ARCHEOLOGICAL MUSEUM, Santorini Frescoes Room 41

Audio File length: 2.22
English / USA Language: English / USA

I’m sure you’ve heard of the legend of Atlantis, when an entire civilization was plunged into the depths of the sea for eternity following the eruption of a volcano.

This legend, told by Plato, could also be the story of what happened about 4600 years ago on the island of Thera, modern-day Santorini, one of the Cyclades. The island was shaken by a series of extremely violent earthquakes, followed by a volcanic eruption that buried its buildings below a thick layer of ashes.

Like Pompeii, the ancient city was later discovered and explored by archeologists. The private homes and public buildings yielded a huge number of well preserved paintings, some of which were removed and brought to this museum.

Many of the scenes, such as the painting of “Spring”, offer a joyful representation of the natural environment. Observe the brightly colored lilies at the top of a cliff, and the birds, perhaps swallows, blissfully chasing each other in the clearest of skies.


Another magnificent painting was found on the walls of a chamber, perhaps a sanctuary, depicting “Antilopes”. It’s fascinating to see how an anonymous artist from 3600 years ago was able to bring the animals to life, portraying them aggressively competing with one another, using nothing more than the power of the skillfully executed black lines, with no other colors. The drawing flows beautifully, with concise, agile strokes, and is potently expressive. There are no background details, and the stark white enhances the power of the figures; the upper part, in plain red, adds drama to the butting horns.


An isolated panel on a red background in the same room is dedicated to the “Boxing Children”. The two adversaries are wearing nothing but belts, and their long black hair is braided into elegant plaits. Both are wearing boxing gloves on their right hand. This scene probably shows some sort of ritual combat.

These painting represent a happy world, in which humans lived in close contact with nature and liked to depict its beauty on the walls of their homes and sanctuaries.


An interesting fact: the frescoes have been reconstructed from thousands of fragments and then integrated so they can also be appreciated by non-experts. The original parts can be recognized because they are darker.

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