From pop to politics, the ancient world is here to stay

B005NB Greek Americans march up Fifth Avenue in New York

Kylie Minogue’s new Aphrodite tour has hit the UK. The press have been fascinated by her emphasis on ancient Greece and Rome: from the tour’s very title, to sequences involving her emerging as Aphrodite/Venus from Botticelli’s shell, to perching atop a gold Pegasus, to being pulled around in a chariot by hunky centurions. Kylie, it seems, can’t get enough of the ancient world.

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Its not just pop stars either. In Nelson, British Columbia, local opera composer Don MacDonald and libretto writer Nicola Harwood are putting the finishing touches to a new opera entitled KHAOS, which tells the story of the ancient Greek goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone, who was dragged down to the underworld to be married to Hades, set in a modern world of climate change and pending global catastrophe.

The list goes on around the world of events, people and places that have taken inspiration from, or brought back to life, elements of the ancient Greek world. Some more examples picked at random: a performance of Euripides Medea in southwest Florida and a performance of the Odyssey in Saskatoon; a new play about a chorus member of a Greek tragedy lost in the 21st century being put on soon in New York; the Tampa museum of Art’s new exhibition on Degas and the influence of ancient Greek dance on his work; the new exhibition opening soon in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, UK of finds from the royal tombs at Vergina; the release of a new board game where players compete to dominate ancient Greece as Olympian gods, and even the inauguration of ‘Greek week’ in the Westfield shopping centre in London.

From pop to opera, from theatre to art, from museums to board games to shopping centres, the ancient Greek world seems limitless in its ability to inspire us and find a place in our lives.

But the legacy of ancient Greece goes much wider and deeper than that – something we were reminded of by the celebration of Greek Independence Day on 25 March. President Obama commented on the lasting impact of Greece on the world as part of the celebrations in the US.

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“As America recognises this milestone [Independence day] in the birthplace of democracy, we also celebrate our warm friendship with Greece and the lasting legacy of Hellenic culture in our own country. America’s Founders drew upon the core democratic principles developed in ancient Greece as they imagined a new government…. from the architecture of our historic buildings to the lessons in philosophy and literature passed on in our classrooms, America has drawn on the deep intellectual traditions of the Greeks in our own establishment and growth as a nation”.