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  • The National Archaeological Museum of Naples

    by Anthony Parente

    If you enjoy history, archaeology and ancient relics you will definitely want to visit the National Archaeological Museum located in Naples. The museum is one of the most important and leading archaeological museums in the world. It contains an unprecedented collection of Roman-Greco antiquities from Pompeii, Stabiae, Herculaneum and other archaeological sites located in and around the region of Campania.

    The building, which houses the museum, was built during the later portion of the 16th century. Initially it was called the Palace of the Royal Studies. It was named this because it was headquarters for the University of Naples. 43 years after Naples fell under the Bourbons in 1734, Ferdinand IV felt that the palace, which was vacated by the university, would be better suited to house the Bourbon Museum and the Royal Library. The most noted additions to the museum are the Farnese collection acquired from Charles of Bourbon at the beginning of the 19th century and the archaeological findings from Herculaneum, Pompeii and Stabiae. When Italy became a unified nation it took possession of the Bourbon Museum and called it the National Museum. They later decided to move the library and art gallery to a new location and once again they changed the name to the National Archaeological Museum.

    The museum contains over 100 various exhibitions located throughout the basement, mezzanine, ground and first floors of the museum. Many have very beautiful and magnificent pieces some dating as far back as 200 BC.

    The Farnese Collection donated by Charles of Bourbon contains many wonderful sculptures and gems found at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. Of the many pieces the most noteworthy of the sculptures are the Bull, which is the largest existing sculpture from Ancient Times, and the magnificent statue of Hercules. The gem collection in its own right is pretty impressive. The center of attraction is the Farnese Cup, which dates back to 150 BC. The cup is made from sardonyx agate and just so happens to be one of the largest cameos in the entire world. In addition to the Farnese collection there are many sculptures attained from Pompeii, Herculaneum and other archaeological sites in Campania.

    The museum also contains many frescoes and mosaics from the cities of Herculaneum, Pompeii and Stabiae, which were buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

    Many of the mosaics come from the House of Faun located in Pompeii. Of the mosaics the most noted is the one depicting the Battle of Issus, which was fought between Alexander the Great and Persians who were ruled by King Darius. The frescoes located throughout the museum give us some wonderful insight into the everyday life in these cities during Ancient times. These paintings range from human sacrifices to burial rites to the beginning of spring.

    There is more to the museum than just the frescoes, sculptures and mosaics mentioned above. Other collections of interest are the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, the Temple of Isis in Pompeii and the Egyptian collection. Before you leave make sure to visit the glass collection, which contains a beautiful piece from Pompeii titled the Blue Vase.

    What amazes me the most is that these frescoes, sculptures and other antiquities survived the eruption of Vesuvius as well as over 2000 years of existence.

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