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tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  February 22, 2012 3:00pm-4:00pm PST

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man: well, can you see anything? second man: yes, wonderful things.
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j. carter brown: for over 3,300 years, the pharaoh tutankhamun has gazed serenely at eternity, confident in his ability to conquer death. everlasting life was his by right of birth. he was pharaoh, king of egypt, the mightiest empire of the ancient world. he was a god. nothing was beyond his means. when tutankhamun sat upon his throne, thousands of years of history and achievement had already preceded him. surely a nation that could bring itself into being and create wonders like the great pyramids could overcome man's final enemy--death. and overcome death tutankhamun has--at least
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according to the ancient egyptian funerary beliefs, for the very act of speaking his name provides magic to infuse tutankhamun with everlasting life. names were important to the egyptians. a name symbolized one's personality and even one's very existence. to remember the dead was to make them live again. and soutankhamun must, for the whole world has known his name ever since that day in november of 1922, when archeologist howard carter anhis patron, lord carnarvon, turned a forgotten pharaoh into a legend. the story of tutankhamun's treasures begins here in the secret valley of the kings in egypt, across the river from the ancient capital of thebes.
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the valley of the kings is hot and very dry. in the summer, the temperature can go up to 120 degrees. it would be a terrible place to live, but what a marvelous place to keep things for eternity. pharaohs' tombs, equipped with all the necessities for a voyage into eternity, were hidden here. this is hundreds of miles from the great pyramids. the problem with the pyramids was that they were too conspicuous to robbers. in this valley, the idea was that no one would know. this fascination with the afterlife, and the state of mind of the ancient egyptians in general, can be best understood by learning something about their environment-- which basically means... the river nile. all activity centered on its water and its fertile banks.
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( sheep and goats bleating ) the desert, literally a footstep away, was a constant reminder to the egyptians that, without the nile, there would be no life. the nile offered ancient egypt more than just its life-giving water or the transportation lifeline that unified an empire. it offered the gift of renewal. every year about july, the floodwaters of the nile would gradually rise, carrying fertile silt down from the headwaters until the farmland had been renewed as the floodwars receded.
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not surprisingly, the ancient egyptians living with this cycle soon came to equate the regular pattern of the nile and its gift of rebirth with the universe itself. their most important philosophical principles stemmed from that equation. it was the idea of maat-- roughly "rightness" or "order." everything about the egyptian way of life had a pattern, a rhythm, a sense of orderly beginning and end. so too, the egyptians believed, this must be the way of man. man's end on earth was merely a beginning in the next world. when a pharaoh asked, "how long is life?" he was told, "thou art destined for millions of years, for a lifetime of millions." ( ship's horn blowing )
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when howard carter returned to the valley of the kings from england in 1922, it was his last chance to find the elusive tomb of the pharaoh tutankhamun. for six years he had searched, but now his support from his sponsor, lord rnarvon, was almost exhaust. each morning, carter rode into the valley-- as trists still do--and continued his work undaunted. the search, as always, had to be done slowly and painstakingly by hand, the tons of earth and stone mod by small baskets. thenfive days after the beginning of the season's dig, the work stopped. howard carter recounted the story in his book the tomb of tutankhamun: howard carter: "hardly had i arrived on the work
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"thai was greeted by the announcement "that a step cut in the rock had been discovered." brown: but what had carter found? just another emptyomb? some unimportant storeroom? howard carter: "with trembling hands,madeh "in the upper left-hand corner of the doorway. "as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, "details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist. "surely, never before in the whole history of excavation "had such an amazing sight been seen "as the light of our torch revealed to us: "strange animals, statues, and gold. "everywhere the glint of gold. "we had seen enough. "we reclosed the hole, mounted our donkeys, "and rode home down the valley, strangely silent and subdued."
