Readers may have noticed that I have not posted much over the past month or so. The reason for this is that there are several demanding projects at Frankfurt University requiring my attention and I was also preparing for a visit from my mother. It was her first trip abroad. My mother arrived in Frankfurt on September 10 and stayed for 12 days. I kept her busy after her arrival showing her the sites in Frankfurt and some nearby towns and cities, such as Mainz, Heidelberg, and Cologne. The following Monday we went to Rome for four days and I took her around the sites there. Except for a run-in with one corrupt taxi driver, we enjoyed our time together and I am glad she was able to experience a small part of Europe and its rich history. I hope that I will be able to post more frequently now since I have returned to work and am starting to get caught up on my obligations.
One place I have consistently visited every time I go to Rome is the Museo Nazionale Romano - Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. The museum is located next to Termini train station and contains a very import collection of sculpture, wall paintings and, of course, coins. Naturally, this museum was on our itinerary, since I wanted to ogle the magnificent numismatic collection once again. My mother was not as impressed with the coins as she was with the wall paintings, sculptures, and fine mosaics, but I was able to make a quick jaunt through the basement vault where the coins are kept anyway.
Unlike most of the important western collections of ancient coins, those in Rome often contain significant proportions of coins that are known to have been recovered in Rome and Italy. Most of the coins in the cases at the Palazzo Massimo come from the private collection of Francesco Gnecchi, a numismatic scholar from the late 19th and early 20th century, but other displays include excavated hoards and finds as does its larger inventory which cannot be displayed at once. Some 60,000 - 70,000 ancient coins from the Rome, which were recovered during the risorgimento, await publication by the numismatists at Frankfurt. Some finds from the Tiber River have already been published.
The extensive display at the Palazzo Massimo allows visitors to view the evolution and development of the Roman monetary system in a chronological fashion and also includes later medieval and modern coins from Italy. Unlike most museums containing ancient coin displays, the cases at Palazzo Massimo have magnifiers that visitors can manipulate electronically to view select coins in greater detail. Often, however, I have found some of these inoperable. Nevertheless, any numismatist or ancient coin enthusiast who passes through Rome ought to visit this collection and the other important holdings of this fantastic museum. In some ways its a much more enjoyable experience than visiting the Capitoline Museums or the Vatican Museums, where one has to fight the throngs of tourists.
(Photos: 1. My mother and I on the Palatine Hill in Rome with the Colosseum in the background; 2. Display cases for ancient coins at Palazzo Massimo; 3. Detail of display case with magnifiers; 4. Display showing the stratification of the Vicarello votive deposit; 5. Detail of the Vicarello votive deposit.)