Rome is marking Vespasian’s 2000th birthday with a special exhibition and there’s a pile of news coverage too, of course … I like the conclusion to the Independent’s piece:
To mark Vespasian’s big day, Rome is breathing new life into the ancient city he did so much to change. Busts, bas-reliefs, weapons, coins and paintings are among the 110 archaeological treasures that will be exhibited from today until next January in the Colosseum, the Curia in the centre of the Forum and the Criptoportico, a building on the Palatine Hill that has never before been open to the public. There will also be a new guided route through the Forum, with explanatory panels shedding light on the buildings for which the emperor was responsible.
Filippo Coarelli, the curator of the extravaganza, commented: “The element of chance in Vespasian’s success cannot hide the profound manner in which that success resonates with the whole history of Rome: the mobility which was intrinsic to that society, which allowed it to access the energy of emerging classes.”
Despite these achievements, and despite the Colosseum, which was still under construction when Vespasian died in 79, it was his determination to tax Romans to the hilt for which they most remembered him, the image of the stingy, money-grubbing son of a tax-collector that stuck.
During his elaborate funeral, the procession was led by a popular clown called Favor who mimicked the dead emperor. “How much did this funeral cost?” he demanded of the organisers at one point, according to Suetonius. “A hundred thousand sestertii,” came the reply. To which the Emperor’s caricature retorted: “Give me a hundred and chuck my body in the Tiber!”
ANSA gives some more details about the exhibition itself:
The exhibition aims to explain some of the extraordinary architectural innovations introduced under Vespasian. There are also a host of recent archaeological finds, architectural artefacts and busts of the Flavian emperors. Although centred in the Colosseum itself, the exhibition will extend to two other locations. The first of these is the Curia building where the Senate met, which has been reopened to the public for this occasion. The second is the Cryptoporticus of Nero on the Palatine Hill.
En route, visitors are guided to a series of Flavian monuments, including the Arch of Titus, the Flavian Palace, the Temple of Vespasian and the Temple of Peace. The Flavian exhibition runs until January 10, 2010.