Pompeii Exhibit Opens at Museum of Science & Industry

The traveling exhibit Pompeii: The Exhibition opened yesterday, Thursday, February 23, A.D. 2023, at the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.) in Chicago and runs through Monday, September 4, A.D. 2023.  The exhibit is spread out over two galleries on the Main Floor of the Museum of Science and Industry’s Central Pavilion.  It occupies Gallery 1 and Gallery 2, so it has the same footprint that Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes had in 2021.[1] 

Gallery 1 is off the Rosenwald Court (North Court) across from Genetics and next to Science Storms on the Main Level (second floor).  [The Art of the Brick, which closed last month, onMonday, January 16, A.D. 2023, occupied Gallery 1.]  Gallery 2 is off the (the lower floor of the Transportation Gallery), which is to say it is between the Transportation Gallery and Yesterday’s Main Street

Pompeii: The Exhibition is not covered by Museum Entry (general admission) and requires a separate, timed-entry ticket.  Tickets for Pompeii: The Exhibition cost $18 for Adults (and teens twelve-and-over); $14 for Children (ages three-to-eleven); $9 for Members; and Free for Annual Fund Members.

In a press release, the M.S.I. stated, “Objects on loan from the unparalleled collection of the Naples National Archeological Museum include mosaics and frescoes, gladiator helmets, armor, and weapons, a ship’s anchor, as well as everyday objects, including lamps, jugs, cups, plates, pots and pans and other household objects and furniture, jewelry, medical instruments, and tools.”

On August 24, A.D. 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted and destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in Campania, Italy.  [They sound alike, so it is necessary to point out the name of the city Pompeii is not to be confused with Pompey, the Roman general who helped put down the slave revolt led by Spartacus and ruled with Crassus and Julius Caesar to rule Rome (at the end of the Roman Republic) in the First Triumvirate. [2]]   Some inhabitants managed to flee, but others sought refuge in their homes or other buildings.  Soon, the survivors who had not fled the area already whether they wanted to flee also or not were unable to do so because up to nine feet of ash piled up in some places, blocking up doorways and other paths and causing roofs to collapse.  The next day, around midnight, a cloud of toxic gas descended from the mountain and killed people and animals that had survived the initial eruption and had not escaped.  Subsequently, Mount Vesuvius blanketed the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum under several feet worth of ash and pumice.  Emperor Titus, who had only come to the throne in 79 A.D., spent public funds to help refugees.  In modern times, archeologists discovered the shapes of many people and animals had been preserved where they died as their remains decomposed and left voids in the ash.

We know much about the tragic destruction of these cities for two reasons.  Firstly, within a few decades of the disaster, the aristocratic philosopher and public servant Pliny the Younger left an account of Pompeii’s destruction.  For him, writing about it was not merely an academic exercise because his uncle and adoptive father, Pliny the Elder, who was an admiral as well as a polymath scholar, had died during an attempt to evacuate Pompeii using the fleet based at Misenum, northwest of Pompeii on the Bay of Naples.[3]  [Although today we can connect his account of Pompeii’s destruction with the site of Pompeii, unfortunately, by early modern times the identity of the ruins near Vesuvius that Italians sometimes came across had been forgotten.]  Secondly, in 1740 the ruins of Pompeii were discovered and ever since archeologists have recovered artifacts, artworks, and casts of human and animal remains.   Pompeii and Herculaneum had effectively been preserved in a way that gives us much insight into daily life in the Roman Empire.

Chevy Humphrey, President and Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of the M.S.I., stated, “The blend of scientific discovery and media-rich way of retelling history allow visitors to experience the awe of nature and human ingenuity.  We’re thrilled to bring this innovative exhibition to Chicago and provide our guests with the ability to travel through time and immerse themselves in Pompeii with breathtaking, real-life examples of archeology, geology, earth science, art history, culture, and more.”

In a press release, the M.S.I. stated, “The exhibition depicts daily life in Pompeii through an incredible combination of projections, audio, video, and photographic murals supplemented by more than 150 priceless artifacts on display from the unparalleled collection of the Naples National Archeological Museum in Italy.  These artifacts, which include gladiator armor, weapons, pots, furniture, jewelry, medical instruments, and many more objects, provide a comprehensive view of how the people of Pompeii lived, loved, worked, worshipped, and found entertainment before disaster struck in this bustling commercial port and strategic military city.”

