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Thursday, 18 February 2010

At the National Constitution Center

When in America,
Do as the Romans Do

By Richard Carreno
Junto Staff Reporter Bio
The National Constitution Center, in Philadelphia, will tomorrow (19 February) open its new exhibit 'Ancient Rome & America,' a broad retrospective highlighted by sculptures, paintings, miniatures, and ancient artifacts that couples the birth of the United States to Classical roots.

The result is an obvious, and well-worn story, how early Americans from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson adopted Roman and Grecian mimes to underscore the new spiritual underpinnings of the emerging nation. Washington fashioned himself after the Roman citizen-soldier-general Cincinnatus. Jefferson liked to consider himself an architect manque -- in the Classical style. (Viz Monticello).

Introducing the exhibit yesterday, the center's head, David Eisner, linked the two cultures, of imperial Rome and the early United States. 'The connections between these two cultures separated by millennia and continents are startling and captivating,' he said.

Unlike past exhibits, 'Rome & America' also exhibits scholarship and an actual connection with the center's stated mission related to an understanding Constitutional values. The center's last exhibit was a bit of fluff -- though wildly popular -- that flogged the shallowness of Diana, the late Princess of Wales.

Though the show -- running to 1 August -- has been in the making for three years, the seriousness, relevance, and curatorial flair of the new installation speaks well of the debut tenure of Eisner, on the job as the center's chief executive officer and president for just two months. 

Helping to curate the show, not surprisingly, were two heavy-hitters, Caroline Winterer, associate professor of history at Stanford University, and Campbell Grey, assistant professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Winterer and Grey also appear in a short video presentation in which they discuss whether the United States could succumb to the same fate as ancient Rome -- an internal corruption and political flaccidness the signaled the end of its empire.

Check out this well-crafted video. Fair and balanced. (Hint: Sarah Palin, Democrats, and Wall Street greed).

Admission is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $12 for children aged from four to 12 years. Admission to the center's permanent exhibit and theatrical production, 'Freedom Rising,' is included. The center is located at 525 Arch Street.