Science museum

London’s Science Museum houses treasures from ancient Greece

The exhibition “Ancient Greeks: Science and Wisdom” has opened at the Science Museum in London.

Visitors will be able to better understand the scientific influence of ancient Greece in today’s world.

The articles are organized into themes based on areas of the natural world that people know today: the seas, the cosmos, animals, the human body and music.

The statue of the ancient Greek god of commerce, Hermes, is a particular highlight and dates from 100-150 BCE.

Dr Jane Desborough, curator of scientific instruments at the Science Museum, says the statue was recovered from the famous Antikythera shipwreck (the remains of a Greek trading vessel dating from the first century BCE).

“It was recovered around 1901. It would have been a commercial product itself, not only a statue of Hermes, but also a beautiful product that people were eager to buy. As you can see, it suffered a heavy underwater erosion to its body, but its face looks perfect, and that’s because it was protected by silt on the seabed for two thousand years before it was found.”

Former Olympian?

Another treasure is a smaller statue of an athlete pouring oil on his body before one of the Panhellenic games, of which the ancient Olympics were a part.

Not only is it in very good condition, but it is striking in its proportions. And there’s a reason for that.

“It’s in our body math section,” says Desborough. “And here we examine how the ancient Greeks had a perception of the ideal symmetrical body which they believed to be personified by the victorious athletes who competed in the Panhellenic games.”

math music

Another section is devoted to music because the philosopher Pythagoras taught that the beauty of music could be explained mathematically. Not easy to pass in an exhibition.

“We’re trying to explain how Pythagoras and his followers sought to explain music in mathematical terms. So it was musical ratios and intervals or intervals expressed as ratios. And what we do with the interactive (screen) tries to explain some of this, as you say, quite complex math and break it down so people can understand it and how it relates to the Aulos, which is the instrument of original music exhibited,” says Desborough.

The exhibition is part of an initiative celebrating the bicentenary of Greek independence. It runs until June 5, 2022.