Berlin's Pergamon Museum & Altar with Frederika Tevebring - Context Travel

Berlin's Pergamon Museum & Altar with Frederika Tevebring


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In the heart of Berlin lies the Museum Island, home of the Pergamon Altar, the bust of Nefertiti, and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon. The island is one of the oldest parts of the capital and has played a significant part in the city's turbulent history. It was initially developed to reflect the ideals of German humanism: to better the nation through culture; later, as Prussia rose to become the leader of unified Germany, monuments such as the Pergamon Altar were co-opted as symbols of the young empire's power; in the twentieth century, the antiquities found themselves on the frontline of "and as bargaining chips in" the world wars and the following cold war.

The splendid Pergamon Altar is today the pride of Berlin's Museum Island, where it has been at home since the early twentieth century. Given its fame, it is perhaps surprising how little we know for certain about the ancient history and even function of this monument. It was constructed in the early second century B.C. in Pergamon, on the coast of what is now Turkey. It was a monument to the city's rulers, who struggled against the threat of invading European tribes, neighboring Greek kingdoms, and the ever-expanding powers of the Roman empire. The German archaeologists who "discovered" it in the late nineteenth century saw a parallel between ancient Pergamon and the young German empire; and after its transplantation to Berlin at the turn of the century, the altar was henceforth showcased as a symbol as much of modern Prussian as of ancient Greek might.

In this conversation, we will discuss both the ancient and modern history of this monument. We will explore its sprawling depictions of Olympian gods and Titans and its place and function in the cityscape of Pergamon. We will also discuss its modern history: how it ended up in Berlin, its fate during the world wars, and how ̐ throughout the twentieth- and twenty-first century ̐ it became a propaganda piece, spoil of war, and a contested cultural heritage for Germany, Turkey, and Russia. Led by specialist Dr. Frederika Tevebring, we'll study in-depth this ancient piece. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with a much-learned understanding of the museum's collection, in particular, the Pergamon altar.

Originally from Sweden, Frederika lived in Berlin and Chicago before settling in London. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature with focus on Classics from Northwestern University. She has also earned a BA and MA in Ancient Studies and Religious History respectively from the Freie Universit�Êt, Berlin and has several seasons of archaeological fieldwork around Greece under her belt.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.