craftsmanship.The gold jewellery and artifacts of Colchis in the Georgian National Museum  Tbilisi exemplify an intermingling of Greek, Egyptian and Persian (Achaemenid) motifs with local styles and traditions. 

The important point is that although Colchin goldwork absorbed foreign influences, at the same time it always preserved its uniqueness and national characteristics. There is something of the truly exotic in every piece.Together these objects provide a rich and informative view of the ancient land of Colchis and its principal sanctuary city, Vani, a town in the Imereti region of western Georgia.
                                                
Gold temple ornaments with horsemen, Grave 6 Vani

Bronze appliqué of Pan, 2nd cent. BC

2 comments:

  1. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee, http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8LT475.
    The image can be seen at wahooart.com who can supply you with a canvas print of it.

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  2. Thank you Scott for that information - have checked out the site as you suggested. Visit Tbilisi sometime the Archaeological Museum is fantastic as is the gold!

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