November 29, 2008

Ave, Caesar

If you are interested in ancient Roman history and you are in Rome during this time (or plan, as I do, to visit there soon), then I think you shouldn’t reasonably miss “Julius Caesar - Man, Feats and Myth” (Giulio Cesare. L'uomo, le imprese, il mito), the first ever exhibition to focus entirely on ancient Rome’s most famous political and military leader.

The exhibition, which is being held at the Chiostro del Bramante, started on Friday, October 24, 2008, through Saturday, May 3, 2009. It examines the historic aspects of Caesar’s rule, as well as the political and cultural atmosphere of his time, his astonishing military campaigns, his magnificent literary works, his climb to power and his brutal murder in the Roman Senate.

The exhibition—in my view the event of the year in the Italian capital—collects archaeological documents of the utmost importance, coming from the most prestigious Italian and foreign museums, and paintings by masters such as Rubens, Guercino, Pietro da Cortona and Guido Reni. Massive canvases of Caesar by Giambattista Tiepolo, sold to the Russian tsar in the early nineteenth century, have also returned to Italy for the occasion (and for the first time in 200 years).

Caesar, as the organizers explain, was “an exceptional character, a man of letters, historian, general and statesman of extraordinary far-sightedness.” It was he himself who “started even during his lifetime, to create his own myth.” In fact,

he presented himself as a descendant of Venus, thus tying himself to the original myth of the city of Rome itself, dating back, according to ancient tradition, to Aeneas himself, son of Venus, who supposedly landed at the Tyrrhenian shores of Latium at the end of his long wanderings, being exiled from Troy, as marvellously narrated in the Virgilian Aeneid.

Hence the exhibition’s guiding philosophy.

The final section looks at the depiction of Caesar in the world of cinema. The palace that houses the exhibit was designed by Donato Bramante in the 15th century and is attached to the church of Santa Maria della Pace along Via Della Pace close to piazza Navona.

P.S. Since it happens that just in these days I’m reading, Idi di Marzo (The Ides of March), the latest book by Valerio Massimo Manfredi (unfortunately for my English-speaking readers the English version is yet to be released), I can’t help confessing that this is one of those moments where I feel sorry that I live so far away from Rome …


  1. Well, Caesar is amazing. He had greatness in all he did no matter what one can think of some of his actions which were dubious, we have to admit.

    Even in his literary works his words are as crystal-clear as his totally rational mind and conduct were, probably the best specimen of Roman rationality ever appeared, different from Greek rationality: the Greeks taught the world to think more efficiently, but weirdly enough they were much less rational than one might think.

    I develop these ideas in a post on Caesar - let me market it lol- whose title is Stress and Joy. Conquest and Sorrow.

    I'll go visit this exhibition soon. I couldn't do it before, since I was a bit sick, as I told you.


    Man of Roma

  2. Thanks, MoR. I'll check your post out later.