More than two decades after the last exhibition, Sydney rediscovers Pompeii in a new international exhibition. With the support of the Italian Cultural Institute in Sydney and the sponsorship of the Italian Embassy in Canberra and the Italian Consulate General in Sydney, the international exhibition “Escape from Pompeii”, will open at the Australian National Maritime Museum on 31 March.
The Vesuvius had a devastating eruption in 79 A.D. that emitted enormous amounts of volcanic dust and waste over the densely populated bay of Naples. The eruption was spotted by the Roman naval base of Miseno, from where Pliny the Elder, the commander of the fleet, ordered to respond to the emergency by rescuing as many people as possible. It was the first report of a rescue at sea of civilians by a military force.
The exhibition shows how the Roman Navy came to dominate the Mediterranean and how this control generated a boom in maritime trade that was unequalled in the following 1,000 years. Finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum – the cities completely destroyed by the eruption – and from the wrecks of ships testify to the volume of the trade of raw material and luxury goods. Since it was the only naval force operating in the Mediterranean, Pliny the Elder was free to use it to assist the people threatened by the Vesuvius.
The objects displayed in the Escape from Pompeii exhibition include jewels, ceramics, sculptures and frescoes from Pompeii and Herculaneum and the finds recovered from ancient shipwrecks, in addition to some plaster moulds of the bodies of the victims of the Vesuvius.
The exhibition describes the Roman Navy through 3D and multimedia interactive animation and evokes the tremendous force of the volcano that destroyed Pompeii 2,000 years ago.