Monday I got as early a start as I could manage and headed out. Due to needing to accomplish some useful things, I didn’t get to the fun stuff until about noon. So I went down to The British Museum to start my day, planning on about four hours there, then to downtown London to check out the HMS Belfast.
The British Museum is where they store the stuff that they stole from all over the world. It’s fucking
I started with the Egyptian exhibit first, which was awesome and made me wonder if there was anything actually left in Egypt. I then went on to the Assyrian, Hittite, and Persian exhibits, which featured hundreds of feet of carved reliefs depicting Good Guy kings smashing Bad Guy kings over the heads with maces. It was actually very cool, because you could see examples (stylized, but the concepts came across), of what was involved in some of the battles, sieges, and various military actions. Mind you, there was nearly nothing showing everyday life off of the battlefield or campaign trail, but I’m given to understand that most of the ancient Near Eastern cultures didn’t bother to carve their beer-making experiments into rocks for posterity. I have to say I can understand that.
There were several immense granite Lions or Gryphons that used to stand guard at various royal palaces, city gates, and brothels. These things were so big I didn’t have to duck to read the cuneiform writing on the bellies of the beasts. They also had a reconstruction of a city gate, originally of wood with bronze paneling, made out of new wood and electrotype prints of the original bronze paneling. It gave you an idea of both the size of the city gates and what it might have been like to enter a city like this with the clear knowledge that the locals had hacked up everyone who fucked with them to date.
The Greek stuff was amazing. The panels were very well done overall; one set depicted the battle between the Centaurs and some tribe of pre-Hellenistic Greeks. Each showed a one-on-one fight between a Centaur and a human, and for the subject material were very lifelike.
Others showed more battles between proto-Greeks and various Bad Guys. One set that caught my attention may have been between Greeks and Amazons, since the other side was clearly female. But it was a series of bloody-handed murders, since the women were largely unarmed in the friezes. Lovely.
The Roman section contained a lot of the same kind of thing (with statues that were if anything more lifelike), plus much more of the just-another-day-in-the-empire bits. Reading the correspondence between Legionnaires stationed on Hadrian’s Wall near Scotland with the garrison of Londinium was pretty cool, if largely because it sounded like rather generic email.
On through other eras and places, with weapons and armor, bowls painted with scenes of everyday life as well as the occasional decapitation, etc. Sadly, major sections of the Roman exhibit were shut off due to lack of staffing. There is no entry fee to this place, they just ask for occasional donations and get some help from the government.
I didn’t spend as much time as I’d wanted, but knew I was running low on time in general and so took off. From there I took the tube to the HMS Belfast.
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