Gallery 1

After queuing up and handing in tickets, museum visitors are admitted to Gallery 1 on a timed-entry basis in groups.  Each group waits in the first room, looking at artifacts in display cases and waiting in front of a pair of doors, watching a video about the destruction of Pompeii that plays above the doors.  This doorway is designed to look like a pair of wooden doors between a pair of Doric columns as if we in the group ate waiting to be admitted into the villa of a Roman aristocrat or wealthy merchant.  When the video ends, the doors automatically open giving the group a view of a statue in a pool before they enter, again as if the group is entering the atrium of a Roman villa.  The dramatic parting of the doors give the experience just before entering the next room a “wow” factor.

Figure 1 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: When visitors enter Pompeii: The Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry, at the far end of the first room in Gallery 1, they encounter a doorway that is a mockup of the portico of a Roman villa.  After the introductory video plays, the doors automatically open.

Figure 2 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: After the introductory video plays overhead for the traveling exhibit Pompeii: The Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry, the doors in a mockup of a villa’s portico dramatically swing open.  Before visitors step through the doors, they glimpse the next room that’s a mockup of the atrium from a Roman villa.  This gives the introduction a “wow” factor. In this picture, we see a group of teens entering the atrium.

That second room modeled on an atrium of a Roman villa is filled with artifacts and artworks including as marble busts of unknown figures recovered from the ruins of Pompeii, a frieze, a section of a mosaic floor, bronze keys, an inkwell, a small sculpture of Athena, a small sculpture of a sphinx, a money box, and coins.  This mosaic on display has never left Italy before.  An exhibit label with the title “Gods of Hearth & Home” explains [before they converted to Christianity] the ancient Romans worshipped their own ancestors.  These spirits of their ancestors were called lares.[4]

Figure 3 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: In the second room for Gallery 1 of the traveling exhibit Pompeii: The Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry, one of the things visitors may learn about is that [before the ancient Romans converted to Christianity] they worshipped their ancestors.  These spirits of dead ancestors were called lares and were worshipped at private shrines called lararium.  The Romans also worshipped a pantheon of gods that largely corresponded with the Greek pantheon, but with different names.  For example, Jupiter was the Roman counterpart to Zeus.

Figure 4 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption:  This is a bronze statuette of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, art, and war, on display of Gallery 1 of the traveling exhibit Pompeii: The Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry.  She is armed and equipped with a helmet, spear, and shield.

Figure 5 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption:  At left is a ceramic money box and at right is a hoard of twenty-three silver coins found in a wooden box found with the remains of a man whose remains were discovered in the peristyle at Pompeii’s House of the Successus.

Figure 6 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This frieze recovered from the ruins of Pompeii that depicts dwarf performers.  We can also see a reflection of two busts that are on display across the room.

In the third room (the second after the doors opened), a docent explained how computer programs are being used to reconstruct what mosaics looked like and robot arms are being used to physically reconstruct them.

Figure 7 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This display is in the third room of Gallery 1 of the traveling exhibit Pompeii: The Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry.    At left, is a statue of a seated satyr.  In the center, is a fountain basin.  At right, is a statue of a naked boy holding a goose in his left hand and a bunch of grapes in his right hand.  The satyrs were supposed to be attendants of the god Bacchus, the god of wine and viticulture.[5] According to the exhibit label, the Romans imported satyrs from the Egyptian pantheon.

Figure 8 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: At the center of this display case is a bronze goat-shaped fountain.  At the left is a dog-shaped fountain spout.

Figure 9 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: At left is a marble statue of a genuflecting satyr and at right is a marble statue of the Greek god Dionysus.  The Romans spliced together the Greek god Dionysus and the Italian god Liber to make the Roman god Bacchus.

