Giacomo Maria Oliva, Deputy Director of the museum Museo di Reggio Calabria in Italy, gave a talk in Italian on Wednesday at the University of Debrecen titled Bronzi di Riace. The topic he covered was the (hi)story of the ancient Greek bronze statues that had been discovered in the sea near the Calabrian city of Riace in 1972.

Nearly two hundred people attended the presentation delivered in the venue called Aula of the Main Building of UD, which was offered jointly by the Italian Department of the Faculty of Arts (BTK) and the Italian organization AICS (Associazione Italiana Cultura Sport). This special talk on art history was enjoyed not only by students majoring in Italian at the university but also by high school students specializing in Italian studies in a variety of institutions of secondary education of Debrecen, including the high schools named Ady, Csokonai, Dóczy, Svetits, Szent József and Tóth Árpád.

The full-body ancient bronze statues of two men, preserved in surprisingly good condition despite the several thousand years they had spent in the sea, were found by Stefano Mariottini, a chemist from Rome, who spent his vacation by diving near Riace fifty years ago, on August 16, 1972. The pieces, which are supposed to be the sculptures of two Greek warriors or, perhaps, either mythological figures or ancient athletes, were probably cast around the 5th or 4th century BC. They were first restored in Florence for as many as twelve years to undo the damage caused by salt water and, now, they are kept in a special hall of the Reggio Calabria museum.

Professor Giacomo Maria Oliva has studied the exploration of the history of art treasures for 37 years, which makes him one of the most experienced experts on this subject. In his presentation, in addition to elaborating on the process of the excavation and restoration, he also gave an account on the art historical values of the sculptures.

“It was by pure chance that these bronze statues, which are regarded as rarities all over the world, were discovered at the bottom of the sea, following which it took more than a decade of efforts exerted by specialists in archeology and restoration to make it possible for the general public attracted to the ancient world to admire them in the museum’s exhibition hall,” said Giacomo Maria Oliva.

The professor also noted that what the statues are exactly about, as well as how and under what circumstances they had gotten into the sea, would be still of great interest to researchers today, who never stopped seeking answers to these questions. Another curiosity of the finds is that, according to our current knowledge, there is but a total of just five bronze statues of this kind surviving from ancient times including these two from Riace.

As regards the presentation, László Pete, Head of the Italian Department of the Faculty of Humanities at UD, emphasized that it is extremely important that both university students majoring in Italian and high school students studying Italian get to learn about the culture of Italy in addition to acquiring the Italian language.

“Languages are inseparable from their speakers and these speakers’ culture. Thus, a language is the tool for getting to know and understanding a country and its people, together with its traditions and customs.  You can try and learn a language all by itself, but it is only possible to understand and master it by getting to know the culture of which that language is a means of expression,” said László Pete to the portal

He then added that the lecture hosted by the University of Debrecen on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the statues provided a great opportunity for this.

The event held in the Main Building of UD that made cultural history was just the first step in a series of similar functions to be arranged in Hungary. The program will continue on Thursday, December 1, at the Italian Cultural Institute of Budapest.

Press Center – BZs