On view March 2023 through January 2025
Today, we recognize various expressions of identity, such as personal, social and national identity. Certain frames of identity are well-defined or fixed, others are based on personal choice or may change over time. Think of economic class and social status, education and profession, culture and nationality. Also, language, lifestyle, musical preference, personal companionship, political allegiance or religion. These frames of identity may invoke a sense of belonging or form exclusive alliances. They may also provoke feelings of marginalization, even policies of segregation. Or, they may create demands for acceptance and equal treatment. This exhibition engages the public to reflect upon the differences and similarities between the ancient world and our contemporary society. Some themes the visitor may encounter include masculinity and femininity, intimacy and ethnicity.
In the ancient world such expressions of identity could not always be articulated explicitly because the terminology for voicing thoughts about personal, cultural and national frames of identity often did not exist. That is not to say that Egyptians or Persians, Greeks or Romans did not experience a sense of belonging to a certain group sharing a cultural, linguistic and historical heritage. They recognized biological differences between men and women, and they believed that certain social roles belonged to the different genders. Ancient societies were unambiguously patriarchal and hierarchical, with certain political rights held as privileges of well-defined classes. Others were excluded – such as enslaved persons, peasants, women and/or resident aliens (even when living in the same country for generations), who had little or no rights.