Toga party (and figs) at the British Museum
I know that I am a Classicist rather than a real news hound, because I am too SLOW. Peter Stothard has already blogged, more than 24 hours ago, about the event I am about to share with the planet (or, rather, with such bits of the planet that choose to click on this site). Because yesterday was the hundredth birthday of the Roman Society - and we Classicists celebrated it by getting dressed up as Roman characters and parading in front of the British Museum.
I have spent all my adult life avoiding toga parties, but here I was in a skimpy red dress (thank god I've lost a bit of weight) pretending to be the empress Livia, to the accompaniment of a detachment of a recon Roman legion, plus Andrew Burnett (President of the Roman Society, Deputy Director of the British Museum and the emperor Vespasian for the day), Bettany Hughes (Classicist, television ancient historian and the stunning Byzantine empress Theodora), Joanna Mackle of the BM, as the Barbarian resistance in the shape of Boudica, Jonathan Williams, head of Europe in the BM, as a splendid senator in shades, Lesley Fitton, head of Greek and Roman, as a feisty Roman matron -- and loads more.
Good fun, I'm afraid to say, was had by all.
Earlier in the day Vespasian had gone along to the Today programme, in costume, to explain what Vespasian might have done in the economic crisis. (You can listen again here.) And indeed we had some silly good fun on the steps of the Museum. As I was Livia, I had been given some "poisoned"figs. which -- well past their sell-by date -- I threw into the gratifyingly large crowd (well, a few hundred at least). I "missed" both Christine Spillane (heroic Latin teacher) and Neil MacGregor (Director of the Museum who was watching and the 100 objects man).
Deeply silly all round. But you always learn more than you think from these things. And it was in the robing room that I learned most.
Some years ago I went to visit Colchester Museum with one of my favourite colleagues and a group of students. They had on display (for experimentation) a mock up toga, and as the student struggled to put it on, Christopher pointed out that it demonstrated just how dependant the Roman elite were on their slaves -- that is, they wouldn't even have been able to get their togas on without a slave or two to help.
And so it was proved yesterday.
Sir Peter managed his toga rather expertly with the help of a couple of dressers (above). But, as he discovered, once you are clad in this cumbersome garment, you can't bend down to get your sandals on. So that is yet more reliance on the underclass (left).
Anyway the AGM of the Roman Society is tomorrow, and I must get my Powerpoint finished. But, dont forget, if you are interested in Rome, you can always cough up and join the Roman Society (go on, do your bit to save civilisation -- it's a bargain).