Poster from the exhibition “Myrtis: Face to Face with the Past”.

Poster from the exhibition “Myrtis: Face to Face with the Past”.

I’d like to share an exhibition that serves as a marvelous springboard to reflect on girlhood at the classical times in Athens. The Greek history is inevitably linked with the culture of classical Athens, especially its peak during the 5th century B.C. The remains of those glory days are impressive and the Greek capital keeps on revealing more treasures after each rescue excavation. The classical period in ancient Greece, centered in the city-state of Athens, is best known for the marvels in architecture, art, and philosophy, the rise of the democracy as a political system, as well as the overwhelming war conflicts over issues of reign within the ancient then-known world.

In 1995, the skeleton of a young girl, named Myrtis by the archaeologists, was discovered at the excavations at the city’s mass cemetery in Kerameikos. The scientific analysis showed that the 11-year-old girl died of typhoid fever, among the other 50.000 Athenians, during the Peloponnesian War in 430 – 426 B.C. Due to the excellent condition of the skull it was further decided to make a reconstruction that would be suitable for the purposes of exhibition and education. The project was later supported by the concept for a travelling exhibition, which is called Myrtis: Face to Face with the Past. It has travelled to over 15 cities and 3 different countries so far, with the next stop for 2014 in France. You can see the venues here.

The physical and virtual exhibition narrates not only the historical context, but also the social and political environment of the 5th century B.C. that led to the death of the majority of the Athenian population. Looking closely at the daily reality of Myrtis, the whole Golden Age of Pericles is unveiled through the everyday rituals, the favourite childish games back then (amazingly much like those of our times!), the anxieties, the shortage of basic means of living, and the struggle for survival against the war threat.

What I think it is even more intriguing is the fact that Myrtis has become a ‚ÄúMillennium Friend‚Äù of the UN¬†in the campaign ‘We Can End Poverty’ and takes a stand towards the vision of the wellbeing of the girls globally. Her message to the leaders worldwide is loud and clear:

My death was inevitable. In the 5th century BC we had neither the knowledge nor the means to fight deadly illnesses. However, you, the people of the 21st century, have no excuse. You possess all the necessary means and resources to save the lives of millions of people. To save the lives of millions of children like me who are dying of preventable and curable diseases.
2,500 years after my death, I hope that my message will engage and inspire more people to work and make the Millennium Development Goals a reality.
Listen to me. I know what I’m saying. Never forget that I’m much older and therefore much wiser than you.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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