About: Cynthia Colburn

I’m president of the Los Angeles Society of the Archaeological Institute of America, associate professor of art history at Pepperdine University, and a visiting scholar in the Getty Research Institute's Scholars Program.

Posts by Cynthia

Posted in Exhibitions and Installations, Getty Villa, J. Paul Getty Museum

“The Last Days of Pompeii” and the Archaeology of Imagination

The Forum at Pompeii with Vesuvius in the Distance / Christen Schjellerup Kobke

Having traveled to countless archaeological excavations—and heard, overheard, or given tours at archaeological sites from diverse cultures—I am often struck by what narratives about the ancient world grab people’s imagination. Whether it be hair-raising mythological stories brought to life by… More»

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Posted in Ancient World, Antiquities, Getty Villa, J. Paul Getty Museum

Ancient Art in Context: Celebrate National Archaeology Day at the Getty Villa with Us

Outer Peristyle with columns and pomegranate tree at the Getty Villa

This Saturday, October 22, the Getty Museum is teaming up with the Archaeological Institute of America to celebrate National Archaeology Day. The Villa, with its Roman-inspired architecture and gardens and collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities, is a great… More»

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      All Hail Tiberius, Least Media-Savvy of the Roman Emperors

      Tiberius was proclaimed Roman emperor on September 17 in AD 14, exactly 2,000 years ago.

      He was also a bit idiosyncratic. “He was the least media-savvy emperor you could imagine,” says curator David Saunders, who has been in charge of this bronze portrait of Tiberius which leaves us on September 22. He point to this description found in the writings of Cassius Dio:

      Tiberius was a patrician of good education, but he had a most peculiar nature. He never let what he desired appear in his conversation, and what he said he wanted he usually did not desire at all. On the contrary, his words indicated the exact opposite of his real purpose; he denied all interest in what he longed for, and urged the claims of what he hated. He would exhibit anger over matters that were far from arousing his wrath, and make a show of affability where he was most vexed…In short, he thought it bad policy for the sovereign to reveal his thoughts; this was often the cause, he said, of great failures, whereas by the opposite course, far more and greater successes were attained.

      Moreover, David tells us, “Tiberius’s accession itself was a farrago: Tiberius sort-of feigning reluctance, the Senate bullying him, he being all, ‘Well, if-I-have-to,’ and in the end—according to Suetonius—saying he’ll do it as long as he can retire.”

      Suetonius is full of great, albeit spurious, anecdotes about poor old Tiberius, David reports. “When someone addressed him as ‘My Lord,’ it is said, Tiberius gave warning that no such insult should ever again be thrown at him.”

      Happy accession, My Lord!

      Portrait Head of Tiberius (“The Lansdowne Tiberius”), early 1st century A.D., Roman. The J. Paul Getty Museum

      Statue of Tiberius (detail), Roman, A.D. 37, Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Laboratorio di Conservazione e Restauro. Currently on view at the Getty Villa following conservation and study.

      09/17/14

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