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The Macedonian Connection by Peter Green


The Macedonian Connection

January 22, 1981
Peter Green


The Search For Alexander November 16, 1980 to April 5, 1981 
an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 

The Search For Alexander: An Exhibition 
with essays by Nikolaos Yalouris, by Manolis Andronikos, by Katerina Rhomiopoulou New York Graphic Society, 192 pp., $10.95 (paper) 

The Search for Alexander 
by Robin Lane Fox 
Little Brown, 451 pp., $24.95 


After Tutankhamun, Alexander. With an explosion of publicity, yet another spectacular venture in museum promotion has been launched: how fitting that Time Inc. and the National Bank of Greece, co-sponsors of this new exhibition, should have patented as its trade mark the royal Macedonian starburst. “The Search for Alexander” has arrived at the National Gallery of Art in Washington—en route for Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and New York—regally packaged and presented.

There were black-tie celebrity dinners, with politicians, archaeologists, art collectors, historians, and diplomats thrown into rather uneasy proximity. A two-day academic symposium was held in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition, on the theme “Art and Architecture in the late Fourth Century and Hellenistic Period in Macedonia and the Rest of Greece” (those last six words, as we shall see, are politically loaded). A series of Sunday lectures was inaugurated by Professor Manolis Andronikos, speaking about his now famous discoveries in the royal burial ground at Vergina (ancient Aegae), complete with new slides of low-relief miniature ivory sculptures and a superbly restored ceremonial shield. Special films are scheduled on the Vergina finds, on Alexander’s life, on Greek art and architecture, and on ancient Greek history. (A popular biography by Robin Lane Fox, also entitled The Search for Alexander, has been produced to coincide with the exhibition.) The usual museum reproductions, from Hellenistic costume jewelry to plaster busts of Alexander, are going to make someone a fortune.

When the exhibition was in its formative planning stage, between 1977 and 1978, huge crowds were flocking to one American museum after another, mesmerized by the fabulous gold of Egypt, pouring cash into the coffers of backers and subsidiaries, to make the Tutankhamun show the greatest blockbuster on record.1 It was inevitable that so heady a phenomenon should arouse extravagant hopes and ambitions in the group responsible for the Alexander project. Yet the plain truth of the matter is that, even weighing in the unique gold larnax (ossuary) and wreath from Vergina, this new exhibition simply isn’t in the same league as its Egyptian predecessor. It neither stuns nor, except for brief moments, dazzles. It contains some exquisite items—silver and bronze vessels, a spray of three golden wheat-ears, a double-snake bracelet—together with one of the most fussy and vulgar artifacts, not even eclipsed by the Portland Vase, to survive from antiquity: the great bronze krater (mixing vessel for wine and water) found at Derveni, its lush Dionysiac figures no advertisement for Macedonian quiet good taste.

This is essentially a small, low-key exhibition, admirably designed for teaching, of fine metalwork, jewelry, coins, and figurines from fourth-century and Hellenistic Macedonia, reinforced by one or two grave reliefs and an assortment of well-known marble heads of Alexander, including the Azara herm. It also comes equipped with an audiovisual show that sketches a colorful montage of Alexander-influenced art through the ages. (“There was a horse called Bucephalas,” the voice-over intones as the credits roll.) With certain exceptions, to which I shall return later, it is well captioned. But a four-star event “The Search for Alexander” is not. 

There is thus a strong, for the most part justified, feeling that the advance fanfare has been out of all proportion. In particular, the exhibition’s title is widely, and rightly, felt to be as misleading as it is inappropriate. Whatever this show concentrates on discovering, it is not Alexander, whose relation to the exhibits is at best tangential, being expressed through the Macedonian heritage that he spent so much of his short life attempting to jettison in favor of more grandiose, Oriental concepts of kingship. Reliable insiders I spoke to suggested that the title originated with Time Inc. as a marketing device aimed at selling the show, a slogan that would appeal to the popular imagination, and easily transferable to other products, such as Robin Lane Fox’s book, the museum catalogue, and commercial reproductions—all three, as it happens, put out by Time Inc. subsidiaries. It becomes clear, on investigation, that the aims of the museum authorities, of Time Inc., of the archaeologists and historians, and (last but by no means least) of the Greek government, have not always coincided. Their stresses and divergences—the intersection of the timeless with Time—shed a fascinating light on that murky no-man’s-land where scholarship, politics, and corporate finance maneuver for advantage.

