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Gods, Myths and Mortals: Discover Ancient Greece May 26, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Americas.
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If your kids’ idea of an odyssey is transferring from the 6 train to the F train, or if the name Homer has them channel-surfing for “The Simpsons”, the new, $2 million exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan has a pantheon of ancient Greek gods to answer your prayers.

“Gods, Myths and Mortals: Discover Ancient Greece”, put together with help from present-day Greece itself, gives young Museum-goers a hands-on look at what it might have been like to go on Odysseus’ ancient Homeric journey.

But the interactive trip isn’t just hands-on, it’s body-and feet-on, too. There’s a Cyclops’ Cave complete with fuzzy, “talking” sheep that give hints on how to escape, a Sirens Karaoke Cove that gives new meaning to the lyrics “I will survive,” and a game that has participants rocking and rolling their bodies to steer an animated ship to virtual safety.

Need to blow off a little excess energy? A 13-foot-tall wooden Trojan horse towers over the exhibit. Kids and agile grown-ups, can crawl around the multiple levels inside and climb to the top for a bird’s-eye view of the 4,000-square-foot exhibit.

Elsewhere, a trio of Greek gods, Zeus, the chief god, Poseidon, god of the sea, and Athena, goddess of wisdom, hold forth in a temple, where they “discuss” their powers and responsibilities, and the accomplishments of the ancient Greek citizens who honored them. If you wonder which Greek gods your children resemble, hopefully not the god of tantrums, give them a personality test at one of the computer stations and have them answer riddles about the gods of Olympus.

Just as the ancient Greeks focused on to developing their minds and bodies, so does this exhibit, especially in the “Growing Up Greek” area. In the Home section, in ancient Greece, women and girls spent all of their time at home, children can don costumes or race Athena in a virtual step-by-step weaving contest.

Young athletes can get a workout in the “gymnasium,” where two mechanical arms on pedestals invite anyone, young or old, to compete in the ancient Olympic sport of arm wrestling.

For budding academic Olympians, an animatronic bust of Aristotle, complete with bobbing chin, is ready to test their mental limits with a game of 20 questions. But it’s not all about ancient times. Displays also show how those glorious days of a pre-Play-Doh Plato & Co. affect our lives even today.

Whether it’s the democratic method of voting, back then they used black and white pebbles in a bowl, a counting method modern voting machines still haven’t improved upon, or the design from ancient Greek pottery that adorns the rim of a diner coffee cup, reminders of ancient Greece are everywhere.

The ancients even had their own version of the computer: a complex interlocking-gear-driven artifact from circa 150 B.C., called the Antikythera mechanism, which was used by ancient navigators to calculate astronomical positions. A replica of the device is on display.

CMOM, 212 W. 83rd St.; $9. For more information, visit www.cmom.org or call (212) 721-1223.

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