‘Dodonaios: The Oracle of Zeus and Magna Graecia’ at the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria

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From March 8, 2019 and for three months, the exhibition halls of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Reggio Calabria are hosting antiquities from Dodona, a panhellenic sanctuary and political centre of ancient Epirus. This ?hospitality” is part of an exhibition called Dodonaios. L’oracolo di Zeus e la Magna Grecia and a collaboration of the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio with the University of Salerno and the Ephorate of Antiquities of Ioannina.

'Dodonaios: The Oracle of Zeus and Magna Graecia' at the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria

The Exhibition will show objects by Dodona, home of the famous oracle, from the collection of the Archaeological Museum of Ioannina, some of which had never crossed the borders of Greece before. Among these, a selection of engraved lead laminas, in particular, referable to the Magno Greek cities.




The exhibition itinerary offers a reading of the relations between the regions on the two sides of the Ionian in antiquity, in the light of the most recent research on Dodona, located in the valley at the foot of a high mountain, in the heart of Epirus, in northern Greece. Oriental and it tells the archaeological and literary history of the sanctuary dedicated to Zeus, of which the tragedian Euripides and the historiographer Herodotus wrote.

'Dodonaios: The Oracle of Zeus and Magna Graecia' at the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria
Bronze Griffin, Dodona, 670 BC [Credit: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport]

The oracle was known in all the cities of Magna Graecia, including many in Calabria (Hipponion, Reghion, Kroton, Sybaris, Thourioi, Heraklea, Metapontion, Taras). One of the curators, the archaeologist Luigi Vecchio, explains: “The pilgrims went to the sanctuary from every part of Epirus, Thessaly, Attica, Boeotia, Pelopponesian, Magna Graecia, to question the divinity mostly on personal matters – on marriage, on business, just like today with fortune tellers – in a practice that lasted many centuries, from VI to II a. C. at least.




The most characteristic and suggestive thing – the scholar continues – is the modality in which this happened: in a written form, on very small laminettes of a few centimeters, which enter on the palm of a hand,by engraved letters of a few millimeters, which were folded or rolled up and presented for the application”. The “clients” of the oracle were of medium-low class, Vecchio adds. “The priestesses interpreted the answers of the god mostly through the sounds of nature: the rustling of the great sacred oak, the flight of the doves. Sounds that echoed in the silence of the valley”. In some laminettes the answer was engraved on the back. Some were “recycled” to ask new questions.

'Dodonaios: The Oracle of Zeus and Magna Graecia' at the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria
Lead ‘oracle’ plate, inquiring about an inhabitant of Thourion, an Athenian colony in South Italy, 4th cent. BC
[Credit: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport]
'Dodonaios: The Oracle of Zeus and Magna Graecia' at the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria
Lead ‘oracle’ plate, for a settlement in Crotone, a colony of the Achaeans in the Calabria region. 400- 390 BC
[Credit: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport]

The archaeologist Fausto Longo, co-curator for the University of Salerno, illustrates the project, “born from afar, in the collaboration relationship for the research on the sanctuary of Dodona between the Department of Sciences of the Cultural Heritage of the University Salerno with the Museum of Ioannina and the Superintendence of Epirus, which had produced a major exhibition in Athens, with the title ‘The oracle of sounds’. The Greek colleagues made themselves available to bring the laminettes on display for the first time in Italy.




It has been – he affirms – an important opportunity to deepen the research on the relationships between these two Mediterranean regions, the Magna Graecia and the Epirus, which have many similarities, not only from the morphological and geographical point of view. The history of the sanctuary summarizes these analogies, which have been explored in an interdisciplinary perspective in the substantial catalog of the exhibition”.

'Dodonaios: The Oracle of Zeus and Magna Graecia' at the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria
View of the Sacred House, Dodona [Credit: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport]

The director of MArRC, Carmelo Malacrino, declares: “The bronze laminette referring to the colonies in Calabria, together with the other finds exhibited in this great exhibition, lead the visitor on a fascinating journey to discover the deep and ancient link between Italy and Greece, and in particular among the regions facing the Ionian Sea, which separates but above all unites the two shores”.

The director Malacrino states: “The National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria confirms its vocation as a cultural center in the Mediterranean basin and for the meeting of peoples who share cultures and traditions. Above all it is confirmed as a research laboratory and a place of synthesis between studies and activities carried out by different institutes, scattered throughout the world”.

To find out more about the exhibition visit: www.oracledodona.it

Source: National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria [March 12, 2019]

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