The genesis of the Alexander show goes back to 1966, when Zachary P. Morfogen, a Greek-American then working for the international division of Time-Life Books, discussed with his friend the Greek politician Takis Lambrias plans to promote a big book and perhaps a film or a TV program about Alexander. Thus both Time Inc. and the Greeks were involved, however fortuitously, ab initio. The scheme was shelved during the Colonels’ regime, but revived again in 1974, when Lambrias became Karamanlis’s minister for press, information, and television. At the same time both Carter Brown, director of the National Gallery in Washington, and Thomas Hoving, then director of the Metropolitan Museum, were exploring the possibility of mounting a loan exhibition from Greece. Brown discussed the problem with Nicholas Yalouris, then director of Greek antiquities, but ran into what seemed an insuperable obstacle: a Greek law prohibiting the export of museum antiquities, even on temporary loan. Despite strenuous efforts by Morfogen and Brown, the sympathy of Yalouris, and the fact that Karamanlis himself happened to be a Macedonian from Sérres, between 1974 and 1977 no real progress was made in breaking the deadlock. Some extra inducement, clearly, was needed at the Greek end.

Then, in November 1977, Manolis Andronikos attracted international attention with his extraordinary discovery of an unrifled royal Macedonian tomb in the great tumulus at Vergina. It was not only the splendid gold wreaths and ossuaries, the frescoes and the ceremonial armor, that caught the public imagination, but also Andronikos’s provisional identification of the burial as that of King Philip II, Alexander the Great’s scarcely less famous father. Better still, from the Greek viewpoint, an immense amount of political and nationalist capital could be made out of the find. Ever since the late nineteenth century the conflicting claims of Greeks, Bulgars, Serbs, Montenegrins, and Turks on the ill-defined region of Macedonia—so ethnically confused that it provided the French language with its word, macédoine, for a fruit salad3—had produced constant trouble of a more or less violent nature, culminating in the Balkan Wars of 1912 which terminated five centuries of Turkish rule.

After the Smyrna debacle of 1922 thousands of Greek refugees from Asia Minor were relocated in Macedonia: both Yalouris and Andronikos, it is worth noting, were thus uprooted as children, from Smyrna and Prusa respectively. For the Greeks, moreover, the recovery of Macedonia formed an essential step in the implementation of the “Great Idea,” that is, the gradual reabsorption of all territories that had formed part of the Byzantine Empire, including Constantinople itself. The Graeco-Turkish war of 1922 dealt a major blow to this dream. But the dream itself remained intact. Both before and during World War II the Greek Communist Party (KKE) incurred enormous hostility by dutifully backing the Cominform line advocating an autonomous Macedonia as part of a Balkan federation (though this, ironically enough, would have been to turn the clock back to the fourth century BC). Much Greek blood had been spilled for that territory; the very thought of ceding it was regarded as rankly unpatriotic.

II

No Greek, however scholarly, could hope to remain altogether impervious—even if only subconsciously—to these potent political, ethnic, and emotional issues when considering the status of ancient Macedonia. Above all, there was, and still is, bound to be a strong predisposition, encouraged by some credulous but prima facie plausible ancient evidence, toward identifying Macedonia as far as possible with Greece, and not only on political grounds. Though the area contains most of Greece’s heavy industry, and some of her richest farm land, it has also retained its ancient reputation for a certain “un-Greekness,” a comparative lack of culture. It will follow that Philip and, above all, Alexander, royal Macedonians par excellence, must likewise be shown to have possessed the strongest possible Hellenic antecedents and connections—despite the fact that in their day the Greeks of the city-states regarded Macedonians as alien barbarians, who after Philip’s victory at Chaeronea (338) had imposed their detested rule on Greece by main force. Better to forget the reaction of the Athenian orator Demades, who on learning of Alexander’s death in Babylon exclaimed: “Alexander dead? Impossible: the whole world would stink of his corpse.”

