The Golden Fleece. The Quest of the Argonauts: Communication of Meaning, History, and Culture

Archeological findings are the ultimate containers of the past. They tell stories that once have lost their voices. They reveal events that once have been buried deep inside myths and legends. They breathe life into customs, sacred rituals, and old traditions. They are the signifiers of diverse belief systems, complex politics, different quests, great battles, and simple everydayness. That is why when museums and galleries display a particular exhibition, they are in fact displaying more than just ancient artefacts. Visitors are enabled to take a journey back to ancient times in an instant and face the world of their ancestors and civilizations that used to live centuries ago. In this regard, just months ago The National Gallery of Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria held an exhibition of over 60 exquisite Thracian artefacts from Vasil Bojkov’s priceless collection. It contains over 3000 ancient pieces, all of which different in terms of shape, material, use, time of making, symbolism, style, and more.

The exhibition in question tool place from the 16th of March until the 10th of June, 2018. Titled ‘The Golden Fleece. The Quest of the Argonauts’, it proudly displayed 62 artefacts with 16 of them having being showcased for the very first time in public. All of them unveiled numerous aspects regarding ritual practices, religion, and craftsmanship of the people of Thrace. With so little known about them, this mysterious group of tribes truly has what to impress modern-day people with.

There is a number of symbolic figures that derived from the Thracian tribes. For example, there is the incredible and world-known pet and musician Orpheus who fascinated everyone with his music and lyre. He is considered to have been part of the tribes that inhabited nowadays Rhodope Mountain in southeastern Bulgaria. Another famous figure is Orpheus was also one of the Argonauts. Spartacus from the Medi tribe is also a recognizable name that appears in different stories. He was a gladiator who led the largest slave rebellion against the Roman Republic during the 1st century BC.

Above all, The Thracians were well-known for producing fine jewelry and ornamentation and multiple impressive golden treasures with Thracian origin speak for their skills and greatness.

Thanks to Vasil Bojkov and this event, people not only from Bulgaria but from other countries as well encountered this whole Thracian world full of wonders. ‘The Golden Fleece. The Quest of the Argonauts’ was extremely successful in shaping knowledge and communicating meaning to the visitors. It encouraged informed discussions regarding the historical and cultural significance raised by the artefacts. There were even a series of lecturers lead by Prof. Sideris who explained and compared a number of old pieces found in different countries and lands –Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, the mounds of Semibratni, and others.

What is more, the ancient masterpieces displayed at the ‘The Golden Fleece. The Quest of the Argonauts’ allowed the public to delve deeper into the Greek mythology. They followed the Argonauts on their adventure with the Jason and his quest to find the Golden Fleece. The exhibits took the viewers to ancient sacred places – Delphi and Samothraki, Thracian kingdoms, the lands of the legendary Amazons, the sacred island of Crete, and move. Individual modules unveiled different secrets of ancient people’s crafts and arts.

Undoubtedly, then, The Golden Fleece has left lasting traces in the collective historical memory. It is a symbol of new life, fertility, royal power, and the strong connection with gods.