The exhibition itself was arranged like a Roman Villa, with the artefacts set out according to where they would have been originally. Starting off in the street itself there were frescos from a bar, weighing scales and other assorted trading items, and best of all, a
wall sign marking a property dispute between two neighbours. It was very interesting to see how similar the Romans were to us in their daily lives - and that was a theme which ran throughout the whole exhibition. There was also another very interesting item, a mould for mass producing oil lamps, on which a slave's fingerprints can still be seen in the paint!
Personally my favourite room was the atrium, for two reasons. The first reason is that it felt exceptionally well laid out, with the impluvium in the middle and the water projected from above. It really did allow you to get an understanding of what it would have been like in a Roman house. Secondly, and to me even more special, is that this room contained a lot of items that I've seen and read about while studying Latin. Notably, the fresco of Terentius Neo and his wife is adorns front cover of my grammar book, and there was a bust and wax tablet belonging to Lucius Caecilius Iucundus.
To the side was the bedroom, containing the famous carbonised cradle from Herculaneum. You could make out the wood grain and all of the joins, and there was something very beautiful about it. Again, it was another case of realising how much like us the Romans really were, and it was quite something to see it in person. Also displayed in the same room were a number of frescos which were known as figurae veneris, including one from the house of Caecilius. They certainly didn't mention that in the Cambridge Latin Course! It was a reminder that for all the different ways that the Romans are similar to us, they're also very different in other ways.
Continuing to the dining room there were a number of frescos, displaying the 4 different styles found in Pompeii. One of them, in the second style, had scratched drawings at the bottom depicting a beast hunt in the arena, drawn by a child. There was also a painted tablet, something which is mentioned in Cicero's In Verrem II rather often, so it was interesting to see a real one on display. It was a fresco inside a wooden frame, so that it could be moved around and hung in wall alcoves around the house, and I'm very glad I saw it since it's made me think about the speeches again in a different way.
In the kitchen the main feature was one of the walls of a Roman kitchen featuring a lararium (a shrine to the household gods) which showed a bit more about Roman life from a slave's perspective. In the same room there was also another well known item, a carbonised loaf of bread from Herculaneum. It was stamped with a maker's mark, telling us that it was baked by Celer, the slave of Quintus Granius Verus. Alongside this there were several other foods which had been preserved, including dates and almonds. There was also a jar used for fattening dormice, which had rims around the inside which would be filled with food. It was striking both how similar and different the Romans were, seeing the familiar bread alongside the dormouse fattening jar.
I was exceptionally pleased that I was able to visit the exhibition while it was at the British Museum, and I enjoyed seeing some of the items linked with the Latin I've been studying, such as the painted tablet and Caecilius' accounts. But moreover it was excellent being able to see how the Romans really lived, and that for me was what really made the exhibition special. I'd definitely encourage anyone who wants to visit the exhibition to do so, but thank you for reading and let me know what you think.