The fourth room (the third after the doors opened) has artifacts and exhibit labels that relate the rich volcanic soil around Mount Vesuvius allowed farmers in the region to have three harvests per year, the fact that Romans lived lives not very different from our own, and the importance of slave labor to the Roman Empire.  An exhibit label on the subject of slavery in the Roman Empire explains that slaves earned wages and could purchase their freedom, and some freedmen rose to prominent positions in Roman society.[6]

Parents, please note there is a discrete alcove-like rectangular space at the end of Gallery 1 that is devoted to Roman “erotic art.”  The images on display are tame by the standards of modern-day hardcore pornography (but one of the exhibit labels explains these are not the most explicit images archeologists have uncovered at Pompeii) and children should not be exposed to them.  There are large signs at both entrances of this room warning museum visitors.  Wee tots carried by parents and older but still young children who walk alongside parents shouldn’t notice they are missing anything if parents have the wit to usher them past the room in question, out the door, and on to Gallery 2.  Regarding this space, there is a statement on the M.S.I.’s Website, “A gallery within the exhibition—which may be bypassed—contains adult content, themes and artifacts which may not be suitable for all guests.”

Gallery 2

The first room in Gallery 2 is devoted to artifacts recovered from Pompeii and Herculaneum related to gladiators and legionaries, including several helmets.  It includes an educational video about gladiatorial games.  This room will appeal to fans of Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960), Sir Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000), and the Starz television show Spartacus (2010-2013).

In the second room, museum visitors stand while they watch a movie that is about five minutes long that is a C.G.I. re-enactment of the destruction of Pompeii.  At one point, this experience is enhanced by artificial fog or mist that enters the theater maybe halfway through the film.  This film depicts the destruction of buildings and omits gruesome details of people dying in the streets, but adults and teens will understand (or should understand).  After the film is over, museum guests walk around the screen on either side and enter the third room.  The docents who facilitate this experience are careful to warn visitors they may leave the theater and go on to the third room early if the film is too intense for them.

The third room has several casts of people who lost their lives in Pompeii.  It is sobering to go through this section and is somewhat like walking through an exhibit with real mummies, such as at The Field Museum of Natural History.  The fact that all these people died suddenly, though, in a natural disaster, whereas mummies might have died in all kinds of ways in all stages of life, lends a tragic air to the exhibit as a whole and this section of it in particular, something akin to the Titanic exhibit the M.S.I. hosted twice some years ago.  It would not surprise me if some visitors might not shed tears or hold back tears either in that room or reflecting on it later.

There is a gift shop at the end of Gallery 2.  It has an exhibit guide about the same size and shape as a magazine and costs $15.  In addition, there are also copies of Ghosts of Vesuvius by Charles Pellegrino, Pompeii: The Exhibition-branded clothing (what young adults call “merch”), and replica statues that will appeal to customers of Design Toscano.

Many paintings, novels, movies, television shows, and songs either depicted the destruction of Pompeii or alluded to the event.  These include the painting The Last Day of Pompeii by the Russian artist Karl Bryullov (1799-1852), which inspired The Last Days of Pompeii by novelist and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), 1st Baron Lytton, published in 1834.  That novel, in turn, has been adapted several times in Italy and the U.S.A.  Basil Rathbone (1892-1967), who is best known for playing Sherlock Holmes in movies, in radio drams, and on the stage, as well as Sir Guy of Gisbourne in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), played Pontius Pilate in the R.K.O. film The Last Days of Pompeii (1935), which used the title of Bulwer-Lytton’s novel but was only loosely inspired by it as it had a plot that was largely original.  The Last Days of Pompeii (1984) was an Italian-American miniseries adaptation of Bulwer-Lytton’s novel.  In the U.S.A., it aired on A.B.C., and in Italy it aired on Rai.

The British television series Up, Pompeii! (1969-1970) was a metafictional sitcom in the spirit of the bawdy Carry On series of comedies and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) and is set in Pompeii before Mount Vesuvius erupted.[7]  It has been adapted for the stage and had three films, starting with Up Pompeii (1971).  The director Paul W.S. Anderson, who is best known for directing video game adaptations that star his wife, Milla Jovovich, produced Pompeii (2014).  It was a romantic epic film that culminates in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.  It starred Kit Harrington, Emily Browning, and Kiefer Sutherland.  One episode each of the Doctor Who revival television series on the B.B.C. and the Loki streaming series on Disney+ depicted the destruction of Pompeii. 