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brown: the discovery of tutankhamun's tomb in 1922 had an instantaneous and shattering effect on the world's imagination that continues to this very day. extraordinary numbers of visitors descended upon the tomb--sometimes to the point where the excavators were unable to function. egyptian motifs swept through the world of fashion and design. ashe whole worldthrilled t,
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death and the supernatural seemed to gin to prey upon the excavators. lord carnarvon died rst--from the bite of a mere mosquito. as death closed over him in april of 1923, only a few months after the opening of the tomb, the lights of cairo extinguished with him. stranger still, at the same instant in england, s dog gave a terrifying howl and died. then georges benedite, the head of egyptian antiquities at the louvre museum, died of a stroke after leaving a tomb. still another death occurred-- that of arthur c. mace from the metropolitan museum in new york, who was assisting carter. the bizarre events surrounding the opening of tutankhamun's tomb
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appear today to have been merely coincidental. the unextinguishable legend of the mummy's curse had begun. who was this king? what was he like? what did he achieve in a life lived 34 centuries ago? we don't know for sure. all we have are images. even with its discovery, the tomb still refuses to yield many of its secrets. we know only that the young boy king, tutankhamun, grew up during one of the most turbulent periods in egypt's long history. it was a time when the stability of egypt had been wracked by a religious and political revolution that for the first time in history eliminated all gods but one: aten, the sun. the precipitator of the crisis was the pharaoh akhenaten,
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in whose court tutankhamun was raised. akhenaten was a strong-willed genius who has been called the first true individual in history. rather than portraying himself as the all-conquering pharaoh as egypt'sings had done for 1,700 years before, akhenaten revealed himself in human terms, with his family gathered about him. instead of wshipping the enormous and confusing gaxy of eptian gods in their human and animal form, aknaten swept them all ide to make the sun, with its life-givingays, the symbol of his universe. the shock of such determined and rapid change to a system that had alwaybeen extraordinarily conservative
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was just too much. egypt shook. while tutankhamun's predecessor was creating a terrifying political and religious situation on the one hand, on the other he was able to infuse egyptian art with a revolutionary human rmth. akhenaten's ideas were strong enough to echo down through the next few kings. tutankhamun's reign, shortly thereafter, was to bear witness to this great flowering of artistic achievement. while there were many tombs larger than his, filled with vast arrays of objects, it has been argued that no tomb--other than akhenaten's--
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would have contained objects of a higher creative quality than tutankhamun's. howard carter had this to say about the art found in tutankhamun's tomb: howard carter: "among the immense quantities of material "in tutankhamun's tomb-- as also exhibited "in the beautiful reliefs of his reign "in the great colonnade of the temple of luxor-- "we find extreme delicacy of style, "together with character of the utmost refinement. "in the case of a painted scene, vase, or statue, "the primary idea of art is obvious. "but in utilitarian objects,rt-- "as we know too well today-- is not a necessity. "here in this tomb, the artistic value "seems to have been always the first consideration. "what are the great qualities of egyptian art?
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"they are the sense of pure feeling "that creates an element of serene dignity-- "and herein lies its supreme essence-- "and the extraordinary degree of truth, form, and character "portrayed within such absolute simple and minimum line "by which it stands alone." brown: egyptian art was not immune to outside influence. in the shape of a pomegranate, this vase is witness to egypt's absorptive power. for one thing, silver was extremely rare in egypt. but for another, more importantly, pomegranates were not native to egypt at all, but to western asia. the egyptians adopted foreign designs and styles of workmanship and applied them to their own needs. whatever the sources of egypt's art, the results continue to this day to fascinate travelers and museum visitors around the world.
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the archaeologists began their search for the pharaoh here. where i'm standing, they found a flight of stone steps leading down to a sealed doorway. in the plaster were the seals of the ancient neopolis officials. inside the doorway they found this sloping passageway filled from top to bottom with stones and rubble. clearing this took time because, mixed in with all the filling, were numerous objects. one of these was the head of tutankhamun as a young child. this rather extraordinary sculpture has a very specific purpose and meaning. tutankhamun is seen emerging from a blue lotus, just as the sun god did at the moment of the earth's creation. through this recreation, tutankhamun, too, would be able to be reborn as the sun god
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every day throughout eternity. when a second sealed doorway at the end of the passageway was removed, the archaeologists finally gained entrance to the actual tomb. this first room they called the "antechamber." it was crammed with objects. their minds could barely cope with the profusion. just inside the door, where m standing, the archaeologists found a cup abandoned by some rather unsuccessful tomb robbers back in the days of the pharaohs. the cup is carved from one piece of alabaster and takes the shape of a white lotus.
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carter called this "the wishing cup," for the chalice carried an inscription that was the essence of the tomb's intention. it says, "may you spend millions of years, you who love thebes, sitting with your face to the north wind, your two eyes beholding happiness." on top of a large couch in the room stood a beautiful storage chest. inside the box was found a leopard's head made of wood covered with gesso and then overlaid with gold. quartz eyes give it a haunting, realistic touch, and the details are made with colored glass. tutankhamun's throne name, nebkheperure, is emblazoned on the leopard's forehead. the head belonged to a leopard-skin mantle being worn here in the tomb by ay, who took over
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as chief priest in the burial ceremonknown as he opening of the mout" ay then took over as pharaoh. gold was used liberally in the tombs of egypt. as a wealthy nation, she could afford the use of the metal, but, more than that, gold was used in the belief that its immutability could be transferred to the deceased. this shrine, also found in the antechamber, is wood covered with a layer of gesso and then overlaid with sheet gold. the scenes on its sides are hily reminiscent akhenaten's perd, with wa family groungs ich convey aense of true emotion rarely evident in the more stylized art of other periods. between two of the animal-form beds was found a cache of alabaster vases.
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almost all of them had had their contents of unguents removed by thieves. precious oils must have been extremely valuable in tutankhamun's time, inasmuch as the tomb robbers choose them over many other objects in the tomb. this vase is impressive for its carving, but it is also interesting for its symbolic reference to the unification of egypt. at one time, egypt was two countries: the delta area called lower egypt and the southern region called upper egypt. when the two countries were united in 3100 b.c., the concept of unification became a theme, which continued throughout egypt's long history. tied together, symbolizing unity, are the lotus of upper egypt and the papyrus of lower egypt. it took the archaeologists seven weeks to clear this antechamber.
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now they were ready to open a third sealed door in their search for the pharaoh. carter and carnarvon had no idea of what to expect when they broke down the doorway. what they saw was beyond their imagination. it looked like a solid wall of gold before them. as the wall came more into view, they discovered it was, in fact, an enormous golden shrine. this might be what they were oking for. they entered the room, and their hearts sank. there was no seal on the door to the shrine. but then, when the door was opened, their spirits soared. the door to the second shrine was sealed with a mark of the necropolis officials. they had found their king. the shrine turned out to be not one shrine, but a whole series of shrines, one inside the other.
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it took carter two years' more work to reach the pharaoh at last. the strange object belonging to the ritual of mummification
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was found over in this corner here. nearly six feet tall, it represents a headless animal skin hanging from a pole. as abstract and modern as the emblem may appear, it was in reality probably as old to tutankhamun as he is to us. tutankhamun's dy was found covered with jewelry. aesthetically, many of the pieces are rare treasures in and of themselves. t jewelry had a greater purpose in ancient egypt. bracelets, rings, and necklaces served as amulets to protect and aid both the living and the dead in their journey through this and the next life.
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next to the burial chamber here was an open doorway to a room that howard carter came to call "the treasury." and an apt name it w because it contained some of the most extraordinary objects imaginable. the foremost object to catch carter's eye
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was a great shrine six feet tall surrounded by four beautiful goddesses. these goddesses were procting the dead king's viscera, which were preserved separately during mummification. extremely elegant in form, the carved-wood figures were first covered with gesso and then gilded. on their head is placed the hieroglyphic symbol representative of each goddess. in this case, we see selket with her symbol and ally, the deadly scorpion. inside the great shrine, protected by selket and the other goddesses, were four small mummiform cases containing the pharaoh's ternal organs. intricately inlaid on the outside with colored glass and carnelian, the inside as well was finished with csed gold designs and inscriptions. another remarkable sculpture from the treasury is the pharaoh tutankhamun harpooning.
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ordinarily, egyptian sculpture in the round rarely portrays a king or queen in motion. this piece does so with incredible realism-- a style previously believed to have originated only with the coming of the ancient greeks. the treasury was filled with objects both magical and beautiful. there were miniature boats, statues of gods, servants who would come to life to serve the king, and personal articles like mirror cases. there was even a box in the shape of tutankhamun's name. the oval shape enclosing the king's name was a symbol reserved for royalty. it is actually a loop of rope tied at one end and means that the pharaoh was lord of all the sun encircled.
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how does one put into perspective a civilization that was most ancienyet extraordinarily sophisticated and able to maintain itself over a span of 3,000 years? french art historian elie faure suggests that ancient egypt, through the solidarity, the unity, and disciplined variety of its artistic products, through the enormous duration and sustained power of its efforts, offers the spectacle of the greatest civilization that has yet appeared on the earth. who can say? in any case, the artistry that has come down to us speaks for itself.
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rome - the remnants of its architectural genius bear witness to its greatness. in the first century b.c., the city of one million was master of the mediterranean world. rome's empire stretched from spain in the west
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to syria and egypt in the east. the roman elite were rich beyond measure. they ranged from the cunning and prudent julius caesar... to the intellectually inclined augustus... to cruel caligula, deviser of public spectacles that included murder nero, who, it's said, kicked his wife to death for rebuking him. the upper classes were well educated, connected by kinship, business and political ties. wearied by the crowds and hectic pace of roman life, they pined for greater leisure and the chance it gave to contemplate the finer things of life. each spring, as the senate recessed, roman power brokers -- the patrician families, senators, and untold numbers of entrepreneurs
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made rich by roman dominance -turned to the bay of naples. over generations, they built lavish villas along the shoreline of campania. the villa pausilypon -a greek name meaning "the end of pain" -had a private theater for the pleasure of its owner and his guests. the exteriors of the villas were lined with colonnaded walkways that offered the owners sweeping vistas. like hollywood producers, wealthy romans understood the relationship between spectacle and success. the set designs for stanley kubrick's feature film spartacus capture the carefully composed elegance that characterized the interiors of the villas.
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the bay of naples was blessed in many ways. its climate was temperate. the rich volcanic soil beneath mount vesuvius provided an abundance of grain and fruits -including wine grapes -celebrated in art. fish and shellfish were raised in the lagoons and lakes that dotted the coastline. the region's bounty was depicted in the frescoes and mosaics of its homes. the campi flrei -the burning fields -a region of geothermal activity -lay nearby. steam from the fissures was piped into spas, mineral baths and steam rooms at the bathing complexes of baiae
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on the bay's northern edge. julius caesar owned a villa there on the promontory overlooking the bay. his father in law may have owned the vast villa dei papiri in herculaneum. buried under 80 feet of solidified mud by the eruption of vesuvius in 79 a.d., it was recreated in the design of the j. paul getty museum in malibu. colonnades give way to elegant interiors and courtyards adorned with reproductions of the statues unearthed at the villa dei papiri. jets of water were pumped through fountain sculptures into pools and water courses. a boozy follower of dionysus riding a bloated wine skin attests to the lighthearted side of roman life on the bay.
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caesar's grand-nephew augustus, rome's first emperor, liked the pleasures of the bay so much that he bought the island of capri from the city of naples. his adopted son tiberius, emperor from 14 to 37 a.d., built a dozen villas on capri. tiberius left rome and spent the last decade of his life on the island. his guests were invited to admire the sea views. his rivals were thrown onto the rocks below. a villa at oplontis, probably owned by the emperor nero's second wife, combined private gardens with a graceful colonnaded façade and richly painted interiors.
