Sunday, October 22, 2017

"Gladiators: Heroes of the Colosseum" at Fernbank

"Despite the centuries that separate us from Rome's heyday, I think many people will be surprised by the parallels between today's athletes and sporting events and those from roughly 2,000 year ago—when gladiators took center stage at the Colosseum, the greatest entertainment venue of the ancient world," says Dr. Bobbi Hohmann, Vice President of Programming and Collections, Fernbank Museum of Natural History.

From Italy, Gladiators: Heroes of the Colosseumis now on exhibit at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, part of the Museum's 25th Anniversary celebration. It's been organized by Contemporanea Progetti (Florence, Italy) and Expona (Bolzano, Italy) in collaboration with the Colosseum (Rome). You can see Gladiators through Sunday, January 7, 2018.


Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Gladiators features more than 100 original artifacts—many from the Colosseum itself!—as well as large-scale replicas (also from Italy), and immersive environments.

The artifacts, including large fragments from the actual Colosseum, are fascinating! Make time to see and revel in their history, and don't miss the storytelling placards placed throughout the exhibition. There are multiple videos, too!


Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

You'll learn about more than 10 types of gladiators (I didn't know there were so many!), as well as some of the many parallels between gladiatorial contests and modern sports culture.

I found it interesting that Atlanta United recently broke an attendance record at Mercedez-Benz Stadium with 70,000 guests. The Colosseum, built more than 2,000 years ago, could seat up to 70,000 guests! Both Mercedez-Benz Stadium and the Colosseum offer tours,by the way.

The Greeks are known for the semi-circular amphitheater, but the full-circle Colosseum (oval in this case) is an Italian invention and is the inspiration for all modern-day stadiums, throughout the world!


Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Some of you know that before I wanted to be an astronaut I wanted to be an archaeologist. Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Italy have been lifelong interests. So, you would have thought that I'd have known what a Shield Boss is (pictured above). A shield boss is attached over a hole in the center of a rectangular shield, a space to protect a legionnaire's hand while grasping his shield.

This bronze shield boss was apparently quite ornate. It's from 2nd - 3rd century CE.   

Gladiators: Heroes of the Colosseum is as educational as it is fascinating and even mesmerizing. I was enraptured for nearly two hours, the longest I've spent in a single exhibition in a long time. I recommend going well-rested so you can expand your cranium the depth of the Colosseum itself!


Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

The displays for some of the Colosseum artifacts are brilliant! They not only tell you what the artifacts are and what they're made of, they show you where in the stadium they were located, as well as other details about that particular section of the stadium.

This photo (above) doesn't show the scale of the artifact. The capitals in its part of the Colosseum measured approximately 3 feet! 


Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Gladiators: Heroes of the Colosseum explores four themes:
  • Origins of Gladiatorial Combat & Venationes (Staged Hunts);
  • The Colosseum, Amphitheater of the Emperors;
  • Who Were the Gladiators?; and
  • A Day at the Arena.
If you're the organized type, knowing this prior to your visit and seeking out the delineations when you're there I think will make it more enjoyable for you. If you're the spontaneous type, I think you'll equally enjoy this exhibition...there's so much to learn, see, enjoy, and experience!


Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

This foot fragment wearing a Caliga—a military sandal worn by all soldiers from recruits to senior officers—is all that remains of a bronze statue of a Roman legionnaire. The sandals were made of leather and iron. 

If armor is an interest of yours, you're in for a treat! There are numerous armor artifacts on display, including an actual Caliga from the 1st century CE!


Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Greaves—leg armor to protect the chins—were worn by two types of gladiators. They were often elaborately decorated with allusions or bacchanalian themes. This particular artifact is a splendid example of how just how elaborate they could be.


Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

This bronze sword scabbard is one of many weaponry artifacts in the exhibition. This one (pictured above) is from the 1st century CE.

Did you see the Oscar-winning movie Gladiator starring Russell Crowe? It portrayed a minuscule amount of the atrocities—common day occurrences in Rome for four centuries—in the Colosseum, including gladiator fights-to-the-death, mass crucifixions, and elaborate animal hunts. 

Most gladiators didn't survive their first fight. Those who did and achieved fandom, would fight only about two to three times per year, with few living beyond 30 years old, and some "earning" their freedom. This exhibition shares with us what the daily life of an enslaved gladiator looked like, the atrocious and the good, and the lives that some led after being freed  


Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

We have reserved seating, which is awesome, but in the Colosseum prominent Romans and Senators had reserved seats with their names carved into their actual seat! Now I wonder if that's where the childhood quip "It doesn't have your name on it!" comes from. 

Seating in the Colosseum was by social order, but not much is known about how closely the "rules" were followed in this regard. There were 80 entrances to the Colosseum and it could seat 50,000 to 70,000 people! 

I lived in Greece, but never made it to Italy and so wanted to. This exhibition has Italy back at the top of my travel list!


Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

In the section of the exhibition that explores "A Day at the Arena" there are artifacts that show similarities to today's large-scale sporting events, including entertainment, commerce, and food and beverage. The above pictured glass bowl dates to the Imperial Age, somewhere between the 1st and 4th centuries. I think it's stunning.


Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Gladiators | Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

There's a "Kid's Colosseum" at the end of the exhibition, just before you get to the Gift Shop. Your youngsters can enjoy puppet shows, a wooden block model of the Colosseum, hopscotch (believed to have originated in Rome), and regular readings of stories from Roman mythology!

While on the media preview of Gladiators, I ran into one of Atlanta's best bloggers, Sue, of Field Trips With Sue (since merged with 365 Atlanta Family), who has been an inspiration to me from the very beginnings of wanderlust ATLANTA

She was visiting with her father who is a formidable conversationalist. I could imagine him debating the finer points of the games in the Colosseum with senators and other distinguished attendees. It was a pleasure and honor to get to chat with him and it's always a great time catching up with Sue. Field Trips With Sue has merged with 365 Atlanta Family...check out their website!

When you're making plans to see Gladiators: Heroes of the Colosseum, check out the other exhibitions, films, and special events, too. As there has been for 25 years, there's always something fun going on at Fernbank Museum of Natural History!


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1 comment:

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