Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (Naples Archaeological Museum)

August 10, 2013

This is my favorite museum in Italy. Like the Capitoline and Palatine Museums in Rome, the Naples Archaeological Museum has seen significant improvements in recent years. In particular, the lighting seemed better in many galleries. If you’re visiting the Naples area and have any interest in antiquity, you need to go here. A trip to Pompeii or Herculaneum is not really complete if you don’t also see the artifacts taken from those sites. Considering the current inaccessibility of vast swathes of Pompeii (see forthcoming post), I’d suggest visiting the museum instead of the site if you have a limited amount of time. Also, if you’re visiting Rome, be aware that the museum is easily reachable from Rome by train for a day trip. These photos don’t even begin to do justice to the breadth and quality of the collection:

Europa fresco, Casa di Giasone, Pompeii, MAN Naples, INV 111475 (060213)

Europa about to depart for Crete

Musicians mosaic, MAN Naples (060213)

Street musicians, late Republican mosaic by Dioscorides

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Song for Cleomenes

September 23, 2010

The only song I’m aware of concerning Gaius Verres, governor of Sicily (there are some historical inaccuracies but it’s still pretty good). By the excellent Mountain Goats.


Bob Dylan and the Classics

January 21, 2009

Early on in the fascinating Chronicles: Volume One (2004) Bob Dylan describes the library in the home of a New York acquaintance:

There were all types of things in here, books on typography, epigraphy, philosophy, political ideologies. The stuff that could make you bugged-eyed. Books like Fox’s Book of Martyrs, The Twelve Caesars, Tacitus lectures and letters to Brutus. Pericles’ Ideal State of Democracy, Thucydides’ The Athenian General – a narrative which would give you chills. It was written four hundred years before Christ and it talks about how human nature is always the enemy of anything superior. Thucydides writes about how words in his time have changed from their ordinary meaning, how actions and opinions can be altered in the blink of an eye. It’s like nothing has changed from his time to mine. [page 36]

Thucydides evidently made a lasting impression on Dylan (the passage seems to refer to the early 60s). Of some other books in the library he notes “This stuff pales in comparison to Thucydides” [37]. While Dylan clearly read Thucydides – the reference to words changing their meaning comes from the account of a civil war at Corcyra (book 3, section 82) – it is curious that Dylan gets the titles wrong. Thucydides, though he was an Athenian general, did not write a book called The Athenian General. He wrote a history the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta in the late 5th century BCE. Furthermore, there is no book by Pericles called Ideal State of Democracy, though Thucydides’ history does contain speeches, attributed to Pericles, discussing Athenian democracy. The Twelve Caesars is a real book (by Suetonius) but what are Tacitus’ lectures? As for the letters to Brutus, presumably that’s a reference to one of Cicero’s works. Inaccuracies aside, it is worth noting that Thucydides (and some other classical authors) apparently had a substantial impact on one of the foremost twentieth century songwriters.