8 March 2014

The presence of the past

It's nothing like the great museums overseas, of course, and smaller than the Nicholson Museum in the Quad at University of Sydney, but the ANU's Classical Museum in the foyer of the AD Hope building is a little gem. We visited after attending a lecture on the first and second sacks of Troy at the strangely named Haydon Allen Tank. And even more strangely, after attending the AGM of the Friends of the Classical Museum. That was a merciful 7 minutes or so, with the most interesting thing being their two recent purchases. All this has a ring of strangeness about it, but the classics are intriguing and they are in our Western cultural DNA, even if they are rather distant these days. But some Friends maintain the age. The lecture was by Chris Mackie, professor of Greek studies at La Trobe University, and he was a lively and entertaining speaker. He recounted the story of the first sack of Troy and the roles of the hero Heracles and proceeded to make comparisons with the second sack. The first is alluded to in the Iliad and the second is the subject of the Iliad. He compared heroes, enemies, weapons, the source of glory. Heracles (first sack) used bow & arrow to fight monsters and left Troy intact despite broken promises of King Laomedon. By the time of the later sack, the spear is noble and the bow ignoble, the enemies are cities and glory is in destruction and genocide. About more recent times, Prof Mackie made a parallel with WW1/WW2, where battlefield confrontations became total war with civilian targets. Thus both the Iliad and our times speak of increasing bleakness and hardening of politics. Then off to the Classic Museum for an after-event social gathering. Just a quick visit for us as I was off for the second set of Grey Wing Trio at Smiths, but a delight. I wouldn't want to live there, but the remains of the ancient world are rare and vivid and strange: some Greek vases and statues and Roman oil lamps and fresco fragments, the central model of ancient Rome (which displays a remarkable degree of survival in modern Rome). Then off to Grey Wing. I wrote them up a few weeks ago, so little here. Suffice to say I heard one set comprising just two compositions by Luke. This was stellar playing all round, although this time I was particularly taken by Finn's open, detailed, delicate drumming. Not enough time at the Museum or Grey Wing, but them's the options.

Prof Chris Mackie spoke on Troy for the Friends of the ANU Classics Museum. Grey Wing Trio comprise Luke Sweeting (piano), Ken Allars (trumpet) and Finn Ryan (drums) ad they played at Smiths Alternative.

  • ANU Classics Museum
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