On February 17th, the Museum of the Rockies will open the doors on its new exhibit: Julius Caesar: Military Genius and Mighty Machines. The exhibit is prepared by Tom Rizzo, who has been touring with the exhibit since its world premiere in 2009 at the Archeological Museum of Rome. When asked why it is important for MSU students to come and see the exhibit, Rizzo said: “This is important technology that evolved into what we have today. It’s one of the only places in the world where you can see and interact with the exhibits and recognize the similarities.” He further stated that one of his favorite parts of running the exhibit is the chance to see “three or four generations of families all enjoying and learning together. I think that’s important. We try to do true interactivity, learning from experience.”
As for the exhibit itself, it will be split into five different sections, which Rizzo happily demonstrated and explained.
The first section focuses on artifacts that might be seen in a typical Roman villa. Upon entering the home, the first objects encountered were busts of various political figures, a way of displaying your political views to your guests. “It would be,” said Rizzo, “like every American keeping busts of the presidents next to their front doors.” Rizzo said.
The second section focuses on the Roman military and the various machines of war that they employed. Roman armor can be seen on display, but the highlight of this section is certainly the recreations of the machines. There are replicas of scorpions, catapults, siege towers and more. For those who remember the Museum’s former exhibit on the inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci, there is a similar feel to the recreations of Da Vinci’s tank and flying machine.
The logistics section of the exhibit covers a wide variety of pieces, ranging from a copy of the world’s oldest road map to recreations of a Roman odometer. The invention of the odometer allowed for the creation of maps that were accurate to 1/400th of a Roman mile and were invaluable in the transportation of armies and supplies across the vast expanses of the empire.
Entertainment in Rome took many forms and commonly by that of writing. Paper and vellum were expensive and fragile, so many Romans chose to write on clay tablets, as they were sturdier and could be heated in order to erase old writing, making them reusable. The highlight of this section is undoubtedly the multiple recreations of the Colosseum. Scale models explore the mechanisms used to store and transport wild animals, as well as flood the arena floor for the recreation of naval battles. Sets of gladiator armor and weapons such as tridents and helmets.
The fifth and final section deals with the methods that the Romans used to complete their many feats of engineering and construction. Interactive pulley systems instruct guests on the concept of mechanical advantage, and a disassembled potter’s wheel shows how the various parts work. Larger mechanisms have scale models on display as well, such as a Roman crane that was powered by what was essentially a large hamster wheel operated by slave labor.
Julius Caesar: Military Genius and Mighty Machines will remain open from February 17th through May 13th. The exhibit is included in the cost of admission, which is $10 for MSU students when they show their Cat Card.