PIFA: Rome's Birthday

Sunday, April 21, 2013 - 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Penn Museum, 3620 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

The ancient Roman Empire’s spectacular fighter—the gladiator—takes center stage Sunday afternoon, April 21, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Penn Museum turns the time machine dials back 2,766 years and celebrates Rome’s Birthday (April 21, 753 BCE) at a lively and interactive Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts event.

Visitors can watch gladiators battle in live reenactments, learn how to wrap a toga and create a fashionable ancient Roman hairstyle, make mosaics and shields at family craft tables, take in pop-up gallery talks and poetry readings, make pasta, and enjoy a talk about Rome’s founding.


The celebration is FREE with Museum admission donation.

  • $12 -- Adults
  • $10 -- Seniors [65+] and military personnel
  • $8 -- Full-time students [with ID] and children [6-17]
  • Free --  Museum members, children under 6, and PennCard holders.

For those daring enough to wear a toga or gladiator costume, they receive half off the price of admission!


Gladiatorial Bouts in the Museum’s Open Air Arena

Gladiators from Ludus Magnus Gladiatores (The Great School of the Gladiator) vie to “win the crowd” with battles every hour, on the half hour, starting at 1:30 pm. Sword-wielding fights take place in the Museum’s outdoor courtyard with reenactors hailing from Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, and as far as Maine. Visitors can see a roster of gladiators, dressed in a range of armor with weapons that match their fighting styles. In between risking life and limb, Ludus Magnus Gladiatores demonstrates fighting techniques and tells the history of pitting and pairing gladiators in combat. Also, Roman legion soldier reenactors are a powerful presence at the event as arena guards and fight presenters.

Carpe Diem!

Take a break from the action and enjoy other intriguing facets of Roman culture. Today’s passion for staying current in the latest hairstyle was no different for men and women in ancient Roman times. Janet Stephens, professional hairstylist and independent researcher, gives an engaging talk about Roman hairstyles and ancient hairdressing at 2:00 pm. Then she meticulously coifs a graduate student’s hair into one of the elaborate third–century hairstyles worn by women in ancient Rome.

Just as hairstyles determined a person’s station in life, so did clothing. All afternoon, Penn student volunteers transform visitors into distinguished ancient Roman citizens by carefully draping cloth to create a toga—the national garment of ancient Rome.
While the origins of pasta have been disputed, it cannot be denied that when one thinks of Italy, one thinks of pasta. Learn to make pasta from scratch with a chef and staff from the Museum’s Pepper Mill Café. Shape pasta by hand or use the pasta maker for a variety of pastas, each offering unique textures and tastes to dishes. Hungry visitors can drop by the Pepper Mill Café for an Italian-themed lunch menu, as well as traditional fare.

At 3:30 pm, Dr. C. Brian Rose, Curator-in-Charge, Penn Museum Mediterranean Section, speaks about the myths and archaeological evidence for the founding of Rome. Dr. Rose traces the early history of Rome and touches upon the belief in Trojan ancestry and the legendary myth of Romulus and Remus.

Guests can keep on exploring Rome in the Museum’s special exhibition, Unearthing a Masterpiece: A Roman Mosaic in Lod, Israel, featuring a 1,700-year-old, stunningly well-preserved Roman mosaic with images of exotic animals and marine life. While celebrating all things Roman, visitors should save time to experience the Etruscan, Rome, and Greece galleries and see more than 1,000 ancient objects, including marble and bronze sculptures, jewelry, metalwork, gold and silver coins, glass vessels, mosaics, and pottery. The galleries tell the story of the Etruscan people, the ancient Greeks, and their empire-building successors, the Romans.

Before the event: In-depth Roman Mosaic Panel Discussion

From 10:30 am to 1:00 pm, attendees can delve into the historical context of the Lod Mosaic in “The Lod Mosaic in Context” with a panel discussion of experts, including Dr. C. Brian Rose, Curator-in-Charge, Mediterranean Section; Dr. Annette Reed, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies; Dr. Julia Wilker, Assistant Professor, Classical Studies; and Dr. Ann Kuttner, Associate Professor, History of Art. Panelists offer insight into various aspects of the mosaic as they share information on the mosaic tradition, the images depicted on this floor mosaic, and the historical and religious context of Israel at the time the mosaic was constructed, around 300 CE.

This year's Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts asks "If you had a time machine…" what would you do? Philadelphia embarks on a month-long adventure as PIFA artists work together across time and space, crossing and blending a variety of styles to reflect PIFA’s core values of collaboration, innovation, and creativity. Throughout, PIFA presents works that explore specific moments in time—from the serious and somber to the lighthearted and silly! With more than 50 projects, there is something for thrill-seekers and art-lovers of every generation!

Event Type: 
Arts & Culture
Historical Preservation / Archaeology
Global Region: