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Time Travel: Archaeological Explorations

Classically educated travelers from northern Europe cherished the opportunity to visit Italy's ancient sites. Tourists flocked to Naples in order to visit the nearby Roman towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii, both destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in the first century (and rediscovered in 1709 and 1748 respectively). The sixth- and fifth-century BC Greek temples at Paestum, south of Salerno, were also rediscovered in the mid-eighteenth century. At the time the most accessible examples of ancient Greek architecture, they, too, attracted adventurous travelers.

In eighteenth-century Rome, no visitor with an interest in antiquity failed to call at the villa of Cardinal Alessandro Albani (1692–1779), who had amassed the most important collection of antique sculpture outside of the Vatican. Travelers could acquire prints—visual mementoes—depicting ancient Roman sites by artists such as Piranesi. Official excavation of the Roman Forum began in 1809 under Napoleon, and in the mid-nineteenth century, the site was documented in the new medium of photography.

European archaeologists also began exploring the ancient ruins of Greece, Egypt, and the Middle East in the nineteenth century. The excavations fired the imaginations of tourists, scholars, and artists, who were eager to learn more about the ancient civilizations that were considered the foundation of Western culture.


Image: Courtesy Lilly Library

Prospero, Caliban, and Miranda in Shakespeare's <em>The Tempest</em>, Act 1, Scene 2 The Bath Apartment in the Villa Albani Bridge at Narni
<strong>View of the Temple of Neptune, </strong> plate X from the series <em>Views of Paestum</em> Evening at Paestum Roman Forum
Temple of Jupiter Olympus, Athens <strong>Athens, the Acropolis, Temple of Jupiter in the Foreground</strong><br>From <em>Bedford's Photographs of the Tour of the East of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales</em> Basilica of Constantine, Rome
Roman Forum Salamis from the Propylaea The Hoop Dancer, 1891 <br />Dancer with Apple, 1890

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