PHILADELPHIA, PA, Spring 2015—Felix natalis! Roughly translated, that is "happy birthday" in Latin—a great phrase to use at the royal celebration of Rome's Birthday Saturday, April 18, 11 am to 4 pm, at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia. Guests will be treated to explosive gladiator fights and interactive legionary tactical demonstrations, mythology gallery tours in the Worlds Intertwined: Etruscans, Greeks and Romans suite of galleries, toga wrapping demonstrations and laurel wreath-making craft tables, short lectures and minute "pop up" presentations on ancient Roman history and life, in the galleries.
As legend has it, Rome was founded April 21, 753 BCE on the banks of the Tiber River by Romulus and Remus, twin brothers abandoned after birth and raised by a she-wolf. When a fierce argument erupted between them, Romulus killed Remus and gave his own name to the tiny settlement that would grow into a great empire.
It's all FREE with Museum admission donation ($15 general admission; $12 for seniors [65+]; $10 for full-time students [with ID]and children [6-17]; free for Museum members, children under 6, active U.S. military and PennCard holders). Attendees are encouraged to get in the spirit of the day; those daring enough to wear a toga or gladiator attire receive half-off the price of admission!
Gladiatorial Bouts and Military Tactics
No Roman celebration is quite complete without the ancient Roman army to keep order, and Legion XX Valeria Victrix, from Maryland, joins Legion XIII Gemina, from New Jersey, for a series of interactive presentations of Roman battle tactics that all ages can participate in starting at 11 am. The legions will instruct new recruits in creating a testudo, or tortoise formation, when Roman foot soldiers align their shields to create a packed, and protective, formation covered with shields on the front and top. In addition, guests of all ages are invited to explore and even try on reproduction military regalia at a Roman arms and armor station.
Gladiators from Ludus Magnus Gladiatores (The Great School of the Gladiator) vie to "win the crowd" with battles at 1:00 and again at 3:00 pm. Sword-wielding fights take place in the Museum's outdoor courtyard (indoors in event of rain) with reenactors hailing from Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, and as far as Maine. Visitors can see a roster of gladiators, dressed in a range of armor with weapons that match their fighting styles. In between risking life and limb, Ludus Magnus Gladiatores demonstrates fighting techniques and tells the history of pitting and pairing gladiators in combat. Legion XXIV Media Atlantia, from Pennsylvania, attend as arena guards and fight presenters.
New Discoveries about the Ancient Roman Empire
Guests interested in learning more about contemporary research on the ancient past can attend two lectures by leading scholars. Justin Leidwanger, Assistant Professor in the Department of Classics and a faculty member at the Stanford Archaeology Center, offers a 2:00 pm talk, "Between East and West at the End of Antiquity: The Late Roman 'Church Wreck' at Marzamemi, Sicily." At 3:30 pm, Penn Museum's C. Brian Rose, Ferry Curator-in-Charge of the Mediterranean Section, takes armchair archaeologists on a whirlwind tour with "New Discoveries in Ancient Rome," a lecture sponsored by the America-Italy Society of Philadelphia.
Graduate students in the University of Pennsylvania's Art and Archaeology in the Mediterranean World and Classics departments get in the act with 60 second "pop up" presentations about Rome—guests can look for them to "pop up" in the Worlds Intertwined galleries throughout the day.
Tales from Greek and Roman mythology are in the spotlight during family-friendly "Mediterranean Myths" gallery tours by Jennifer Reifsteck.
For those who left their Roman togas at home, there are opportunities to learn the fine art of proper toga dressing at a demonstration station. Everyone can create a Roman-style laurel wreath headdress suitable for wearing, at a craft station.
The Museum's Pepper Mill Café gets in the act with Italian-inspired luncheon options.
Exploring the Ancient Mediterranean World
Penn Museum's suite of galleries, Worlds Intertwined: Etruscans, Greeks, and Romans, features more than 1,400 ancient artifacts, including marble and bronze sculptures, jewelry, metalwork, mosaics, glass vessels, gold and silver coins, and pottery of exceptional artistic and historical renowned, all drawn from the Museum's Mediterranean collections, dating from 3000 BCE to the 5th century CE. A large-scale interactive of the region map helps visitors visualize how these ancient civilizations overlapped and co-existed thousands of years ago.
Rome's Birthday is the final program in the Penn Museum's World Culture Days 2014-2015 fall-through-spring line up. The popular series is designed to introduce visitors of all ages to the rich cultural traditions found throughout the Museum's galleries and, indeed, throughout the world.
The Penn Museum (the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 300 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage.
The Penn Museum is located at 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (on Penn's campus, across from Franklin Field). Public transportation to the Museum is available via SEPTA's Regional Rail Line at University City Station; the Market-Frankford Subway Line at 34th Street Station; trolley routes 11, 13, 34, and 36; and bus routes 21, 30, 40, and 42. Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and first Wednesdays of each month until 8:00 pm, with P.M. @ PENN MUSEUM evening programs offered. Closed Mondays and holidays. Admission donation is $15 for adults; $13 for senior citizens (65 and above); free for U.S. Military; $10 for children and full-time students with ID; free to Members, PennCard holders, and children 5 and younger.
Hot and cold meals and light refreshments are offered to visitors with or without Museum admission in The Pepper Mill Café; the Museum Shop and Pyramid Shop for Children offer a wide selection of gifts, books, games, clothing and jewelry. Penn Museum can be found on the web at www.penn.museum. For general information call 215.898.4000. For group tour information call 215.746.8183.
Photos, top to bottom: Gladiators demonstrate in the gardens; visitors try out Roman helmets at an arms and armor station in the Rome Gallery; Dr C. Brian Rose, Perry Curator, Mediterranean Section, offers an armchair tour exploring new discoveries in ancient Rome.