“The story of Pompeii’s destruction and preservation is well-known around the world for providing a perfect encapsulation of life during the Roman time,” stated John Norman, President of World Heritage Exhibitions, producers of Pompeii: The Exhibition.  “We wanted to bring this historical event back to life and allow visitors to relive it vividly.  By combining priceless artifacts with multimedia productions, we have created an authentic, captivating retelling of life in Pompeii.”

World Heritage Exhibitions (W.H.E.) produces, promotes, and designs touring exhibits and exhibitions that go from museum to museum.  These touring exhibits and exhibitions have included artifacts recovered from the tomb of Pharoah Tutankhamun (King Tut), the palace of Cleopatra VII, and artifacts recovered from the wreckage of the Titanic, as well as artifacts recovered from the ruins of Pompeii.  Over 30,000,000 people on six continents have seen these touring exhibits. 

In 2021, W.H.E. became part of NEON, which had organized touring exhibits, exhibitions, and immersive experiences including Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N., Avatar: The Experience, and Jurassic World: The Exhibition.  Together, W.H.E. and NEON created Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharoahs, Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru, Mummies of the World: The Exhibition, Pompeii: The Exhibition, Victoria the T. rex, and Auschwitz. Not Long ago.  Not far away.

Fans of the H.B.O./B.B.C. television series Rome (2005-2007) will appreciate the whole exhibit, I believe, but there are three things in the exhibit that brought the show to mind.  Firstly, the columns in the exhibit are painted red at the bottom, which is historically accurate and the show reflected (unlike older movies that consistently depicted Rome as being a city of palaces and other public buildings were comprised of starkly white marble unadorned by any paint, which to be fair to set designers, is how neoclassical buildings built in modern times look because the average modern person is unaware those ancient buildings had paint but it fell off over time.  Secondly, the section on graffiti in Pompeii in Gallery 1 reminded me of a plot point in Season 1 Episode 5 of Rome in which a propaganda campaign carried out with graffiti forces Caesar’s hand.  Thirdly, the section in Gallery 2 about gladiators reminded me of the episode in Season 1 where one of the show’s heroes, Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd), must jump into a gladiatorial game to fight alongside his friend, the show’s other hero, Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson).

Ticket Prices

Museum Entry (general admission) tickets are $21.95 for adults and $12.95 for children (three-to-eleven), and free for Museum Members.  This covers the Mold-A-Rama™ exhibit and most permanent exhibits, including the Zephyr, Science Storms, You! The Experience, the Ships Gallery, Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, The Great Train Story, Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze, and walking around (but not through) the U-505.  Museum Entry also covers Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light.

Tickets for Giant Dome Theater movies are $12 for adults and $9 for children, and free or discounted for Members.  The same is true for Coal Mine Tours, Fab Lab workshops, and Dissect an Eye workshops in the Education Lab.  For the U-505 On-Board Tour, tickets are $18 for adults, $14 for children, $17 for Adult Members, and $13 for Child Members.[8]

Notes on Museum Eateries

The Museum Kitchen, which replaced the Brain Food Court, opened on Monday, December 19, A.D. 2022.  I did not sample the food yesterday, but it looked clean and well-lit like one of the better food courts at a shopping mall or an airport.  It has a quasi-Art Deco or Art Moderne style entrance with allusions to the Museums of Science and Industry’s neoclassical domes. 

Figure 10 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: The Museum Kitchen, which replaced the Brain Food Court, opened on Monday, December 19, A.D. 2022.  I did not sample the food yesterday, but it looked clean and well-lit like one of the better food courts at a shopping mall or an airport. 

Figure 11 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: Museum Kitchen has a quasi-Art Deco or Art Moderne style entrance with allusions to the Museums of Science and Industry’s neoclassical domes. 

A coffee and doughnut shop, Stan’s Donuts & Coffee, had previously opened in the Lower Court, on the Lower Level (ground floor), in the Central Pavilion. Stan’s Donuts & Coffee replaced the Museum Café (a coffee shop that also sold sandwiches).

