20th February 2009 at 00:00

Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes is looking a bit frayed around the edges, but you would expect that in a touring exhibition (from the British Museum) which has reached its sixth, and final, destination at the Burrell Collection in Glasgow where it can be enjoyed until May 4.

Created with schools in mind, the exhibition centres on Ancient Greek objects, particularly the distinctive red and black pottery - most of it more than 2,000 years old - whose patterns of sportsmen, soldiers and mythological figures are used to tell us about life at the time.

It soon becomes apparent that public life in Ancient Greece was all about men, because women were treated as second-class citizens who received little, if any, education and, once married, were expected to stay at home. Were women even allowed to spectate at the many sporting events that were held in Ancient Greek times? The exhibition does not attempt to answer that.

Boys from wealthy families learned to read, write, quote literature, play a musical instrument, drink (from about the age of three) and train as athletes. Greek men were expected to fight in the wars, a constant feature of life in ancient times. Those from poorer families could be "slingers" - lightly armed troops who used catapults to sling shot at the enemy, with a lead pellet (there is one on show) capable of travelling 400 metres at 100 kilometres an hour and killing a man. Top athletes at the Athena Games were awarded giant pottery jars filled with 45 litres of oil from the city's sacred olive trees. One woman, however, does feature in the show - Nike, the goddess of victory.


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