Indeed, in Alexander’s case this problem is exacerbated by the fact that the world conqueror was virtually the only figure from antiquity to survive, however mythicized, in the folk-consciousness of medieval and modern Greece. As Professor Yalouris reminds us in the exhibition catalogue, Alexander “became the symbol that embodied the desire for a national uprising” immediately before the Greek War of Independence. Rhigas Pheraios, the revolutionary Greek poet later shot by the Turks, and a passionate promoter of the “Great Idea,” featured the bust of Alexander on the clandestine broadsheet that he circulated in 1797. Alexander, in Karamanlis’s own words, “has served, as no other man has done, the dreams of the nation as a symbol of indissoluble unity and continuity between ancient and modern Hellenism.” The notion of Alexander as a kind of patron saint for Greek freedom fighters may strike non-Greek historians as ironic, to say the least; but it remains true that with the discovery of the royal burial at Vergina, any scheme for the promotion of an international exhibition featuring Macedonia at once acquired political importance.

This fact was clearly not lost on the Greek government, in particular on Karamanlis himself, who at once made extensive public funds available for further excavation—the dig had hitherto been financed by the University of Thessalonike6—and thereafter took a continuing personal interest in the project. He gave a speech at the opening of the exhibition in Thessalonike (then entitled, rather more accurately, “Alexander the Great: History and Legend in Art”), during which, inter alia, he referred to Alexander as “the representative of all the Greeks” in whose person “a now mature Greek civilization found the suitable medium by which it could extend itself beyond the boundaries of the ancient Greek world.” Through Karamanlis’s energetic personal lobbying, the law banning the export of Greek antiquities was rescinded in 1978, thus opening the way for Time Inc., the National Gallery, the publicity firm of Ruder & Finn, and a number of Greek agencies, headed by the National Bank of Greece, to set up a deal that would, it was hoped, satisfy everyone. 

In fact these volatile partners found it hard to combine, and the main victim, inevitably, was the exhibition itself. Despite a publicity handout stressing its support of the arts (“Time Incorporated believes that its business is the total society in which we live, and it recognizes man’s necessity to enrich the soul as well as the body,” etc.), it seems clear that Time Inc.’s main interest is by no means exclusively cultural. Early draft contracts caused a considerable outcry in the museum world, and though Time Inc. claims not to expect to make money on the final deal, it was originally accused in the press of “using museums as outlets for its own marketing projects.” It will still sell the museum catalogue and Robin Lane Fox’s biography: how the pie will be cut from the sale of the museum reproductions is not so clear. In any case, the mere fact of their sponsorship has provided Time Inc. its directors with some first-rate publicity. As far as the exhibition itself is concerned, what Time Inc. and Zachary Morfogen—now reported to be working on a musical called Alexander—are stressing is Alexander himself and the Alexander legend, an excellent formula for selling the package to Americans with only the haziest notions of, or interest in, Macedonia as such.

On the other hand, the emphasis on Alexander is at odds not only with the museum’s approach to the artifacts in the exhibition, but also, in a more subtle way, with the aims of the Greek government. Apart from some unexciting historical wall-displays and a few heads and coins, the exhibition has no functional connection with Alexander: what it demonstrates are select aspects of Macedonian culture, much of it Hellenistic. Katerina Rhomiopoulou, director of Thessalonike’s archaeological museum, and curator of antiquities for Central Macedonia, is defensive about such charges, insisting that “the Vergina items belonged to Alexander’s father”—a debatable point, as we shall see—and that “Alexander lived with these items when he lived with his father.” Including the funeral larnax? It is a pretty thin defense.

Such inconsistencies, of course, are part of the price that Carter Brown and the National Gallery must pay for corporate sponsorship. Highly publicized spectacles with romantic titles attract visitors and revenue, but they also, as we are often reminded, cost the earth in overhead. Thus Time Inc.’s support has been crucial. (The National Endowment for the Arts apparently turned down an application from the Gallery for support on the grounds that it was already being heavily backed by private business!) It remains true that an unwitting visitor to “The Search for Alexander” may well emerge feeling that he has just seen Hamlet without the Prince—or, to take a closer parallel from the ancient world, the Mausoleum minus Mausolus.

However, it is the attitude of the exhibition’s Greek backers and organizers, from the government and the National Bank of Greece to the archaeologists who came to Washington as official consultants, that is in the long run significant, especially for scholarship. Almost every recent major foreign exhibition, including those from China, Egypt, and East Germany, has had some sort of political angle. What, to put it bluntly, is in it for the Greeks? “To put Macedonia on the map” is the prevailing view, but that is surely an oversimplification. Karamanlis’s Thessalonike speech quoted above suggests a more complex scenario. Again and again what we find emphasized, just as we might expect, is the Greekness of Macedonia, to the point where Dr. Rhomiopoulou could publicly declare her preference for the term “Northern Greece” as opposed to “Macedonia”: the two were to be treated as synonymous.