A new restaurant I mentioned in 2021, the Museum Parke Café, with outdoor seating in Beaver Park, on the Lower Level, between the Henry Crown Space Center and the East Pavilion, is closed.  It has been replaced by One Small Snack, a takeout café in the southeast corner of the Henry Crown Space Center.[9]  When I visited the M.S.I. yesterday for the opening of Pompeii: The Exhibition, One Small Snack was closed but looked like it could re-open (presumably on busy days) on a moment’s notice.  I also noticed that the Smart Home is still standing in Beaver Park and Beaver Park has been rebranded Smart Park.

Finnigan’s Sandwich Shoppe (a rebranding of Finnegan’s Ice Cream Parlor), off Yesterday’s Main Street, on the Main Level, in the Central Pavilion, is permanently closed.  I had written before I “did not see it being marked off as undergoing renovations on the current floor plan, but I surmise that it is closed because I do not see hours listed for it posted on the M.S.I.’s Website and nor is it mentioned on the list of restaurants and shops on the Website.”  I found a sign on Yesterday’s Main Street that stated a Member’s Lounge would open in that space and ice cream can now be purchased in the Museum Kitchen.  The Photo Studio off Yesterday’s Main Street was also closed when I visited.

When I wrote about the opening of The Art of the Brick last year, The Idea Factory, an interactive attraction that is popular with young children, located near Farm Tech, in the Central Pavilion on the Lower Level (ground floor) was closed.  It had re-opened by the time I wrote about the 80th Anniversary Christmas Around the World.


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About the Museum of Science & Industry

I noticed the exhibit hall next to Genetics that formerly held Fast Forward and previously held the Time exhibit that consisted of timepieces from the Seth Atwood collection is now closed.  A new exhibit will open in that space in 2024.

There are new graphics in the U-505’s exhibit hall.  The exhibit labels along the ramp that lead down to the U-boat convey technical information in a readily understandable way and look like static versions of a certain type of educational video.  The U-505 is depicted in red on a black background while facts are conveyed either in white text (accompanied by black-and-white photos and white drawings) on that same black background or in red text in a yellow box. 

Figure 12 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: The U-505 exhibit hall has new graphics, including exhibit labels on the ramp leading to the U-boat.

Figure 13 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: This is one of the new exhibit labels in the U-505 exhibit hall.

There is no longer a photographer standing on the ramp asking each visitor or group of visitors if he, she, or they would like to be photographed in front of the U-505 and then offered the opportunity to purchase the photographs as they depart the exhibit hall.  However, there is a photobooth visitors pass as they step off the elevator as they return to the Lower Level.

Figure 14 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: The Smart Home from the old exhibit Smart Home Green + Wired remains standing in Beaver Park, between the East Pavilion and the Henry Crown Space Center. Michelle Kaufmann was the architect.

Figure 14 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: There have been exhibit labels in the windows in the hallway connecting the Henry Crown Space Center to the East Pavilion with views of the Smart Home for a little while, and I am unsure if these particular exhibit labels are new but I only noticed on this occasion they reflect Beaver Park being relabeled “Smart Park.”

There is a large empty space now in the Henry Crown Space Center formerly occupied by a mockup of the International Space Station.  Presumably, this is where the SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft will go.

The Museum of Science and Industry is sometimes stylized as the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago and as the Museum of Science + Industry, Chicago.  One of the Museums in the Park, it is situated in the northeast corner of the Chicago Park District’s Jackson Park in East Hyde Park, a neighborhood along the shoreline in the Hyde Park Community Area on the South Side of Chicago. The Museum of Science and Industry is housed in the Palace of Fine Arts, the last pavilion left standing in Jackson Park from Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893).

It sits at the southwest corner of 57th Drive and DuSable Lake Shore Drive.  [In 2020, the Chicago City Council voted to tack DuSable in front of Lake Shore Drive.]  One southbound lane of DuSable Lake Shore Drive is closed from 57th Drive to Hayes Drive due to roadway work related to the construction of the Obama Presidential Center.

The address is 5700 South DuSable Lake Shore Drive.  The phone number is (773) 684-1414. The Website is https://www.msichicago.org/.

