Newnham in Paris, and the discoveries from the Rhone
At the weekend we did our annual Newnham Classics trip to Paris -- sponsored by some very generous donors. All the Part II students (plus me) hop on the Eurostar at 7.30 (after a unpleasantly early start), get to Paris by 10.45...do a swoop on the Louvre, have a long lunch, back for another session in the Louvre, have a drink in a pavement bar, and catch the 19.13 train back to London (knackered...but great revision, and fun).
But rather more to the point, there was temporary exhibition on show, of archaeological discoveries from the river Rhone at Arles.
The star of the show was meant to be the Roman portrait, optimistically identified as Julius Caesar ("Mon dieu, c'est Jules César" as the underwater archaeologist is supposed to have shouted as soon as he had emerged from the river and taken his breathing equipment off...with slight Schliemann-like overtones).
I had seen pictures and films of this piece, and talked about him in my Washington DC lectures, but I had never actually met him in the flesh, so I was particularly keen to visit this exhibition.
The encounter didnt change my mind: this is a really wonderful Roman portrait, but there is hardly any reason at all to identify him as Caesar (and quite a few not to). Interestingly, they had brought the so-called Julius Caesar from Tusculum (now in Turin) as a comparison (on the right). This turns out to be a much less distinguished piece of work (and something nasty has happened to its marble surface) . . . and I honestly don't see why it should be a Julius Caesar either (except that there presumably are some statues of Caesar somewhere).
But the good news was that there was lots more in the show -- and an extraordinary glimpse of what Roman Arles must have looked like.
The real star of the show for me was actually a bronze statuette (about one quarter life-size) of a bearded captive, with is hands tied behind his back. Arles was a Roman colony, and presumably this was just one part of a triumphalist monument that shouted about Roman control of this part of the world.
They all rather put the supposed Caesar in the shade.
So a good (and instructive) day was -- as you see -- had by all!