Rome’s glory is in town

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Rome’s glory is in town

At its time, it was the most powerful empire in the history of mankind, and at its peak, its influence stretched far from Rome to the most remote corners of the known world.
Now, those living in Seoul can get a peek into the lives of the people of the Roman Empire, when it was at the height of its glory.
The Seoul Museum of History is running an exhibition until Nov. 21 titled “Men and Gods in the Rome of the Caesars.”
The exhibition includes 390 artifacts from the era, including marble and bronze statues, pottery, medical equipment, scales, jewelry, glassworks, lamps and coins. The fine art pieces illustrate the day-to-day lives of Romans, as well as their relationships to their gods.
Gods played a very important role in the lives of the empire’s subjects. They believed in many gods, including those of Greek and Etruscan origin, and the number grew as the empire expanded.
Entering the exhibition hall, visitors can see one of the most important objects in the exhibition, the mask of Jupiter. The bearded face of one of the era’s most important gods was often used to embellish the facades of mansions and public buildings in Rome.
In another section dedicated to gods, Bacchus, the god of wine, is holding a bunch of grapes in his right hand. Even his head is decorated with grapes. The large wine amphoras, or vases, that are displayed in the section devoted to individual life suggest how important wine was to the people of the era.
There are a number of statues of Hercules, the son of Zeus, ranging from the hero as an infant to a middle-aged Hercules.
A small, bronze statue depicts the god Lares, guardian of house, family, fields and country roads. While many other statues in the exhibition depict figures without clothing, the Lares statue is an exception to this rule.
Entering the next hall, a section devoted to “private cults,” one soon sees a phallic sculpture, representing procreation and prosperity. Many Romans placed phalluses in front of their homes, in hopes of increasing their wealth and being protected against danger.
A hall dedicated to funeral monuments shows sculpted panels that used be a part of an altar, as well as urns and a sarcophagus.
The exhibition halls employ images from Roman architecture in an attempt to give visitors an idea of how the pieces were integrated into their original surroundings.
For example, portraits of mortal human beings, including important figures like Augustus, are placed on plastic pillars arranged in a circle, to suggest a public square atmosphere.
Most of the objects in the exhibition belong to the Tuscan Museum and to the Florence National Museum of Archeology.
The exhibition is being held to commemorate the 120th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Italy.

by Limb Jae-un
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