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at stabiae to th south of the bay, a villa known as san marco since its discovery in the 18th century, reveals the playful and luxurious lifestyle of the romans at leisure. gardens provided space for relaxation and contemplation. covered walkways caught the sea breezes and provided shade and a place to amble, while listening to the discourses of tutors often imported from greece. so many villas were built along the bay that the ancient historian strabo observed that they looked like "one continuous city." the presence of villas built by the ruling families attracted romans eager to further their careers
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through access to the political elite. villa owners brought extraordinary wealth to the region and fostered its rise as an artistic center of exceptional sophistication. artists followed, filling demands for paintings and luxurious decorative arts to adorn the interiors of the villas, and sculpture to ornament courtyards and gardens. materials from the roman dominions flowed into campania's harbors -marble from athenian quarries for statues, reliefs and vases... nubian gold and emeralds from egypt for jewelry. livia, wife of augustus, is carved in egyptian basanite, a stone once reserved for sculptures of deities -- a subtle reference to roman imperial triumph. wealthy residents of the towns beneath vesuvius
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shared the taste for luxury found in the more affluent villas on the bay. silver mirrors... and cups... bronze statuettes ... and glassware found in pompeii suggest the same desire for elegance in daily life. the city's fever for art was playfully alluded to in the house of the vettii's wall paintings, where busy cupids assist a hard-pressed goldsmith. the painting may also refer to the industriousness of the owners -brothers who bought their way out of slavery and worked their way into the upper reaches of society. but the streets outside were a different matter. pompeii was congested and dirty
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-raw sewage flowed between the street's cobbled stepping stones. the city's houses were cheek by jowl with taverns, bakeries and other industries and services-including brothels. houses in pompeii turned a blank wall to the congested street and faced inward. strangers were discouraged by guards and warnings of attack dogs. guests entered an atrium open to the sky. rainwater fell through the compluvium into the impluvium, a basin in the middle of the atrium floor. the atrium furniture was elegant. as photos taken shortly after the excavations of the house of gaius cornelius rufus in the 19th century show, families ambitious for the future also attended to their past, conspicuously displaying a portrait
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of a venerated ancestor to suggest their status. the family's refined taste is on display in the supports for the table placed in the atrium -itself a prop to display the family's prized possessions. a pompeian family's piety was also on show. offerings were made to images of the gods that protected the household at a shrine called a lararium. the tablinum, at the head of the atrium, served as an office for the head of the family. he received clients bearing gifts and discussed financial transactions and business deals there. decorations such as frescoes of maritime villas like this one from the house of marcus lucretius fronto were common, suggesting an affinity with the patrician taste of the villa owners.
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affluent residents created tranquility out of urban chaos by building interior courtyards deep within the walls of the house. the gardens were smaller than those of the villas, but copied some of their features. pools and fountains were adorned with plants and sculpture. even in modest homes, like the house of the small fountain, a little garden was tucked into the courtyard. the bronze fisherman enjoying an idle moment at the fountain's corner evoked the blissful joys of life away from rome. visitors could enjoy the gardens and often a view of vesuvius sleeping, for the moment, in the distance. as the poet horace noted: reader: "can all your tapestries, or your pictures show more beauties than in herbs
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and flowers do grow? fountains and trees our wearied pride do please, even in the midst of gilded palaces. and in your towns that prospect gives delight, which opens round the country to our sight." narrator: where space was too tight for expansive gardens, they painted gardens on the walls. the villas and houses and their contents reflected the enduring roman fascination with greek culture. paestum near naples was colonized by the greeks in 600 b.c. southern italy was part of greece before it was part of rome. naples, its name abbreviated from neapolis -the new city, retained its greek character for centuries.