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[1] Older employees, volunteers, and visitors may recall this exhibit hall was formerly three exhibit halls and that they held the original Hall of Timekeeping exhibit, the Numbers exhibit, and the Telephone exhibit.  This is not to be confused with the more recent Time exhibit that consisted of timepieces from the Seth Atwood collection.  That exhibit hall is now occupied by Fast Forward.

[2] In 73 B.C., the Thracian gladiator Spartacus led a slave rebellion that at its high point encompassed an army of 90,000 former slaves.  Two years later, Gnaeus Pompeius (known in English as Pompey Magnus or Pompey the Great) had been the youngest lieutenant of the dictator Sulla, helped Crassus put down the slave revolt.  Afterwards, Crassus crucified Spartacus and many of his followers. [Crassus famously (or infamously considering he increased his fortune by having properties in Rome set ablaze and offering to have the fires put out in return for a partnership with the property owner) the world’s richest man (or at least the richest private citizen).]  Pompey killed many of the surviving rebels in 70 B.C. With the support of their private armies, Pompey and Crassus took political power legally as co-consuls in 70 B.C.  They undid Sulla’s unilateral measures.  In doing so, they reduced the power of the Senate and restored power over the court system to the equestrian order (the class of Roman oligarchs where the families were led by knights, so the rich, but not the super-rich class of oligarchs where the families were led by senators).  In 67 B.C., pirates posed such a threat to Rome’s supply of corn that the Senate gave him command under a new law, the Lex Gabinia, which gave him proconsular powers (authority equivalent to a consul) over all provinces within fifty miles of the Mediterranean Sea.  At that point, he commanded both a large army and a naval fleet, had authority to draw money from the treasury, and had authority to appoint military commanders.  Within three months, he had led a campaign that removed piracy from the Mediterranean.  Subsequently, he settled the surviving pirates on lands he gave them.  At this point, the Roman Empire as such did not yet exist, but it would be fair to say the Roman Republic had an empire.  He received command of all Roman forces in the east and reorganized the area between the Caspian Sea and the Red Sea.  In 62 B.C., Pompey returned home, disbanded his army, and expected the Senate would honor him with a Roman Triumph, but that did not transpire, whereupon he formed the First Triumvirate with Crassus and Julius Caesar.  The latter was a rising leader amongst the populares faction in the Senate and Pompeii married his daughter, Julia.  Caesar balanced the more powerful partners of Pompey and Crassus ended because Caesar conquered Gaul and Britain, and Crassus and Pompey grew jealous of him; Pompey’s wife (Caesar’s daughter) died in childbirth in 54 B.C.; and Crassus suffered defeat in a foolish attempt to conquer the Parthian Empire in 53 B.C. Afterward, Pompey sided with the Optimates (Caesar’s enemies) in the Senate.  The Optimates in the Senate provoked Caesar by threatening him with prosecution, Pompey refused to let him stand for election as Consul, which would have given Caesar immunity from prosecution. Consequently, Caesar crossed the Rubicon on January 10, 49 B.C. with one of his legions and rather than confront him in Italy, Pompey and the Optimates fled to Greece, where Caesar defeated Pompey.  The latter fled to Egypt, where Pharoah Ptolemy XIII had him killed in the hope the gesture would please Caesar.  Instead, Caesar took up residence in Egypt and sided with Ptolemy XIII’s sister, Cleopatra VII Philopator (who would end up being the last Macedonian-Greek ruler of Egypt).  He put down a rebellion (as he saw it) by Ptolemy XIII and ruled with Cleopatra (though she entered a nominal marriage with another brother).  Caesar then defeated a second Optimate army in Spain and returned to Rome, where the surviving Senators elected him Dictator for Life.  He called himself Imperator not just in the immediate aftermath of a successful battle like previous victorious generals, but all the time and it evolved into the title emperor, which came to mean a monarch who ruled not a country like a king or even a few countries like a high king, but many countries, with numerous vassal kings or governors ruling provinces that had formerly been separate countries.  Caesar also wore purple like a monarch and built a temple in Rome dedicated to Cleopatra and their son, Caesarian, while she likewise built a temple in honor of him in Egypt.  Caesar introduced leaders from Gaul and Spain who were not Italian to that body, which diluted the power of the Roman aristocrats but made the body more representative of the massive, international polity that was emerging.  The Senate grew to 900 members.  Caesar gave land in forty colonies to approximately 80,000 landless veteran troops and another 80,000 landless civilians. He replaced the old Roman lunar calendar with a solar calendar modeled on that of Egypt.  A group of Optimates with whom Caesar had been too lenient murdered him on the floor of Pompey’s Theater on the Ides of March, 44 B.C., in the belief they were defending the Republic from a man who was determined to make himself king.  The first recorded autopsy followed.  The Optimates only realized afterwards that Caesar was too popular with the common people for them to get away with openly murdering him.  Caesar’s cousin and right-hand man, Marcus Antonius (82-30 B.C.), remembered as Mark Antony, gave a stirring at Caesar’s funeral, as later dramatized by William Shakespeare.  He formed in the Second Triumvirate with Caesar’s great-great nephew/posthumously adopted son Octavian (27 B.C.-14 A.D. ), and General Lepidus.  The Second Triumvirate defeated the Optimates.  Mark Antony wed Octavian’s sister, Octavia, but moved to Egypt and became Cleopatra’s lover.  They conquered Armenia.  The members of the Second Triumvirate turned on each other with open warfare in 32 B.C.  Octavian defeated Mark Antony in a naval battle, the Battle of Actium, in 31 B.C.  He pursued Mark Antony to Egypt (just as Caesar had pursued Pompey), where Mark Antony committed suicide and at least ostensibly so did Cleopatra.  Octavian had his cousin, Caesarian, the actual (though illegitimate) son of Caesar, murdered in the belief there could be only one “son of Caesar.”  He took Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s children back with him to Italy, where the Senate eventually proclaimed him to be a living god named Augustus, though he was only supposed to be worshipped in the Asian provinces.  Augustus Caesar also used the title Imperator.  He was also said to be Princeps (First Citizen).  Just for show, Augustus Caesar had a co-counsel but everyone understood Augustus had all the real power as he paid for half of Rome’s armies out of his own pocket.  He could afford to do this and give grain to Rome’s poor citizens so they could bake their own bread or bring the grain to bakeries to bake bread for them because he alone ruled Egypt.  Thus, the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire, and the imperial monarchy entered its first phase, the Principatus or Principate, which ended with the reign of Diocletian, who dispensed with any pretense he was merely first citizen amongst equal citizens.  He preferred to be addresses as Dominus (Lord), which was the beginning of the second phase of the monarchy, the Dominatus or Dominate.

