The Roman Empire was one of the greatest ancient powers in world history, and Julius Caesar (100-44BC) its most outstanding military genius, politician and inventor. A brilliant strategist, Caesar led the Roman legions into many battles and won great victories. His military and technological innovations paved the way for a long-lasting empire and civilization, which provided a solid foundation for modern Europe.
From tomorrow (December 7) until April 10, 2013, visitors to the Hong Kong Science Museum will be able to learn more about Caesar from an exhibition that combines history and science. "Julius Caesar – Military Genius and Mighty Machines" is divided into four sections: "Military Genius", "All Roads Lead to Rome", "Building Rome" and "Entertainment and Lifestyle". The exhibition features more than 40 interactive models and replicas of inventions and machines, including ancient weaponry, military accessories of the Roman army, ancient surveying and measuring tools, ancient travel guides and books, and Roman coins, etc. It will enable visitors to explore Caesar's military achievements as well as ancient Roman construction technologies.
Presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and organised by the Hong Kong Science Museum, the exhibition is created by The Artisans of Florence, NICCOLAI S.N.C. (Firenze).
The exhibition was officially opened today by the Under Secretary for Home Affairs, Ms Florence Hui; the Consul General of Italy in Hong Kong and Macau, Ms Alessandra Schiavo; the Curator of the Museum of Leonardo da Vinci, Florence, Italy, Mr Gabriele Niccolai; and the Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Science Museum, Mr Michael Wong.
Speaking at the exhibition's opening ceremony, Ms Hui said Julius Caesar may be known by many as a great Roman consul and politician, but few would be aware that he was also a military genius and inventor. Besides formulating military strategy, he invented war machinery that helped his armies win.
Under Caesar's leadership, the territories of the Roman Empire extended as far as Europe, Asia and Africa. His conquests are partly attributed to Caesar's ingenious application of scientific principles in developing machines for attack and defence. He built sophisticated military devices as well as impressive structures such as the Colosseum. We still make use of the knowledge and technology handed down from the Roman Empire in our daily lives today.
By 100BC, Rome ruled the Mediterranean. But the Roman Republic was not structured to manage a sprawling empire, while the conservative aristocratic elite in the Roman Senate blocked the efforts of reformers. From this untenable situation rose Julius Caesar, an avid advocate of reform. After a period as consul in Rome, he served in Gaul where he spent a decade annexing this huge territory for Rome. With the Gallic wars concluded, Caesar marched on Rome with his army, resulting in a civil war lasting three years. He emerged triumphant and was eventually proclaimed dictator for life. He was assassinated in 44BC but his legacy has endured over the centuries.
The Roman legions led by Caesar came to be seen as "unbeatable" because of their military discipline, tactics, organisation, equipment, armour, communication, and above all, the invention of numerous war machines. Caesar adopted a "triplex acies" formation, three lines of men capable of discharging weapons individually or acting in unison, as in the "testudo" (tortoise) formation. Defensive positions were strengthened by digging trenches protected by machines like "ballistae" (an advanced catapult).
The Romans were skilled civil engineers, mastering technology for measurement, transportation and communications in order to control their environment and govern their citizens. They invented many machines for sea and land transportation, for measuring distance and time, and for building roads. These technologies are still in use today.
The Roman Empire was constantly expanding and engaging in large-scale construction projects from roads and bridges to bath-houses, aqueducts, theatres, sporting arenas and majestic monuments such as the triumphal arch – symbol of Rome's imperial power.
Wealthy Romans enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle amid luxurious furnishings, surrounded by slaves and servants. Poorer Romans could only dream of such a life but could still relax in public baths and be entertained in the Colosseum by popular sporting events such as gladiatorial contests, chariot races or the slaughter of beasts, criminals and Christians.
Few artefacts of Roman technology and machinery have survived in their entirety as most of the materials used, such as timber, ropes, canvas and primitive metals, have deteriorated significantly since the Roman Empire nearly 2,000 years ago. This exhibition was made possible thanks to a lifetime of work by three generations of Italian expert artisans who specialise in the reconstruction of ancient and lost technology. Using the same materials and techniques that the Romans used two millennia ago, these artisans from Florence, NICCOLAI S.N.C. (Firenze), have reconstructed a unique way of experiencing ancient Roman history and technology.
In addition to the exhibition, the Hong Kong Science Museum has also organised a series of extension and education activities, including talks, film shows and science experiments, which will enhance public knowledge of Caesar and ancient Rome. For details, please visit www.hk.science.museum.
Admission to the "Julius Caesar" exhibition is $25 with a half-price concession for full-time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above. Free admission is offered on Wednesdays. Ticket holders are entitled to admission to the permanent exhibition hall.
The Hong Kong Science Museum is located at 2 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon. It is open from 10am to 7pm on weekdays, and from 10am to 9pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. The museum will be closed at 5pm on Christmas Eve and Chinese New Year's Eve. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays) and the first two days of Chinese New Year.
For details of the exhibition and related programmes, please visit the Hong Kong Science Museum's website www.hk.science.museum/ese/ese.php or call 2732 3232.
Ends/Thursday, December 6, 2012
Issued at HKT 17:34
An assault ram used by the Roman army to breach the enemy's defensive belts, fortified city walls and gates.
The Roman "testudo" (tortoise) formation was deployed in both offensive and defensive situations. The formation shielded the group and allowed it to move forward.
The land odometer was an ingenious instrument for measuring distances on land in ancient times.
A gladiator in full armour who entertained audiences in violent confrontations with other gladiators and wild animals in the Colosseum.
The opening ceremony of the exhibition "Julius Caesar - Military Genius and Mighty Machines" was held today (December 6) at the Hong Kong Science Museum. Officiating guests were (from left) the Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Science Museum, Mr Michael Wong; the Consul General of Italy in Hong Kong and Macau, Ms Alessandra Schiavo; the Under Secretary for Home Affairs, Ms Florence Hui; and Curator of the Museum of Leonardo da Vinci, Florence, Italy, Mr Gabriele Niccolai.
The offficiating guests view an exhibit.