21 May 2013

Wisdom from ancient Afghanistan, and another entertainment in Melbourne.

We went today to an astonishingly beautiful exhibition of archaeological treasures from Afghanistan, at the Museum of Melbourne.

Objects displayed are astonishing, the curators also have done a very special job in presenting the items.

A funerary monument, believed to be a gift from a student of Aristotle, visiting al Khanoum, in Bactria (northern Afghanistan) about 2300 years ago, offers these thoughts:
As a child, learn good manners.
As a young man, learn to control your passions.
In middle age, be just.
In old age, give good advice.
Then die without regret. 
Alexander [the Great] of Macedon had invaded Bactria in 328BCE and married a Bactrian princess Roxane the following year. The exhibition shows a diversity of cultures present in this place at the centre of the Silk Road. A Greco-Bactrian kingdom, with extremely beautiful items from India also. And a Greco-Indian kingdom would emerge. We were not alone in being struck by these cultural objects. A Melbourne woman of Greek descent (Melbourne the third Greek city on the planet by number of speakers of the language) was clearly near to tears and shock: "I am Greek.. I come here and I find my culture here!?" Objects of gold and ivory, many Hindu, many erotic, were treasures of nomadic peoples: traders, nobles, marauders. But the Greek objects include pieces of great buildings, statuary, Corinthian column fragments, etc. Devastations and losses occurred not only in recent history, but over a vast period. There are ways to reach some parts of Bactria. North of the Afghan border, Soviet forces were fiercely attacked retreating through Bactria. The perils of withdrawal from Afghanistan loom again, this is an interesting essay. Lonely Planet has a nice history of the region.

It was a bright and shiny day, lots of children at the Museum too.

This exhibition was sufficiently startling and uplifting that we resolved that we did not need to go to the Monet exhibition in the time available—having seen Monet elsewhere, having looked at the labels of works linked from the main page on the Monet exhibition and mindful that the crowding of that exhibition (unless we paid $45 for early Wednesday) would diminish the experience. Clearly we have preference for things culturally more removed from our own.

On the way to the Museum in Bourke St, we came upon a particularly lovely busker. Somehow in processing to YouTube my little film has become a bit blurry. And evidence of my own blurriness at end of a walking day is that while I got the date right, it obviously felt like Friday, when only Tuesday :-)