Justifiable, up to a point, in modern political terms, this practice becomes highly misleading if applied to antiquity, when Macedonia, far from being even partly incorporated in a united Greek republic, was an independent (and under Philip II highly aggressive) kingdom that ultimately swallowed up Greek city-state independence. As Professor Ernst Badian of Harvard pointed out in a speech of relentless objectivity, whether the Macedonians were, or were not, Greek by speech and origin is altogether irrelevant to this issue. The point is that their Greek contemporaries, rightly or wrongly, regarded them as barbarians and foreigners, in a sense that they could not legitimately have applied, even for purposes of propaganda, to people such as the Thessalians. 

Like Karamanlis, Professor Yalouris is on record as favoring the establishment of historical truth: “Since Thucydides,” he said in a recent interview, “historical accuracy has been sine qua non,” and I have no doubt of his sincerity. Still, the article he contributes to the museum catalogue, on “Alexander and His Heritage,” offers some interesting glosses on that principle. Alexander I, he claims, took part in the Olympic Games “after he had personally argued the case that the Macedonians shared a common ancestry with the other Greeks” (italics mine): can he actually have read the passage in Herodotus (5.22) on which this claim rests? All Herodotus says is that Alexander himself demonstrated his Argive ancestry, and was thus adjudged a Greek (against angry opposition, be it noted) by the stewards of the Games. Even if, with Professor N.G.L. Hammond, we accept this highly dubious genealogical claim, it tells us nothing whatsoever about Macedonians generally. Alexander’s dynasty, if Greek, “regarded itself as Macedonian only by right of rule, as a branch of the Hanoverian house has come to regard itself as English.”

After this it comes as no surprise to find Professor Yalouris claiming that fourth-century Macedonia was “the main meeting ground for all the great scholars as well as for the intellectual pioneers of the period,” and citing Plutarch (Vit. Alex. 4), erroneously, for the statement that literary and musical competitions were frequently organized in Macedonia. Indeed, when Dr. Rhomiopoulou, in the following article, dates King Archelaus 412-359 BC, thus extending his reign for forty extra years to Philip II’s, over some of the most lurid and disreputable decades in Macedonian history, one can only hope that “359” is, in fact, a misprint for “399,” especially since the period in question is passed over in silence.


The general drift of such aberrations is all too clear. It is also in a very old Greek tradition: polis patriotism and ethnic loyalty exert strong claims on the Greek historian. He has always been expected to give his country rather more than the benefit of whatever doubt may be going. Herodotus and Thucydides, with their comparative objectivity, their readiness to face unpleasant truths and unpopular or foreign viewpoints, are the exception rather than the rule in Greek historiography. Far more characteristic is a writer like Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who (Thuc. 37 ff.) was shocked to the core by the Melian Dialogue, in which “the wisest of the Greeks” (i.e., the Athenians) are made to “adduce the most disgraceful arguments and invest them with the most disagreeable language.” Similarly with Plutarch, who in a savage essay12 excoriates Herodotus for avoiding polite euphemisms, inserting discreditable facts not strictly “relevant” to the issue, preferring the “less creditable” version of an event, querying nobility of motive, being (horrors!) pro-barbarian, and so on. “We must not be tricked,” he concludes, “into accepting unworthy and false notions about the greatest and best cities and men of Greece.” Dionysius, like President Karamanlis and Professor Yalouris, also claimed to regard history as “the high priestess of truth” (Thuc. 8).

It is in this context that we should consider the complaints, among non-Greek participants in the organization of the exhibition, that various Greek officials, including some from the Ministry of Culture and Sciences, had been putting pressure on them to tone down, or omit, statements that did not accord with the official Greek line. (The academic symposium organized for the exhibition, it is only fair to say, remained largely free from such troubles, except for one glaring omission to be considered in a moment.) This applied particularly to the interpretation of Alexander himself. Professor Eugene N. Borza, as historical consultant to the exhibition, found himself faced with some surprising objections. Alexander, he was told, could not suffer a “disaster,” even in the Gedrosian Desert. The mutiny at the Beas (which forced him to abandon his march to the world’s end) was reduced, in the final wall caption, to a mere hesitation on the part of some of his officers, a stumbling block to Alexander’s exploration of the Indian subcontinent. When Professor Borza stressed that the only master he served in advising the exhibition was historical truth, his Greek opposite number retorted: “I have to serve three masters, and they’re all in Athens.”


