Here are 10 not-to-be-missed objects you’ll find inside Rome: City and Empire:

1. Colossal statue head of Faustina I

This head of the Empress Faustina I once belonged to a monumental statue adorning a temple in Turkey. Measuring 1.7 metres, this fragment alone is taller than the average Australian woman! The full statue would have stood 3 or 4 metres high. 

2. Roman Republican coin for Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was the first Roman leader to have his portrait imprinted on a coin during his lifetime. This richly symbolic denarius, a silver coin, was minted in Rome shortly before his assassination in March 44 BCE. It features Caesar’s strong profile and symbols of power and global conquest.

Roman Republican coin for Julius Caesar minted in Rome, Italy, 44 BCE ©Trustees of the British Museum
Roman Republican coin for Julius Caesar minted in Rome, Italy, 44 BCE ©Trustees of the British Museum

3. Parade helmet with woman’s face

Bronze cavalry helmets were performance pieces used in cavalry sport events. This elaborate helmet probably represents an Amazon, a legendary female warrior. Discovered in a Roman grave, it may have been intended to accompany the horseman who fought and performed in it, to the afterlife.

4. Mosaic panel

Once decorating the floor of an opulent Roman dining room in Turkey, this striking mosaic panel features the face of Phobos, the god of fear. He may have warned revellers against drinking too much.

Mosaic panel Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum), Turkey, 4th century CE ©Trustees of the British Museum
Mosaic panel Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum), Turkey, 4th century CE ©Trustees of the British Museum

5. Statue of a Roman magistrate

This monumental marble statue of a Roman magistrate reveals a tale of time. The head was carved earlier and a Roman sculptor attached it to this body in the early second century CE, giving the older face a new body.

6. Fragment of a diadem

This is part of a gold diadem that was awarded to Tiberius Claudius Artemidorus, a famous Roman athlete renowned for his skills in boxing and wrestling.

Fragment of a diadem Naukratis, Egypt, 67–98 CE  ©Trustees of the British Museum
Fragment of a diadem Naukratis, Egypt, 67–98 CE  ©Trustees of the British Museum

7. Funerary relief of a woman

Herta lived in Palmyra, now in Syria, on the far eastern edge of the Roman Empire. On this funerary relief, she is richly dressed and adorned with jewellery, prepared for her journey to the afterlife.

8. Bracelet from the Hoxne Treasure

This intricate gold bracelet is part of the Hoxne Treasure, a hoard of jewellery, silver tableware and more than 15,000 gold and silver coins that was found in Suffolk, England, in 1992. The hoard’s careful burial in the early 5th century CE, a time when Roman rule in Britain was breaking down, implies that its owner intended to come back for it. The Hoxne Treasure reflects a universal human concern about keeping our possessions safe – particularly in uncertain times.  

9. Portrait bust of Hadrian

Hadrian was the first Roman emperor to sport a beard. Some say his penchant for facial fashion developed because he wanted to look like a Greek philosopher, others because he wanted to hide his acne scars. Whatever his motivation, Hadrian may well have been history’s first hipster.  

10. Samian ware bowl

This bright red ceramic bowl represents the affordable tableware of the Roman Empire. The mould-made decoration echoes that found on the silverware in the homes of the Roman elite – without the expensive price tag.   

Samian ware bowl  made in central Gaul (France), about 120–200 CE; found in London, England ©Trustees of the British Museum
Samian ware bowl  made in central Gaul (France), about 120–200 CE; found in London, England ©Trustees of the British Museum

 

With audio tours for adults and kids, and a family activity trail, the whole family can take a step into the past and visit Ancient Rome.

Discover how the empire was won and held, explore its farthest reaches and meet its people.

Rome: City and Empire is on show 21 September 2018 – 3 February 2019
National Museum of Australia, Canberra.
For more information and tickets, visit nma.gov.au/rome

Banner image: Sarcophagus showing the wedding of Bacchus and Ariadne, Rome, Italy, 2nd century CE. ©Trustees of the British Museum