Stepping into the exhibit at the National Museum of Australia you are asked to transport yourself back through the centuries to a world dominated by the might of the Roman Empire. Spanning most of Europe and into Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, we are shown how the Pax Romana meant that a man from the conquered province of what is now Hungary served 25 years in the army to be rewarded with a plot of land in Brittania, modern-day England, and one very special prize: Roman citizenship.
The exhibition presents a collection on loan from the British Museum, showcasing some of the finest examples of Roman craftsmanship. Beautifully engraved spoons demonstrate in intricate detail their fascination with both the natural world and the supernatural. Their gods play a large part in the collection and delicately carved statues of Zeus, Venus and Diana sit side by side with a massive marble bust of the empress-turned-goddess Faustina.
There is a stark contrast between the intellectual and artistic achievements with the bloody business of warfare and imperial politics is brought to light, along the mundane (4th Century ‘curse table’ which is as lambasting as the post-it notes on office fridges from people whose co-workers have eaten their yoghurt). The Romans were in so many respects, exactly as we are today while at the same time, utterly unique. Their mark on history cannot be understated and while they could be petty and cruel, they could be magnificent and awe-inspiring.
This exhibition gives us a taste of the world of the ancient Romans, enough to fire the imagination and give a new appreciation of how a small village in the shadow on the Palatine Hill grew to become the greatest city in the world and spread its influence across the world and through the ages.
The National Museum of Australia and Accor Hotels are offering you the chance to win a trip for two to Rome, valued at $5500. Simply fill out a survey after your exhibit experience for that chance to win!
The exhibit runs from September 21 until 3 February 2019 at the National Museum of Australia, tickets available here.