[3] Pliny the Elder’s sister, Pliny the Younger’s mother, alerted the admiral to the plume that was visible from his villa.  Pliny the Younger was a teenager at the time and later recounted these events in two letters to his friend, Tacitus.  Pliny the Younger became a court official like his uncle.  He served as a counselor to Emperor Trajan and as Governor of Bithynia. 

[4] Museum visitors interested in this topic of the ancient Greeks and Romans practicing ancestor-worship should read The Ancient City by Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges (1830-1889), published under its original French title La Cité antique, in 1864.

[5] The Roman god Bacchus was a combination of two different gods: the Greek god Dionysus and the Italian god Liber.

[6] This is true.  However, the Romans treated some slaves better than others.  At a major construction project or a mine, for example, virtually everyone could be a slave, including the engineers.  Generally, domestic slaves and slaves with special skills were treated better than field slaves or miner-slaves.  Many an emperor had more confidence in freedmen than in Roman aristocrats and placed freedmen in positions of authority.  Most emperors were either successful generals or the sons or nephews of successful generals and were justifiably paranoid about being overthrown and murdered and believed if they gave political power to senators who already had wealth and influence, they would be enabling future rivals who might kill them in the future.

[7] A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) was an adaptation of a Broadway musical comedy inspired by real ancient Roman comedies by Plautus (254-184 B.C.).  Zero Mostel (1915-1977) starred both on stage and screen as Pseudolus (“the lying, cheatingist slave in all of Rome”).

[8] Previously, under COVID-19 restrictions, visitors could walk around her in the U-505 exhibit hall, but not through her.

[9] Why, yes, the café is a reference to Neil Armstrong’s quote, “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”


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