Road Test: Julius Caesar exhibition

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 January, 2013, 3:38pm

A military exhibition, even with the promise of Roman history, is unlikely to elicit enthusiasm from my daughters, aged nine and 14. But Hong Kong Science Museum's special exhibition - Julius Caesar: Military Genius and Mighty Machines is packed full of fascinating finds. The secret lies with the combination of science and history, examining his life as a warrior as much as for his lesser-known skills as an inventor of technology created in large part to help win his many battles.

The exhibition features more than 40 models of ancient machines and tools set out over four zones: Military Genius; All Roads lead to Rome; Building Rome and Entertainment and Lifestyle. Highlights include the vitruvian crane, a device designed to lift very heavy loads, and the land odometer, which measured distances.

Many machines are interactive: the Roman arch was the most popular, showing how a seemingly simple arch of bricks is surprisingly difficult to create unless one follows the systematic building process refined by the Romans.

There is a short video and timeline at the entrance. The exhibition also offers a glimpse of life in ancient Rome with a fascinating replica of Tabula Peutingeriana, the first known road map of the Roman Empire showing road networks, rivers, mountains and seas. As few pieces of Roman technology have survived, most of the artifacts are replicas created by The Artisans of Florence, a group of expert Italian artisans who specialise in the reconstruction of ancient technology using the same materials and techniques used 2,000 years ago.

Verdict: many of the individual exhibits are fascinating, but a guidebook would have been useful to take away and the exhibition itself is tucked away on the lower levels. Some of the replicas are quite small and the explanatory text generally targets adults more than children. Lighting was dark and moody.

Julius Caesar: Military Genius and Mighty Machines; until April 10; Special Exhibition Hall, HK Science Museum, 2 Science Museum Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui East. Closed on Thursdays except public holidays. Tickets HK$25, HK$12.50 (students, people with disability and senior citizens)