The bull in the ancient times

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Posted by on 21 Apr 2003

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Since the prehistoric times, the bull has been symbolic of mystic cults, power, fertility, divinity, rituals and birth. That is why this animal is the subject of the exhibition “The Bull in the Mediterranean World, myths and legends” that is held at the Benaki Museum in a joint effort with the Historical Museum of Barcelona and the Cultural Olympiad of Greece. This exhibition aimed at revealing the mysteries surrounding the phenomena of the bull in the ancient times and to provide visitors a clearer understanding of it.

Ancient civilizations differed in their interpretation of depicting the bull. The Anatolians were honouring the bull as a cosmic power, son of the mother-goddess and the bull’s horns, the pillars which held up the world. The Mesopotamian Civilizations regarded the bull as a god; it was commonly depicted with a crown on its head. In the Hellenic world, Ammonas Zeus was portrayed with two horns emerging from his head, a possible symbolism of divinity. Syrian, Palestinian and Roman deities were often portrayed with bulls near them. Many Egyptian Gods were also depicted as bulls.

Amongst the exhibits, there are figurines, vessels, pottery, oil lamps and bull-masks worn by high-priests during rituals. Many dagger-like nails, with images of bulls, that were used as good luck charms to safeguard temples and sanctuaries are also part of the display.


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