Practising Classics at The British Museum

It was really nice having my Aunt visit us here in Belfast last week. Unfortunately I then immediately got sick. Basically I have a very unforgiving digestive system. But I’m feeling a lot better now and with some luck that will be me done for now until after the wedding… fingers crossed.

It’s now almost 3 weeks until the wedding so the rest of my evenings will be filled with making party favours and packing. I’ll do my best to post a few more stories before this blog goes on hiatus for the month of November.

I wanted to find something to talk about this week. I’ve a couple of good stories, but the only pictorial one is from back when we visited London for the RWC!

british museum rachel in ireland

We had a load of time to kill after landing at Stanstead Airport. My brother and I have backgrounds in Classics so we decided to walk from Leicester Square to the British Museum. We managed to get through galleries 4 through 20 on this visit!

The first thing to greet us after leaving the glass-domed main hall was a giant (in museum terms, colossal) bust of Amenhotep III.

The ninth Pharaoh of the New Kingdom was the father of one of Egypt’s most interesting kings, Akhenaten – the man who tried (and ultimately failed) to make Egypt monotheistic. Amenhotep III was also the grandfather of Tutankhamun!

amenhotep iii british museum


Beyond Amenhotep III you will find statues of one of my favourite Pharaohs of all time: Senwosret III.

During the Twelfth Dynasty, Senwosret III campaigned into Nubia (now northern Sudan) where he established a series of massive fortifications. This expansionism was the focus of my own honours dissertation and after spending years with this guy in my head, it was nice to visit him in person!

And next to Senwosret III, a row of gorgeous statues to Sakhmet – the Egyptian goddess of war.

sahkmet british museum

fist bump british museum

After shenanigans amongst the Egyptian sculptures and teaching Tiernan how the Rosetta Stone was used to crack the code of hieroglyphics, we moved on to the classical section.

I should mention that we couldn’t get anywhere near the Rosetta Stone. The rain came pouring down and everyone for miles came to take shelter in the museum. I can hardly begin to describe what the crowds were like. I’m surprised I managed to get any pictures at all without people in them.

classics british museum greco roman aphrodite

When you move through the Egyptian exhibition into the Greco-Roman side, you are welcomed by Aphrodite kneeling (once upon a time) beside her bath. She looks a little embarrassed to see you…

The Greeks and Romans did some amazing things with marble. Take this colossal horse fragment, dating to 350 BC, from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos.

colossal horse from the quadriga of the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos

The Mausoleum was a wonder of the ancient world. This horse alone was over three times my size, I can’t imagine how huge the Mausoleum would have been.

Mausoleum at Halikarnassos

Caryatid Erechtheion British Museum

Eventually we made our way around to the room dedicated to Athens. Jack and I both spent a lot of time studying the Acropolis for our high school exams, so seeing one of the Caryatids of the Erechtheion was quite familiar (though spelling the word Erechtheion is just as annoying now as it was then). On one side of the temple, six female figures were sculpted in place of columns.

Sorry, this is becoming a bit of a history lesson…

I visit Greece in 2007 after I finished high school. My abiding memory is having a brilliant day at the Acropolis; taking pictures in the sun. The next day my camera broke at Delphi and I lost all of my pictures. I ran back up the hill to retake all of my photos from that day, but the Acropolis ones were gone forever.

It’s nice not to have to go too far to get a new picture of a Caryatid. Not the same as a Greek Holiday. Not amazing or anything. But nice.

Nereid Monument British Museum

Tiernan and some greek busts

And so we completed the ground floor, left-hand side of the British Museum.

En route to the Asian exhibit upstairs, we hit ‘the wall’ and it took all our energy to get back downstairs! I’ve got to learn to stop booking those really early flights.

Needless to say we will have to make a trip back to the British Museum since we only covered half of one floor. Once again I live up to my reputation of saving things for later!


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