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once rome's rival in the mediterranean, greece fell captive to rome in 146 b.c. swept from the stage by war, greece returned in a new role. its artistic traditions became a handsome backdrop to the mixture of politics, business and pleasures conducted in the private spaces of roman homes and villas. knowledge of ancient greek culture was a status symbol and badge of cultivation for the residents, who adopted greek history as their own. horace noted ruefully that: reader: "greece took captive her savage conqueror and brought civilization to the rustic latins." narrator: walls in the maritime villas and the houses and buildings of pompeii and herculaneum depicted greek myths like the rescue of a bride from a centaur's lust by theseus,
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the heroic king of athens. under the inspiration of a bust of homer, romans could contemplate the trojan wars and perhaps commission works that retold the story of mighty achilles and the sack of troy. a bust of the 4th century b.c. playwright menander conveyed its owner's appreciation of greek comedy. a silver cup depicting the labors of hercules could turn the conversation towards the ways of gods and men. greek philosophers, including epicurus who taught that pleasure is the beginning and end of living happily, were very much alive in the minds of cultured romans. but the romans copied, collected and imitated greek art for their own reasons.
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in greece artemis, goddess of the hunt, belonged in a public temple. a roman placed it in the privacy of his garden -perhaps an allusion to fields teeming with game evoked in these bronze sculptures. apollo, the god of learning, still brought light to the world -as a roman lamp stand. alexander the great, once master of the world, was commemorated in a bronze statuette. the powerful hercules became a garden ornament. the elite built substantial art collections. they also ordered reproductions of greek works that appealed to them. several examples of the three graces were unearthed at pompeii,
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suggesting a single prototype offered by workshops on the bay of naples. the daughters of zeus represent plenty, joy, and beauty. that image continued to appeal to artists and connoisseurs through the ages. the works of art they commissioned -either for their own collections or for display in public places - were in a variety of styles. some were in the naturalistic classical style that prevailed in greece from the mid-5th century b.c. onward. the drapery falls in natural folds, clinging to the body to show an understanding of human anatomy. older styles were also popular. a marble statue of artemis displays the roman ability to recall the archaic stylized drapery that falls in a purely decorative pattern of zigzag folds
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associated with greek art of the 6th century b.c. the romans showcased their greek-style art in elegant gardens, filled with statues as well as plants and flowers. satyrs in hot pursuit of hermaphrodites could provoke lust or a discussion of greek mythology. a glimpse of the wine god dionysus could spur calls for another round of drinks or meditations on the wisdom of confining and controlling human nature. dionysus was also god of the theatre and theatrical masks became part of the garden décor. colonnaded walkways could be decorated with an oscillum, a marble disc hanging loosely between columns that oscillated in the breeze. decorative reliefs were also placed at eye level
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to delight the spectator. it was as important to see the gardens as to be in them. they served as a viewpoint for guests who ate and drank while reclining on elegant couches in dining rooms. a dining room from a building complex in moregine, south of pompeii, depicts apollo holding a stringed instrument called the cithara as he presides over the muses -a suitable backdrop for dinnertime conversations on music and poetry. in their homes and gardens, the cream of roman society cultivated a lifestyle that celebrated affluence and elegance. that paradise ended abruptly on a summer afternoon in 79 a.d.
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on august the 24th, mount vesuvius erupted. pliny the younger, staying in misenum at the northern tip of the bay, sent an eyewitness account to the historian tacitus. reader: "the cloud was rising (it was afterwards known to be vesuvius). it rose to a great height on a sort of trunk and then split off into branches, i imagine because it was thrust upwards by the first blast and then left unsupported as the pressure subsided, or else it was borne down by its own weight so that it spread out and gradually dispersed." narrator: vesuvius spread a mixed and deadly cargo -mud, ash, pumice and poisonous gas -around the bay of naples just hours after the initial explosion.
