“Rome and the Barbarians” at Palazzo Grassi in Venice through July 20, 2008

Venice Gold StatueThe Palazzo Grassi in Venice is hosting an exhibition of artwork from the Roman Empire’s most challenging time. The show includes three floors of archaeological finds that show the coming together and the falling apart of societies as the Roman Empire expanded into Asia and Eastern Europe.

The exhibit includes many artifacts selected from museums in Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of the treasures are shown to the public for the first time as part of this exhibit.

As the Roman Empire expanded out from the Mediterranean, the Western Roman people began to skirmish with the “barbarians.” While Rome was victorious initially and in many of the resulting fights, the barbarian invasions grew stronger and eventually caused the destruction of the Roman Empire.

When the Western Roman Empire disappeared completely in 476, the barbarians’ lands of the Asian Steppe and Eastern Europe divided Europe into new spheres of influence. But even with the disappearance of the Empire from these lands, the Roman influence lived on in religion, traditions, and of course artwork.

It is this artwork that is on display at the Palazzo Grassi. The show features pieces from the Late Antiquity period through the Early Middle Ages with an emphasis on artifacts that display the counter influence of various cultures and locations.

The displayed artwork tells the story of Rome’s advance on the lands outside its borders. Artifacts show the struggles of Rome to conquer and hold lands along its far borders and in the frontier. Murals and carvings found farther in from the battlegrounds and fortifications offer a glimpse into the propaganda of the day with Roman legions and soldiers slaughtering barbarians and holding captives. Closer to the border, however, evidence is clear that victory was not always certain and that many Romans fell in brutal fighting or in sacrifices to Barbarian gods.

The entire border of the Roman Empire was not in a state of warfare. There were also areas of peaceful commerce, and artifacts from tombs and other areas show this. Amber and gold traded hands among various societies as well as the multitude of Roman coins found throughout Europe – including parts that were never part of the Empire.

The show opened on January 26, 2008 and runs through July 20, 2008. The exhibit halls at the Palazzo Grassi are open from 9am to 7pm daily.