First on view at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, the exhibition focuses on the Roman Empire's most difficult age, when people of profoundly different cultures and traditions from the steppes of Asia and Eastern Europe gradually began to dominate the Western world, leading to the fall of Rome. On show is a vast collection of archeological finds that covers the various phases of coexistence and conflict between the empire and barbarian populations.
The chronologically structured exhibition encompasses the period between the 2nd and the 6th century AD and is supplemented by an animated map of Europe that illustrates the massive shifts of populations and power of the time. Some 70 European lenders contributed to this representative display of approximately 1000 pieces of jewellery, weapons, coins and other important objects.
Confrontation Between Romans and Barbarians
The first two rooms of the exhibition are devoted to the confrontation between Romans and barbarians. The Roman Empire had established itself as the dominant power in the Mediterranean by the 1st century BC. However, its appetite for further expansion was checked under the Emperors Augustus and Tiberius (1st century BC to 1st century AD), when large barbarian alliances began to emerge on the other side of the Rhine and Danube frontiers of the Empire. Keen to share in the wealth of imperial Rome, barbarian warriors became the antagonists of Roman emperors, whose portraits set an often imitated but never equalled standard of state representation in art. In the exhibition this confrontation is exemplified by the gold bust of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (c. 180 AD) and the most famous of ancient portraits of Germans from the bronze cauldrons discovered in Muov (Czech Republic) and Czarnówko (Poland). The Roman weapons, items of daily use and gold and silver luxury goods shown here whetted the appetites of the barbarian neighbours.
Looting by Germanic Tribes
The exhibition next focuses on the large-scale incursions onto Roman territory by Germanic tribes in the last third of the 3rd century AD. The so-called 'barbarian treasures' discovered aboard sunken ships at the bottom of the Rhine provide eloquent testimony of the extent of the looting.
Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland Web Site