Art And Culture

Iran Cultural Relics in Rome’s Aquileia Museum

Iran Cultural Relics in Rome’s Aquileia MuseumIran Cultural Relics in Rome’s Aquileia Museum

Cultural and artistic relics of ancient Iran are on display in Italy.

In collaboration with Aquileia Foundation, the National Museum of Iran is lending a number of historical objects to Aquileia’s archaeological museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Aquileia) in Rome for a period of three months (June 22-Spetember 30).

The exhibition titled ‘Lions and Bulls from Ancient Persia to Aquileia’ features 29 relics from archaeological sites such as Persepolis, Pasargad and Hajiabad in Fars, Susa ancient city in Khuzestan, Amlash and Amarlou in Gilan, and a number of artifacts from the provinces of Hamedan and Kurdistan, according to Jebrael Nokandeh, director of the National Museum of Iran.

The relics come from a span of history starting with the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BC) and ending with the demise of the Sassanid dynasty (22 -651). As the name of the exhibition suggests, the relics all have associations with bulls and lions.

The relics include a rhyton terminating in a crouching winged lion and another in a bull’s head, a dagger decorated with leonine heads, statuette of standing bull, a plaque with winged lions, statuette of a sitting lion, a bracelet terminating in leonine heads, fragment of an Achaemenid capital with protome of a bull, a miniature head of a lion, fragments of leonine paws, a pair of bull’s ears, a trio of lions, an androcephalous bull (lamassu), a tripod bowl standing on lion’s paws, a stone weight with leonine protome and a plate with Sassanid hunting scene.

In an interview with ISNA, Nokandeh explained that lion and bull were once recurrent motifs in ancient Iran. Several reliefs at Persepolis depict a lion attacking a bull. There are various interpretations for the scene. The lion is said to represent the sun or daylight, and the bull symbolizes darkness and instinctive nature; while since time immemorable, both animals have perched on zodiac as Leo and Taurus.

After the successful show entitled Una Statua per la Pace: Rappresentazioni di Penelope, da Persepoli a Roma (A Statue for Peace: Representations of Penelope, from Persepolis to Rome) last year as part of the Serial Classic project at the Museo Prada in Italy and later in Iran, the Aquileia exhibition is meant to further consolidate cultural ties between Iran and Italy.

 Mutual Understanding

Such mutual understanding and sharing of cultural heritage, as Masoud Soltanifar, head of Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization said, are “one of the most effective means of establishing a constructive dialogue to create friendly and close relations between peoples. It is even more important to focus on this today, when common heritage of mankind is being plundered and destroyed.”

“This particular aspect of our heritage, namely the things various societies have in common, is probably the reason why human culture and civilization have become targets for rampage of fanatics in different parts of the world. Their intent is to eliminate the cultural background of people. By wiping out identities, they force people to surrender. To have a better future, human societies need to recognize, understand and respect each other’s values,” Soltanifar said.

Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, who attended the exhibition’s opening ceremony, voiced similar concerns:  “At a time when there is an attempt in the world to transform culture into a dividing factor, we’re showing that culture unites, and Aquileia is enhancing its vocation on this theme.”

Aquileia, located in Italy’s far northeast near the border with Slovenia, was chosen because “the city has always been considered the gateway between Rome and the Orient,” said Italian ambassador Antonio Zanardi Landi, president of the Aquileia Foundation.

Modern Aquileia is small, with only about 3,500 residents. But it was large and prominent in antiquity as one of the world’s largest cities, with a population of 100,000 in the 2nd century AD.