Bet you didn’t know “The Dying Ninja Turtle” by Brett Kern even existed. Now you do. You’re welcome.
Episode 68: In which Roma finds her art employed in offensive (aesthetically and ethically) American representation of Native Americans.
ROMA, GODDESS OF ROME (entering): Minerva, Mars, gird your loins. There is yet another dispute in America over a stolen Roman statue. We must reclaim our own.
MINERVA, ROMAN GODDESS OF STRATEGY: Huh, I’ve been skimming the mortal news pretty closely, and I haven’t seen anything. Are you talking about that vast trove of artifacts they just returned to Italy? Take a look, because I didn’t see any major statues in there. It’s mostly pottery.
ROMA: Pottery? Why would I care for pottery? What do you think I am, Etruscan? Or worse, Greek?
MARS, ROMAN GOD OF WAR: Wow, Minerva, this picture of you is terrible. No wonder you ended up ever-virgin. They couldn’t even get your stupid hat in the frame. You really should let Venus give you a makeover.
MINERVA: Like I’d ever let your skanky girlfriend…
ROMA: AHEM. I have brought my own picture of the Roman statue we need to recover, since there are so many in the news these days I didn’t want to get confused. Behold.
MINERVA: Good gods, what is that? That is one of the most awkwardly rendered sculptures I’ve ever seen. Is he made of putty? Why is he bending like that?
MARS: His hair looks worse than yours did on that pot. No way I can give this to Venus for our collection of hot statues. I’m out for this mission.
ROMA: We are not going to keep the statue personally. Once we obtain it we will put it on public display as of old, so that all may see the nations we have conquered.
MINERVA: (skimming) Yeah, about that. This is a sculpture of a Native American Indian. In other words, one of the few people the Romans didn’t try to conquer. Mostly because they didn’t know they existed.
ROMA: Nonsense. That is clearly one of those statues ancient Romans loved that show a wounded enemy dying. Usually dressed up to look as exotic as possible while maintaining a minimum of anatomical coverage. So that all may know the superiority of the toga, and the fabulous abs of our enemies.
MINERVA: No, it says here this is a modern sculpture made to look like one of those Roman wounded enemies. Specifically, the Dying Gaul in the Musei Capitolini. This oddly-proportioned monstrosity was originally set up in Boston, wherever that is.
MARS: American imperial flex, I like it. Rome of the far West. Stupid execution in the sculpture, but I’m here for the background sentiment.
ROMA: But if this sculpture was not stolen from my city, why is it in the mortal news? Only truly Roman statues are worthy of discussion.
MINERVA: Apparently the statue was owned by one museum, then it disappeared during a real estate sale and decades later reappeared in a different museum. Now the museums are fighting for who gets to keep and display it, for some unfathomable reason.
ROMA: Let them keep it. If it has nothing to do with Rome, I want nothing to do with it.
MINERVA: I wouldn’t say it has nothing to do with Rome. It’s an intriguing example of Neo-Classical art underpinning a modern imperialist agenda, supposedly justifying territorial expansion as the triumph of clearly superior civilizations in the face of primitive, doomed resistance.
ROMA: (blinking) What?
MINERVA (putting on helmet, reaching for her spear): Nevermind. This thing is too offensive and ugly to exist. Let’s take another page from Ancient Rome’s book and go smash a sculpture.
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To explore the connections between Ancient Rome, America’s founding, and a whole set of unfortunate ethnic stereotypes, enroll in CLAS-C 414 Art and Archaeology of the Roman World, coming up Spring 2024, no pre-reqs or previous experience required. Or to see how Romans took over their world, Gauls included, look for CLAS-C 102 Roman Culture, coming up Spring 2024, and earn GEC credits while you’re at it! While you’re waiting, make sure to check back for the continued repatriation adventures of Minerva, Mars, and Roma. Can’t get enough of Ancient Greece and Rome? Earn a Classics Minor in just 15 credits!