Marvels of ancient Persia on display

September 09, 2005

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LONDON: Iran, at loggerheads with the West over its nuclear ambitions, has put tension to one side and lent a treasure trove of artefacts from Ancient Persia to a new exhibition at the British Museum.

Organisers were concerned the exhibition may not happen at all after Dr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected the Islamic state’s president in June.

“We certainly were worried for a time that we wouldn’t receive any objects,” said curator John Curtis. “But happily that wasn’t the case, and everybody decided to go ahead with the exhibition.”

“Forgotten Empire: the world of Ancient Persia,” which opens to the public on Friday for a four-month run, gathers Ancient Persian artefacts from Iran, France and Britain never before seen together — and some never shown in public at all.

The aim, said Curtis at a preview on Wednesday, is to reshape Western views of one of the ancient world’s greatest empires whose history was largely written by the Greeks after Alexander the Great overran it in 330 BC.

“Although the history of Ancient Persia is not forgotten in Iran and the Middle East, it is largely forgotten in the West. We want to correct that,” he said.

The exhibition gives a taste of the sophistication, structure and wealth of the empire including detailed frescoes and carvings, parts of monumental sculptures, gold and silver ornaments, jewellery, engravings and snippets of history.

There are also lavish plates, cups and dishes to underscore the point that Ancient Persian cooking was famed — a reputation that survives to this day.—Reuters