Robin Lane Fox, during the preparation of his new, heavily illustrated biography, was at first subjected to similar propaganda: no suggestions, please, that Alexander was homosexual, or—a more recognizably political angle—that Cyprus had ever been inhabited or ruled by non-Greeks. To his credit, he resisted such approaches: both Hephaestion and Bagoas are mentioned, with proper caveats, as Alexander’s possible lovers, while the princelings of Cyprus appear, in inverted commas, as soi-disant “Hellenes of the Hellenes.”

In the end, I gather, the Greek authorities refused to give the book their official imprimatur, and washed their hands of its author. I find it hard to see why. Lane Fox’s Alexander is romantic enough for any Greek nationalist; some of his topographical color photographs are delightful; he subscribes to the legend of the Argeads’ Greek lineage; he has backed off from some of the more provocative positions (e.g., on the value of the non-Arrianic historical testimonia) that he took up previously. Above all, he firmly believes that Tomb II at Vergina belonged to Philip II. On the other hand, this volume shows every sign of having been thrown together at short notice, and is written in a clotted, staccato prose in striking contrast to the lush, rolling periods of his earlier study. I would like to think that the Greek Ministry of Culture withdrew its backing because the book is largely unreadable; but that would be too much to hope for from any government ministry, even a Greek one.

III

Like the exhibition, the symposium largely avoided a direct confrontation with Alexander, even in the historical section (a late addition to the program). In view of the course of Alexander studies since World War II, it is not hard to see why: world conquest has been out of favor, and Alexander’s activities get short shrift from unromantic realists. Both Yalouris and Andronikos were very much on the defensive with reporters who suggested (getting rudely to the heart of the matter) that Alexander "was a willing, even enthusiastic, leader of slaughter and pillage." Both argued that during a war atrocities are inevitable, and that in any case Alexander’s positive achievements outweighed anything else. Their Alexander, like that of the historian W.W. Tarn, is a beneficent conqueror, spreading sweetness and cultural light, the beau idéal of Greek high school students and army recruits: he has to be handled gently.

So, of course, does the Macedonian ethnic problem, though that did get on to the program. Even so, the toughly worded abstract of Professor Badian’s paper, circulated in advance, made every Greek I talked to furious (as events turned out, unjustifiably). For the most part speakers concentrated, very profitably, on noncontroversial subjects—Macedonian jewelry and vases, painting, sculpture, architecture, coinage, arms, and tactics. But one crucial problem, uppermost (it’s safe to say) in the mind of every scholar present, the subject of ongoing academic debate, and central to the interests of exhibition and symposium alike, got no official airing at all. Whose, in fact, were the bones in Tomb II at Vergina? A royal burial, all agree: but which king? Alexander’s father Philip II—or his epileptic, mentally defective elder half-brother, Philip III Arrhidaios? Under discreet lighting the exquisite gold larnax gleamed bright, and kept its counsel 

The world is very much in Professor Andronikos’s debt. His exemplary excavation of the great tumulus at Vergina has resulted in what is arguably the most valuable historical discovery—certainly by far the richest tomb—in the annals of Greek archaeology. Vergina is now identified, beyond any doubt, as the site of Aegae, the old Macedonian capital and burial ground for the Argead kings. Finally, from the very moment of his great discovery, Professor Andronikos has responded to the immense public interest it generated with a more or less continuous flow of articles and interviews that reflect his evolving ideas about the royal burials. At the same time, he argues that until he has published the formal excavation report which will present his mature conclusions, among other things on the identity of Tomb II’s occupant, he is not willing to engage in public scholarly debate on the matter. This is understandable, but in view both of his widely published views and of other scholars’ reactions to them, perhaps a trifle disingenuous. He has never made any secret of his conviction (which may indeed well be right) that the main burial is that of Philip II. That view has, nevertheless, been seriously challenged.

Andronikos’s main thesis has already attracted the weighty support of Professor Hammond, the doyen of Macedonian scholars, while its political value as a reinforcement for neo-Macedonian propaganda is both potent and obvious. Looked at in these terms, poor Philip Arrhidaios—unheroic in death as in life, epileptic, weak-minded, unfit for active service, shunted off into the non-combatant job of minister for religious affairs while his wife Eurydice was trained as a warrior in his place—could hardly be regarded, by historians or statesmen with the public image of Macedonia at heart, as an adequate or indeed as a desirable alternative candidate.

