ROTTERDAM.- The influence of the Roman Empire stretches up to the present. Western script, the weight system and the names of the months: all Roman inventions that still determine our daily lives. Kunsthal Rotterdam shows the wealth of imperial Rome and presents, with a collection of 450 objects, one of the largest exhibitions ever on classical culture. Numerous marble sculptures, refined jewelry, authentic terracotta, cameo, glasswork and coins give a clear impression of religious perception, external care, housing, trade and politics at the time of the Roman Empire (27 B.C. - 395 A.D.). Attention is also focused on the Netherlands, through which the northern frontier of the Empire ran in those days.
Servants and Emperors
Roman Culture is brought to life through splendid mirrors, hair combs and dangling earrings that at the same time give a vivid impression of the way Romans were involved with outward appearance. Busts, coins and cameo show the rulers of the city, from August and Nero up to Constantine. Altarpieces, urns and ritual objects show religious perception and the belief in different gods amongst whom Hermes, the herald and messenger, and Bacchus, god of wine. Roman private life becomes visible through architectural models of an urban domus and a rural villa. Public life is also highlighted with gladiator fights, popular games and Roman bathing culture in the well-known Thermae.
Rome stirs the imagination. In Hollywood numerous productions are dedicated to the topic, amongst which the all-time classic Ben Hur (1959) or the more recent The Gladiator (2000). The strategies of the Roman army and the constructional ingenuity of aqueducts, roads and amphitheatres are still studied and admired. Emperial Rome knew economic prosperity and at the exhibition an inhabitant of the Empire tells the audience how he, as so many others, managed to climb the social ladder and to develop himself from being a simple servant into a well-to-do citizen. Young visitors may acquire the fiercely desired Roman citizenship through exploring facets of Roman life and thus earning stamps in a passport especially designed for the occasion. A passport photo of the children dressed up as a soldier, merchant or noble lady completes the document.
At the moment of the inauguration of the first Roman Emperor August in 27 B.C., Rome grew out to become a city of exceptional stature. Its power stretched from England in the North all the way down to North Africa in the South and from Portugal in the West up to Asia Minor in the East. In the Netherlands the Northern Limes followed the river Maas. Cities as Maastricht, Nijmegen, Utrecht and Leiden all fell within the Roman Empire. The survey exhibition at the Kunsthal shows that Rome was clearly an international superpower under its emperors, dominant in the fields of politics, economics, the military and culture. Archeological discoveries of Dutch origin clearly illustrate Roman dominance in the Netherlands.