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The bp exhibition - Troy: myth and reality

18 June 2019
At the British Museum this autumn, be immersed in the legend of the ancient city of Troy. The bp exhibition Troy: myth and reality will reveal the lasting legacy of ancient stories by the ancient Greek poet Homer and their retelling and reinterpretation right up to the present day. All the objects and artworks in the show are inspired by the tales of war, love and loss that are wrapped up in the Trojan cycle of myths and passed down through generations

From the Trojan horse to Troilus and Cressida, this exhibition will tell the stories of Troy that have fascinated and inspired people for more than 3,000 years. Scholars and explorers were in a race against time to rediscover the site of ancient Troy, and the revelations made by archaeologist Henrich Schliemann at Anatolia, Turkey in the 1870s, changed the face of this epic tale forever. 

This will be the first major Troy exhibition in the UK, and the first to feature the archaeological discoveries made at the site of Troy since they were on display in London in the 1870s. The revelation that Troy may have been a real place and that the legend may have a been a reality fascinated archaeologists for centuries. Schliemann’s excavations between 1870 - 1890 discoveries at the suspected site of ancient Troy that would see him become famous the world-over. 

Over 300 outstanding objects will reveal the impact of the stories of Troy as they have been told and retold across millennia. Many sayings often used today are taken from the Trojan cycle of myths, such as the weakness of an Achilles heel and the Trojan horse of deception. Throughout the Trojan cycle of myths, the Greek hero Achilles experiences love, loss, anger and betrayal at the hands of the Trojan war. His eventual death is caused by an arrow shot by Paris to his heel, the only part of him not protected by the divine protection embalmed on him by his mother. In an exciting collaboration with Chatsworth House, the gilded arrow in the heel of Filippo Albachini’s (1777 – 1858) marble sculpture, Wounded Achilles, has been restored especially for this exhibition.

Depictions of the Trojan horse in history are quite rare, so one exciting loan to the exhibition is a fresco from Pompeii coming on generous loan from the Naples Museum. The fresco depicts a group of Trojans leaning back with the effort of dragging the wooden horse into the city of Troy, the despair of a kneeling woman to the left of the picture serves as a precursor for the tragedy about to come as Greek soldiers ransack inside the city walls.

This exhibition presents a chance to examine the role of Helen of Troy in the story, not just as a beautiful victim or a feared seductress, but as a woman of agency and free will. Artist Eleanor Antin (b. 1935) explores history and its characters as a way to examine issues in the present. Fed up of historic renditions of history through the male gaze, in 2007 Antin created the photographic series Helen’s Odyssey. Here, Helen of Troy is allowed to speak for herself in a series of imagined scenes from her life. This exhibition will feature Judgment of Paris (after Rubens) - Dark Helen from this series, where Helen is pictured looking visibly unhappy to be used as a bribe by the goddess Aphrodite, allowing visitors to re-examine the historical representations of Helen that have gone before.

In a first for a British Museum temporary exhibition, the curatorial team have consulted with community groups to include real contemporary voices in the exhibition. The Trojan War like many wars after it resulted in widespread destruction and the displacement of people.  Working with two charities, Crisis and Waterloo Uncovered, labels for the exhibition will be co-written to illustrate ways the characters in the Trojan myths still resonate with displaced people and soldiers today.

The bp exhibition Troy: myth and reality will explore the role of the mythological history of Troy to both the ancient Greeks, Romans and future archaeologists, explorers and artists. Schielmann’s discovery that the myth really could have been a reality has continued to spur on artists, authors, directors and playwrights in new and exciting ways. This exhibition examines this evidence as well as the impact of the myths of Troy, allowing visitors to navigate through an ancient mystery that is yet to be solved.



It is important to reflect on the past as a way to explore the issues of the present, and the bp exhibition Troy: myth and reality provides an exceptional opportunity to do this. From human stories of war, displacement and migration, the myth of Troy has been told for over 3,000 years and across different cultures and languages across the globe, making the British Museum the perfect place to explore these interconnected histories. We are grateful to bp for their ongoing support without which important exhibitions such as these would simply not be possible."Hartwig Fischer,Director of the British Museum



We are delighted to support Troy: myth and reality, an exhibition which tells the stories that have inspired people for over 3,000 years. This is the latest cooperation in our long-standing partnership with the British Museum, of which we are very proud.”Peter Mather,Group regional president, Europe and head of country, UK


British Museum exhibition curators

  • Alexandra Villing, Lead Curator
  • Vicki Donnellan, Project Curator
  • Lesley Fitton, Co-curator

Notes to editors

The bp exhibition Troy: myth and reality runs from 21 November 2019 to 8 May 2020 in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery at the British Museum.

Exhibition supported by bp.

Open Saturday – Thursday
10.00–17.30, Friday 10.00–20.30. Last entry 80 mins before closing.


Tickets available at an early bird rate of £18, children under 16 free, concessions and group rates available.

Booking fees apply online and by phone.

Web: britishmuseum.org/Troy

+44 (0)20 7323 8181


The beautifully illustrated exhibition catalogue, The bp exhibition Troy: myth and reality, edited by Alexandra Villing, will be published by Thames & Hudson in collaboration with the British Museum, hardback £40, paperback £30.


A full public programme of events will accompany the exhibition.


More information on this programme is available from the press office or online nearer the exhibition opening.


About bp

bp is proud to support the British Museum exhibition Troy: myth and reality, an exciting exhibition that tells the story of the ancient city of Troy.


bp’s support for UK Arts and Culture spans a period of over 50 years. The company’s partnership with the British Museum began in 1996, enabling a diverse range of initiatives including the development of the bp Lecture Theatre. Today support for the Museum is focused on its special exhibitions programme.


bp’s long-term partnerships with the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Opera House represent one of the most significant corporate investments in UK arts and culture.


Follow updates on the exhibition via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Use #TroyExhibition and @britishmuseum

For more Troy content, follow the British Museum blog at blog.britishmuseum.org


Further information

Contact the Press Office:020 7323 8394/8594

Email: communications@britishmuseum.org


High resolution images and caption sheet available at https://bit.ly/2Zko2ZR