The trouble is that our final verdict now, and probably forever, must remain a non liquet. No irrefutable and clinching evidence has turned up, and if Professor Andronikos is keeping the case open, it may well be in the forlorn hope of a miracle. That the burial was royal, not earlier than 340 and not later than 300, is certain: this at least in effect limits the field to two candidates. Just about everything else remains debatable. Andronikos says that the bones from the burial are those of a man in his forties, while those from the antechamber (also given royal honors) belong to a woman in her early or middle twenties. This would fit either Philip equally well; it would also suit not only Philip III’s wife Eurydice but also several of Philip II’s wives or mistresses. (Some physical anthropologists feel, however, that even this is overconfident, that the bones require further expert examination, that the ages may be wrong or even, because of heavy shrinkage, indeterminable.) Between 336, the date of Philip II’s murder, and 317/316, when Cassander gave Philip III and Eurydice a royal burial at Aegae, is only twenty years, far too short a period to get a decisive verdict from the scanty pottery or the style of the silver vessels found in the tomb.


Advocates of Philip Arrhidaios have argued, inter alia, that the barrel vaulting found in the tomb was only brought back to Greece from Mesopotamia by Alexander’s engineers, that the royal golden diadem among the grave goods was likewise an Oriental import first affected by Alexander, and that Alexander was unlikely to pay funeral honors to his father’s last wife, especially after her uncle had accused him, at the wedding feast, of being illegitimate. These arguments, too, amount to very little. The point about barrel-vaulting is an argumentum ex silentio: all we know is that the tomb is the oldest example so far found, and Plato, writing about 350 in the Laws (947D-E), mentions an underground vaulted tomb of some sort. The diadem, probably meant to be worn over a helmet, could well be cognate with the victory wreaths known from Philip II’s coinage. We simply do not know who the woman in the antechamber was, and in any case the right to burial was so fundamental to an ancient Greek that any suggestion of withholding her royal dues from a dead queen, or indeed from anyone else, cannot be sustained without strong supporting evidence.

There is also the problem of the greaves in the tomb: one is shorter than the other, and oddly shaped. We know that Philip II had a lame leg, weak enough to make him stumble and fall when drunk, from an arrow wound in the thigh. Why, though, it is asked, should such a wound shorten his leg? By shattering the cartilege? By breaking the thigh bone, which was then badly reset? The Alexander Romance, not the best of evidence but not on that account to be dismissed out of hand on details, claimed that Alexander built a temple, or shrine, close to his father’s tomb. Andronikos found what he claims to be such a shrine. The great painting of a lion-hunt across the tomb’s façade, with a bearded central figure, has (like most of the evidence) evoked contradictory arguments, one side claiming that the lion hunt, as an iconographic motif, was only reintroduced from the East by Alexander, while the other stresses the inappropriateness of such a scene for the handicapped Philip Arrhidaios, and reminds us, not only of the earlier Mycenaean fondness for representing lions, but also of the fact that lions were still found in the north as late as the fifth century BC. For virtually every point a counterpoint can be found. One ends by sympathizing with the curator who remarked: “This show is called ‘The Search For Alexander,’ but we’ve finally found Philip II instead, and we’re not even sure about that.” 

Yet the symposium, despite all these ethnic and professional crosscurrents, left a memorable impression with every person who sat through it. Here, at least, the courtesies of debate were punctiliously observed, and the quest for truth emerged as something more than mere pious lip-service. Even the most explosive topics were addressed—at least in public—with a scrupulous concern for evidence, and a total lack of inflammatory rhetoric. Simmering personal animosities, to everyone’s surprise, began to cool off and be replaced by serious attempts at intellectual rapprochement. In at least two instances, old enmities dissolved in genuine, and very moving, reconciliations. Suddenly, it was Camp David rather than Panmunjom. The hype outside became unimportant: the artifacts, after all, were there, and one felt an immense gratitude to the Greeks simply for letting these priceless and fragile objects cross the Atlantic. Magna est veritas et praevalebit: nowadays that phrase looks more than a little shop-soiled, but for a brief period in Washington—despite Time Inc., Ruder & Finn, museum finances, the Macedonian question, and Alexander’s wreck of a half-brother—it seemed to be getting a new lease of life.

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