|9.10 on a Sunday morning!|
The exhibition has had rave reviews but one problem is that it is almost always too crowded to enjoy. My best tip is to get yourself a Membership, show up on Saturday or Sunday just before opening at 9am, join the orderly queue outside the gates, go straight in to the exhibition (no need to queue at that point), ignore the filmstrip (you can come back to that later) and go straight into the exhibition which you can then enjoy in blissful emptiness (above right). But don't blithely take my word for it: always check the latest on opening times.
I have already blogged about TWELVE FUN THINGS TO SEE but here are TEN MORE THINGS to look out for.
|"PHOENIX FELIX ET TU"|
2. COMIC RELIEF? Next to the famous fresco of Dionysus and Vesuvius in the atrium room is a small marble relief showing the earthquake of AD 62 or 63. If you look closely you will see it is quite comical. For example, the two men depicting equestrian statues look silly and are staring straight out (an apotropaic device) and their horses are actual long-eared donkeys. Humour is another apotropaic device so I think this sculpture may be saying something like, "We laugh in the face of earthquakes!"
|first time seen by public|
4. BALL 'O' PIGMENT - In a bowl just on the left as you enter the triclinium (dining room) you will see a bowl with two greyish balls. This is how fresco paint came. You would chip off some pigment, grind it in a mortarium, then add egg and water and perhaps a few other ingredients. Finally, the paint was applied to the still-damp plaster. The plaster sucked up the colour and when it dried the painting became part of the wall. That's why these paintings have survived so well. These are the less exciting "white" and "grey" pigments.
5. The NAVEL OF THE WORLD or omphalos is shown on a fresco in the far end of the triclinium room on the right. This fresco screams Apollo. Cupids (the lolcats of the Roman world) frisk around with his bow, his quiver, his lyre, his tripod and possibly a runaway patera. The tripod is especially linked with Apollo because the Delphic oracle sat on one to prophesy. And Delphi was the site of the navel of the world. If you want to know what the navel of the world looked like, there it is underneath the tripod, looking like a fat bollard.
|2000 year old loaf of bread|
7. ANCIENT PIZZA - OK, it's not pizza because they had no tomatoes in Roman times, but this round loaf of bread looks like puffy pizza. But what's that strange dent around its perimeter? London-based Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli recreated the loaf and came up with a possible cause: a piece of string was tied around the dough, baked in and then used to carry the loaf home.
8. In the culina (kitchen), look out for a PESTLE SHAPED LIKE A THUMB. It is made of white marble and is found below the hare mould for terrine and next to the beautiful sieve with the maker's signature punched in holes. The mortarium containing the thumb pestle has a fun panther face for draining liquid and on the bottom a crude apotropaic Medusa face for turning away evil when it's hung up on the kitchen wall. (You can't see this in the current display mode).
|"CACATOR CAVE MALUM"|
10. Near the end of the exhibition – in the same case as a soldier's sword – is a collection of treasures found on a little girl's charm bracelet. Ironically, considering the cataclysmic bad luck she experienced, most of the objects had an apotropaic sense... but what's with the shrimp? I have heard of apotropaic farting, but never an APOTROPAIC SHRIMP! Answers and suggestions below, please.
*Clever clogs among you might know that what Julius Caesar really said was the Greek version, kai su, teknon, but it makes no difference: the Greek phrase has exactly the same sense as the Latin, maybe even more so! Also teknon can mean "child" or "son", but also more derogative "kid" or even "punk". So Julius Caesar's last words to his final murderer Brutus had a meaning of "You'll get yours, too, punk!"
For more apotropaic images including two "kai su" mosaics, visit my PG-rated Apotropaic Pinterest page.
Caroline Lawrence writes history mystery books for kids aged 8 to 80. No. Really! All the pictures in this post are © Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei / Trustees of the British Museum