Lunedì, 22 Ottobre 2018

Rome celebrates Augustus 2,000 years after death


(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, September 17 - Rome is set to celebrate the
first and arguably greatest of its emperors, Augustus, with a
sweeping show at the Scuderie del Quirinale from October 18 to
February 9.
The exhibition, which ends six months before the anniversary
of Augustus's death on August 19, 14 AD, features loans from
Italian and foreign museums large and small recording the career
of Julius Caesar's adopted son who became Rome's leader after
defeating Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and the "skilful marketing"
he used to secure his place in posterity and the legitimacy of a
form of rule reviled by Roman tradition.
It records his huge PR successes: the rich literary world he
forged with poets such as Virgil and Horace, the mythic aura he
projected with huge-scale statuary work, the celebration of
peace and prosperity he brought to an empire roiled by 50 years
of bloody infighting, and his well-publicised efforts to secure
his legacy with a succession of anointed heirs before the throne
passed to the last one standing, Tiberius.
Loans include a veiled statue of Augustus as pontifex
maximus, from Rome's Palazzo Massimo; a Hermes-like statue of
the first and favourite heir-apparent Marcellus, his nephew,
from the Louvre; a marble portrait of Marcellus from the private
Sorgente Foundation; a female wild-boar relief from Palestrina
east of Rome; a marble votive shield from Arles in France; a
head of Ulysses - from whose Trojan foes Augustus claimed
inheritance - from Sperlonga south of Rome; and the famous
Blacas cameo from the British Museum.
The exhibition has been organized by Azienda Speciale
Palaexpo - Scuderie del Quirinale in association with the Musei
Capitolini, Rome, and the Réunion des musées nationaux - Grand
Palais and the Louvre.
It is curated by top Italian and French experts Eugenio La
Rocca, Claudio Parisi Presicce, Annalisa Lo Monaco, Cécile
Giroire and Daniel Roger.
The exhibition, they say, "tells the parallel stories of his
dazzling career and of the birth of a new era".
It aims to bring out Augustus's abilities as "a man endowed
with exceptional charisma and extraordinary political
The curators say: "Where even Julius Caesar had failed, he
succeeded in putting an end to the decades of internecine strife
that had brought the Roman Republic to its knees, and in
inaugurating a new political era: the Empire.
"His reign, which lasted over 40 years, was to be the
longest in the city's entire history.
"Under Augustus the Empire achieved its greatest expansion,
spreading to cover the whole of the Mediterranean basin, from
Spain to Turkey and from the Maghreb to Greece, and Germany.
"The details of his life and dazzling career are known to us
both from the emperor himself and from historians as Velleius
Paterculus, Suetonius, Tacitus and Cassius Dio.
"In fact there are very few other Roman emperors for whose
life we have such a large number of written sources.
"This allows us to reconstruct the stages of a political
career in the course of which Augustus held all of the most
important public offices, and at the same time to track the
disastrous series of deaths in his family that robbed him, in
the space of a few decades, both of Agrippa, his son-in-law and
deputy, and of the heirs designated to succeed him: his nephew
Marcellus, the son of his sister Octavia, and Gaius and Lucius
Caesar, the sons of Julia and Agrippa.
"Thus on his death the Empire passed into the hands of
Tiberius, the son of his third and much-loved wife Livia.
"The end of civil strife was skilfully marketed as an era of
peace, prosperity and abundance.
"It was then that such crucial concepts as pax, pietas and
concordia began to circulate, sung by poets of the calibre of
Virgil, Horace and the entire coterie of intellectuals gathered
around (aristocratic patron) Maecenas.
"The exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale will be using
a selection of works of art of the highest artistic quality
including statues, portraits, household objects in bronze,
silver and glass, golden jewellery and precious stones, to offer
visitors the chance to explore the emperor's life and career,
which coincided with the birth of a new artistic culture and
language that continues even today to lie at the very root of
Western civilisation".

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