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Blog: Up Pompeii

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On Friday night I met with my pal Mrs A Bates and went to see the Life And Death In Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition at the British Museum. It was AMAZING.

As you're probably aware Pompeii and Herculaneum were two towns engulfed in volcanic ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, preserving huge amounts of everyday items for nearly two thousand years. Apparently nearly all of our understanding of normal life in Ancient Rome comes from this site, as it was full of general STUFF from ordinary people's houses just left lying around.

It was MIND BLOWING! The first 90 minutes of the exhibition were spent wandering around gazing as all kinds of everyday items that were eerily close to things we still have, like chairs or taps or kitchen implements that looked like you could just pick them up and use them now. My favourite thing of this type was a hand painted election poster that had been found still on the wall from a poll that had happened a few weeks before the eruption. It just said "Vote for this chap, he's ace", again, exactly as if it had been painted a couple of weeks ago. Except in Latin, obviously.

There were a LOT of frescoes - pictures painted straight onto the walls of homes and businesses - and these were hilariously every day and casual. The BEST were a) a (basically) four picture comic strip from the wall of a pub showing a fighting breaking out and an annoyed landlady and b) a scene at a PARTY where the hostess, lounging on a sofa, says "Get comfy everybody, I'm going to sing" and someone on another sofa replies "You go for it!" These were the actual OFFICIAL translations too!

Some of this was a little ODD to modern eyes - the Romans were PENIS MAD and enjoyed little more, it scenes, than slapping a cock and balls onto any item "for good luck". One section was devoted to "erotic Rome" and featured some EYE WATERINGLY RUDE pictures which, apparently, came from somebody's garden room. We might enjoy bird tables or perhaps some IVY in our gardens, the Romans preferred to gaze upon a nude young lady tugging off a suitably relaxed young gentleman.

And then there was the statue of the god PAN "making love" to a Nanny Goat. As I stood AGHAST, unable to tear my eyes away from it, a young boy aged about 10 wandered past with his Official Guide Headphones and took in the whole scene. I fear for his future development!

So yes, it was interesting and generally HILARIOUS as we DELIGHTED in These Crazy Romans and how very very much like us they were. It thus came as a massive PUNCH IN THE GUTS when we got to the very end of the exhibition and were suddenly confronted with THE ACTUAL ROMANS. When the site was first discovered the archaeologists found cavities in the ash which had been formed when the bodies of the townspeople had decomposed over the centuries. By filling these with plaster of Paris they were able to create copies of the actual Romans at the moment of their death. Thus, we found ourselves looking at a whole family who had been trapped in their house, clenched with the paint of the heat, or a woman frozen in ash as she tried to escape, or the shape of a man huddled behind a door.

Suddenly you were forced to see not just the items they had left behind but the actual people themselves who had died in the disaster. It was an incredible moment and a fantastic way to end an utterly brilliant exhibition. I had to go and buy a postcard of Drunken Hercules Having A Wee in the gift shop to try and get over the shock of it all, and then we went to the PUB!

They're having a right good run of GRATE exhibitions at the moment, as this followed on from the BRANE MANGLING Ice Age exhibition we went to a couple of months ago. If you're around and can get tickets I'd heartily recommend a visit, it is ACE!.

posted 17/6/2013 by MJ Hibbett

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posted 21/6/2013 by test

eh? how did that get through the spambot filter?
posted 24/6/2013 by matt

Ha! It's not a spambot, it was ME!! I use these pages as an easy way of copying over stuff for work things, I must have forgotten to delete that one!!
posted 24/6/2013 by MJ Hibbett

thank goodness for that, I was jolly confused.
posted 25/6/2013 by matt

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