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reader: people bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore. narrator: this footage from a far less destructive eruption of vesuvius in 1944 gives an idea of its force. battle hardened g.i.s were first startled and then terrified as chunks of pumice hurtled down from the skies. the dense layer of rock and volcanic ash blown upwards by the eruption of 79 a.d. settled over pompeii, covering it in nearly 20 feet of volcanic debris. tremors rocked the area, destroying buildings and horrifying the populace. the volcanic storm of 79 a.d. turned day into night. the havoc continued on august the 25th
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as red hot mud surged down from vesuvius. pulsing sporadically throughout the day, the avalanches covered herculaneum in 80 feet of debris. the deadly gasses in their wake killed thousands on contact. this scene from a 1935 feature film captures the terrifying last moments of thousands of the city's residents -- helpless in the path of nature at its most lethal. imperial villas, noble homes and tradesmen's houses, theatres, taverns and bakeries lay dormant, as if asleep, for 17 centuries. the bourbon royal family, rulers of naples, led the discovery of pompeii, herculaneum, and the roman presence on the bay of naples in the 18th century.
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they ordered excavations and had the most elegant finds removed to their palace. word of the mysterious roman cities trapped in time spread throughout europe intrigued by the classical age. travelers added pompeii as a vital stop on their grand tour. sir william hamilton, the british envoy, arrived in naples in 1764 and stayed for 25 years. hamilton combined his interests in ancient history with a passion for the accumulation of knowledge for its own sake. his studies of vesuvian lava and other volcanic debris and its impact on the geology of the bay led to published accounts of his findings. at the same time, painters created imaginative images of the cataclysmic eruption of 79 a.d., as well as contemporary views of the still active vesuvius,
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which erupted sporadically but less lethally throughout the 18th century. writers and intellectuals began to visit pompeii in search of the wellsprings of western european culture. german writer wolfgang von goethe visited pompeii in 1787. reader: "the rooms, passages and arcades are gaily painted. the frescoes are surrounded by amusing arabesques in admirable taste... though the city was destroyed, it still bears witness to an artistic instinct and a love of art shared by a whole people." narrator: touring herculaneum and pompeii in the mid 19th century, novelist charles dickens found the stone cities of the dead alive with the power of art. reader: "paintings on the walls in the roofless chambers of both cities are as fresh as if they had been executed yesterday.
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-here are the subjects of still life, familiar classical stories or mythological fables, poets reading their productions to their friends... all restore the ancient cities in the fancy of their wandering visitor." narrator: the fascination with pompeii emerged in an 1825 opera by giovanni pacini called the last day of pompeii and more famously sir edward bulwer lytton's novel the last days of pompeii , published in 1834. in lytton's heavily romanticized account fictional characters experienced the last hours of the city's terror. nydia, the blind girl whose keen hearing led her companions to the sea and safety, was carved in marble by randolph rogers in 1860. it was followed by more than a hundred copies
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as pompeii fever spread throughout europe. lytton's stoic centurion who steadfastly refused to leave his post in the face of certain death was re-imagined by edward john poynter in 1865. the first of three film versions of the last days of pompeii was made in 1913, the perfect subject for the emerging medium of melodramatic feature films supercharged by visual effects. tours of mount vesuvius, made easier by new technologies, brought tens of thousands to the top of the volcano by funicular railway where they gazed on the distant ruins of pompeii and the same enduring beauties of the bay of naples that had captivated romans 2,000 years before.
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goethe, looking down on the ruins a hundred years earlier, put his finger on pompeii's legacy when he wrote: reader: "there have been many disasters in the world, but few have given so much delight to posterity." narrator: pompeii's visual legacy lived on in the styles it influenced. the endless stream of publications fueled the neoclassical style that dominated art in the 18th and 19th centuries. painters fed a steady demand for pompeian imagery with romantic evocations of the city's daily life. the influence of pompeii continued to emerge in 19th century building like the pavion in buckingham palace ...and the appropriations conference room in the united states senate.
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but more then anything, the discoveries found in the vesuvian towns gave the world an enduring image of the roman world. not the bloody business of wars and conquest... or the relentless demands of running an empire. the houses and villas on the bay of naples revealed a way in which daily life could be made beautiful by the elegant craftsmanship of artisans and the refined taste of patrons.
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