News item from 2011


Guilty Pleasures Luxury in Ancient Greece

See the discoveries from the Royal Tombs of Aegae, currently on display in the Ashmolean's exhibition Heracles to Alexander the Great, feature in the BBC 4 documentary Guilty Pleasures - Luxury in Ancient Greece, Monday 27 June, BBC 4, 9pm.

To launch the new BBC 4 season, Luxury, watch the documentary Guilty Pleasures – Luxury in Ancient Greece. From the gilded treasures of Alexander the Great, currently on display in Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, to the bizarre political significance of Athenian fish-cookery and the privations of ancient Sparta, follow the Classicist, Dr Michael Scott, investigate how ancient Greek society managed the visible display of wealth among its citizens.

In Athens, it explores the role of luxury in the beginnings of democracy - how certain kinds of luxury came to be forbidden, and others embraced. A simple luxury like meat could unite the democracy, and yet a taste for fish could divide it. Some luxuries were associated with effeminacy and foreigners. Others with the very idea of democracy. Yet in Sparta, there was a determined attempt to deny luxury, and the guilty contradictions of this eventually brought what had been the most powerful state in Greece to its downfall. When Sparta was replaced by the Macedon of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, the absolute luxury of his court set new standards for luxury as political propaganda. Yet the guilty anxiety of ancient Greece could not be suppressed and still affects our ideas of luxury today.


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