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British Museum collection showcasing the mighty Roman Empire on show in Canberra

Bust of Hadrian Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli, Italy, about 125–130 CE marble. © Trustees of the British Museum, 2018. All rights reserved.

A monumental marble statue of a Roman magistrate, a frieze featuring a rare depiction of female gladiators, and a fragment of a gilded wall painting from Emperor Nero’s Golden House are among the treasures in the British Museum’s Rome: City and Empire exhibition, launched at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

In its only Australian venue, Rome: City and Empire draws on the British Museum’s extensive collection to feature stories of Rome and its empire which continue to intrigue 3000 years after its foundation.

The newly developed exhibition features more than 200 objects dating from the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE – many of which have never previously toured.

In Rome, the empire’s power and might, politics, sophistication, ingenuity, beauty, wealth, faith and diversity are all on display. Central to the exhibition is a feature on the ‘Eternal City’ of Rome – the heart of the empire from which ideas radiated – and continue to radiate – globally.

“The Roman Empire’s legacy endures in modern Australia today, encompassing our languages, our art and architecture, the design of our towns and cities and the laws by which we live – Australians are going to be captivated by this exhibition,” said National Museum director, Dr Mathew Trinca.

Dr Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum said, “The stories of Rome and its vast empire continue to captivate and intrigue people almost three thousand years after their foundation. This exhibition will be a rare opportunity to see masterpieces from the Roman Empire on display in Australia. We are delighted to be working once again with National Museum following successful collaborations in 2015 and 2016.”

The exhibition narrates the remarkable true story of how Rome grew from a cluster of small villages to become a powerful empire, the scale of which had never been seen before in the western world.

At its height, the Roman Empire encompassed more than a quarter of the world’s population.

Rome’s transformation from republic to empire is entwined in the lives and loves of a cast of iconic historical figures who also feature in the exhibition, including Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Cleopatra and the adopted son of Caesar and first Roman emperor, Augustus.

The exhibition will feature the opulence and grandeur of the realm; its military might; the rulers who oversaw it; the Gods they worshipped; and the diversity of its people.

An emotive marble statue of a bearded barbarian captive; a gold and jasper sealstone ring depicting Mark Antony; an ancient carved marble head of a woman resembling Cleopatra; a Pompeii fresco; and one of the finest bronze cavalry parade masks in existence, are some of the show’s highlights.

Rome: City and Empire on show in Canberra: 21 September 2018 – 3 February 2019.

Source: NMA

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