Book Tickets at http://www.anmm.gov.au/pompeii
Many people know of the tragic eruption in 79 AD that buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum under huge avalanches of volcanic ash and debris, preserving them and the eruption’s victims for 2000 years. Few, however, would know that the Roman navy attempted to evacuate people affected by the eruption or its important role in the success of the Roman Empire.
The fleet was led by the fleet’s commander Pliny the Elder, who was not a military man – he was famous for his writings, not for any warlike exploits. In 79 AD he had just completed his Natural History, an encyclopedia of how the Romans understood the world around them – a reference work for the masses that would continue to be used for the next 2,000 years.
We know of the rescue attempt through the letters of his nephew Pliny the Younger. Around 17 years old at the time of the eruption, he was living with his uncle and his mother at the naval base at Misenum, across the bay from Pompeii. He was asked many years later to write an account of what happened to his uncle on that fateful day – it is the only surviving firsthand account of the disaster and the attempted rescue of civilians by the Roman navy.
The exhibition uncovers the role of the Roman navy and its importance to the Roman Empire. Discover how a non-military man like Pliny the Elder could be its commander, what its ships were like and who crewed them. It looks at Pompeii as a maritime and riverine port, and how it tapped into the trade boom brought about by Rome’s mastery of the sea – thanks to its navy.
ANCIENT OBJECTS AND A CINEMA EXPERIENCE
The exhibition brings to Australia rare artefacts from sites from around the Bay of Naples: Pompeii, Herculaneum and lesser-known ones such as Baiae, Puteoli and Misenum. They give insight into the lives of sailors of the Roman fleet and to the people who lived on the Bay of Naples, considered by many Romans to be the most beautiful place on earth – that was, until the eruption.
Visitors will see:
A Roman rostrum, used to ram enemy ships.
A helmet from the Battle of the Aegates in 241 BC, which marked Rome’s entry as a maritime superpower.
Sculptured reliefs celebrating Rome’s naval victories.
A military diploma bestowing Roman citizenship on a serviceman.
Trade goods from Pompeii – both workaday items and luxuries – including sculptures, mosaics, frescoes, jewellery, glassware and tableware sourced from throughout the empire.
Everyday objects preserved in the eruption, such as a loaf of bread and figs from Herculaneum, and items taken by the fleeing victims.
Haunting body casts of the victims themselves – Pompeiians, captured in their final moments.
A short film A Day in Pompeii that depicts what it was like living those final hours under the shadow of an erupting Mount Vesuvius.