What struck me most about many of the pieces in this museum was how human, how personable they were. You have a sense, even with the Grandiose Alexander’s Sarcophagus, that these are tales about and of people, the classic world is not some kind of obscure, tumbled down world of white marble, but it is a world of colour, of mourning and human tragedy, courage, brutality, artistry.
The premiere piece in the collection of the museum is Alexander’s Sarcophagus, supposedly prepared for Alexander the Great (he is buried in Alexandria, so he’s not here!). Speaking of which, there is a tale I quite like (from Mike Duncan’s podcast) about this: Julius Ceasar arrived in Egypt after finally beating the fleeing Senators of Rome, the Roman Republic now essentially his to command. No mean feat, he was in his late 40′s. It is said that Alexander humbles any man, and Julius felt his life a failure as he stood by the tomb of the Great man. Some few years later, Ceasar’s nephew (Octavian Ceasar, the soon to be Emperor Augustus) having finally defeated Antony and Cleopatra, is in Alexandria. As he visits the tomb of Alexander I fancy he would appraise his forebear as few men could; he was 33, the same age as Alexander was upon his death, and the entire Roman world stood at his feet.
The sarcophagus is an amazing work, dating from 330BCE, it is in extraordinary condition. Here are some images of the details of the friezes that adorn its sides.
The museum also has the Sarcophagus of the Crying Women, a work of touching beauty
And one of Egyptian origin
Many of the works of the museum are from the Roman period; the Romans were in this region from about 100BCE when Sulla first came, until the eventual fall of Constantinople in 1453. There are many Sarcophagi and other memorials to those that have passed, many of these from, I guess you would characterise them as upper middle class folks, successful (but perhaps small) businessmen and their families. Many of the messages are just “Here lies…”, but there were quite a few that told the story and expressed the grief for the fallen.
Other pieces on display were playful, mischievous.
There were many figures of notables from the high-period of Roman history. Hadrian, Augustus and others.
And other figures, portraits
More recent work with images from Byzantine Rome: the coat of arms from the House of Constantine
and this outside the museum, in the bright sunlight
The collection is so personable, almost intimate, showing you a touch of the ordinary life, despite some of the significant, historic, pieces there. It was a great pleasure to wander around it, and feel like you could touch the lives of people, not unlike ourselves really, despite the centuries. This work was my favourite (and I hope the image does it justice). If anyone knows who this is let me know (I lost my notes about it!!)