Rome: City and Empire Exhibition

Last weekend I headed out to the National Museum of Australia, Canberra to check out their new exhibition Rome: City and Empire. I studied ancient Roman history back at uni so as soon as I saw this advertised I’d put it on my list of things to do! Let’s start off with some fast facts about the exhibition so you can visit too, and I’ll also include what I think are some of the pros and cons of the exhibition and some of my favourite objects! I would highly recommend this exhibition: it’s a fun morning/afternoon out, you can see lots of cool ancient Roman objects, and you can discover a great overview of ancient Roman history and lifestyle.

Fast Facts

Context and Scope: 200 objects from the British Museum collection covering Early Rome, through to the Republican period, and into the Empire. Ends pretty much with Constantine the Great when the capital of the Roman empire was moved to Constantinople. Includes objects from England to Syria.

Object Types: Busts, jewellery, mosaics, wall paintings, amphora, coins, vases, sarcophagai, etc.

Location: National Museum of Canberra, Australia

Exhibition Dates: Open now! Closes 3rd February 2019.

Time Taken in Exhibition: I took about 1 hour and 50 minutes. But I’m the type that reads every single information panel! 

Cost: $24 Adult, $12 Child, $60 Family

More Info: National Museum of Australia

National Museum of Australia

Exhibition Pros

  • Great overview of the history of ancient Rome including the basics of culture, spread of the empire, famous people, and major events.
  • If you can’t make it to the British Museum, but still want to tick some ancient Roman artefacts off your ‘To See’ bucket list, this exhibition is a must-see!
  • Not too wordy or information dense. It would be possible to see the exhibition in an hour or so and have a really good experience.

Exhibition Cons

  • Bring your magnifying glass if you want to see the coins in full detail! It’s very tricky to see them properly under the glass; especially when the spotlight is blocked by your own head when you lean over the case to get a closer look…
  • There is no hint of historical controversy in the exhibition and it doesn’t leave you with any conundrums about what is known about ancient Rome. 
  • Your exhibition viewing experience will be filled with hushed whisperings of the other visitors (so long as you go on a week day!) as well as the almost constant beeping of proximity sensors when visitors get to close to an object! But, they’re there for a reason, so not too bothersome. 

Rome: City and Empire

Favourite Object

This is a bit of a toss up for me as I sorta have three favourite objects… So, the first object that really grabbed my attention was a hut urn. So called because it looks like a little hut. This ceramic urn would contain the ashes of the deceased. Why did this object strike me so much? The hut urn is an Etruscan cultural tradition that the Early Romans also took on to some extent. I have a bit of a crush on the Etruscans, having done some study a few years ago on what remains of their language.

The second object to grab me was a gladiatorial discharge ticket. Not much to look at really; it is a metal oblong with an inscription, and is only about 5 cm long and 0.5 cm wide. Despite having done a lot of study about ancient Roman culture, I had never seen or heard of one of these. Go figure! Evidence that gladiators could go free…

The third object that got me really excited was a theatre ticket. Again, it’s a pretty small and diminutive object. It’s ceramic, white, and probably a tad smaller than the discharge ticket, with a small head carved at the top. The idea that someone held onto this ticket over a thousand years ago, and used it to find their seat at the theatre excites me. 

So, let me know what your favourite object was when you go to see Rome: City and Empire!

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