The Archaeological and Anthropological Society of Victoria is a group that promotes the study of archaeology, anthropology, ethno-archaeology and ethno-history in both Australia and further abroad. Lectures, from a range of talented presenters, are held every third Thursday of the month at 6:30pm at the The Kathleen Syme Library & Community Centre – 251 Faraday St, Carlton.
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 Next Lecture – Thursday 20th of June, 2019.

The popes and the protection of Rome’s cultural heritage

Presented by Honorary Professor Ron Ridley, University of Melbourne

As the imperial capital of the Mediterranean world, Rome was a stunning city at the end of the classical period (c. 300). Then, with the conversion to Christianity, her monuments became less precious, but the imperial law codes still protected the fabric of the city. By the Middle Ages the municipal government on the Capitol assumed responsibility, until edged out by a renewed papal government, following the return from Avignon in 1377. From the fifteenth century popes began issuing edicts to forbid illegal and damaging ‘excavations’ (treasure-hunts) or export of art treasures. The popes were themselves, however, precisely the most powerful and destructive forces, as they sought ready-made materials for their own enormous building projects, such as new St Peter’s. And as the compulsion of collectors, especially royal and aristocratic, of classical art increased, popes faced irresistible pressure to allow exports. An attempt will be made to trace the developing papal legislation, which is the basis for all modern international law protecting the ‘cultural patrimony’ everywhere. 

Inaugural Teaching Fellow in Ancient History , University of Sydney, 1962-1964; lecturer in History, University of Melbourne, 1965, retiring in 2005 from a Personal Chair. Main teaching and research interests: the whole Ancient World, the history of archaeology in Egypt and Rome, the history of historical writing, on which I have published some twenty books (also about to appear: Akhenaten, an historian’s view (AU Cairo) and Magick City, travellers to Rome from the Middle Ages to 1900, 3 vols, Pallas Athena, London) and more than 100 articles and chapters in books.


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