Sarcophagus Fragment, Roman, ca. 240-250 CE, The Art Institute of Chicago

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pompeii crubmling

I've never been to Pompeii. In fact, I've only been to Italy once, and I was mostly in Venice on that trip. The closest I've ever been to Pompeii was the "Pompeii" exhibit that rolled through the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry a few years back. Since long before then, I have dreamed of strolling through the ancient streets and peering into doorways to find polychrome frescoes or delicately laid mosaics. Nowhere in that fantasy do I picture myself having to step over someones used mattress, but apparently that's the reality today. It's shocking, though by no means surprising, that Italy has let Pompeii take a nose dive towards destruction. Italy, the very country that chases down illegally traded antiquities all over the world, can't even protect what is probably the most important Roman site ever discovered. Italy has a long history of under-maintaining its historical sites. But, in their defence, you can't walk ten feet in Italy without tripping over a Roman ruin. Still, it's politics that dictate where the money goes in Italy, and the Italian government works as smooth and efficiently as a 70's vintage Fiat. The fact that Pompeii has been left to crumble is an enormous blow not only to the Italy's reputation, but to future generations, who depend of the current stewards of historical sites to keep them in good repair. The damage is done in Pompeii and can probably only be slowed, not stopped or reversed. The irony is that digging up Pompeii in the first place is what brought about it's destruction; for a second time that is. I still dream about going to Pompeii and the surrounding area. I still read books on the subject and hope one day to do some research there. Hopefully there will be a Pompeii for me to visit one day, and I hope that I won't have to climb over any one's garbage in the process.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Roman Rostrum Found

What a find! As I mentioned in a previous post, I love nautical archeology. So much history is waiting beneath the waves waiting to be found; artifacts such as the Antikythera Mechanism and the statue of the Victorious Youth are just of few outstanding examples of what lies beneath the waves. Rostrums are an extremely rare artifact and of much historical importance; their bronze beaks helping shape both the worlds of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, now that the Greek coast is open to divers, artifacts like the ones mentioned above may be easy prey for looters. The last thing the world of antiquities needs is another avenue for looting. At least this rostrum was found by scholars, not criminals, but I'm sure we'll be hearing more news about underwater sites ravaged by theft.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

French Romans in Oklahoma

If had unlimited funds and time, my dream vacation would be a grand tour of the entire Roman Empire. I would start in Rome and go from there; from southern Scotland to the Euphrates. No ancient ruin or museum would I let go unstudied. Now, I'm sure that trip would take more vacation time than my job currently gives me, but dreams are sometimes meant to be unreasonable. Fortunately, I live in a world that does a relatively good job in sharing it's culture. Hence Roman Art from the Louvre at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. I tend to get overly excited about all things Roman, but this exhibit really gets my pulse racing. Not only are the artifacts first rate, but the exhibit its self is a wonderful balance of artistic representation and historical substance. The juxtaposition between "wealthy"and "poor" artifacts I find especially interesting. Too often the general public sees the ancient world in the form of gold and marble. This exhibit should be a refreshing reminder of the huge class differences that existed in the Roman world and perhaps will teach museum goers that society hasn't changed all that much in 2,000 years. Now, if I only had the funds and time for a trip to Oklahoma.....