emotions2Antiquity is a term with a very wide spectrum of connotations. Nevertheless, emotional intelligence would not be one of the first to come in mind when thinking about Ancient Greece. Bringing to vivid life the emotions of the people of ancient Greece, and prompting questions about how we express, control, manipulate, or simulate feelings in our own society, the Onassis Cultural Center New York presents the path-breaking exhibition A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC – 200 AD, which was inaugurated on March, 9 and will run untill June 24. 

On view exclusively at the Onassis Cultural Center New York, the exhibition brings together more than 130 masterpieces from some of the finest museums in the world including the Acropolis Museum, the National Archaeological Museum Athens, the Louvre, the British Museum, the Vatican Museums, among many others, to explore the ideas and attitudes of people in classical antiquity toward emotion and the ways in which the emotions were depicted, revealing how some are strikingly familiar to us and some shockingly alien. Although ancient Greece is often said to have been flooded with the light of reason, A World of Emotions lays bare the far different reality addressed in the Iliad, whose very first word is menis: wrath.The exhibition is conceived as a “journey” through emotions, says in an interview the co-curator, Professor of Ancient History and Classics Angelos Chaniotis, who explains that even though some manifestations or depictions of emotions—such as the Attic custom of ostracism—seem strange, the exhibition lets us “use ancient objects at a distance as mirrors of ourselves” to strengthen our own emotional intelligence. 

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Developed by a team of distinguished guest curators over the course of more than four years, the exhibition features vase paintings, sculptures (ranging from life-size statues from the Acropolis to relief carvings from cemeteries), theatrical masks, amulets, coins, and votive offerings, among other artifacts from the early 7th century BC (the traditional date of theIliad) to the late 2nd century AD (the beginning of the end of pagan antiquity). Many will be on view in the United States for the first time, and some will be seen for the first time outside Greece. Together, these objects provide a timely opportunity to think about the role of feelings in our own personal, social, and political lives, while helping to advance the relatively new field of the history of emotions.