The exhibit, which will be shown only in Philadelphia, may mark a shift in the way the Constitution Center mounts exhibitions, Eisner said at a news conference yesterday.
Up to now, the special exhibitions were produced largely by others and were often part of a tour. "Ancient Rome" and the next exhibit in the fall (the subject of which Eisner declined to disclose) will serve as progenitors of what is hoped to be a new era of in-house curatorial creations.
In the long run, Eisner said, "this business model will require us to recoup the cost of exhibitions through sponsorships and other kinds of partnerships."
"Ancient Rome," which Eisner said cost less than $1 million thanks to the largesse and goodwill of lenders, will focus on the parallels and portents embodied by the Roman Republic, the empire, and the Roman decline and fall.
Roman orators and ideas had a profound effect on Washington, Adams, Madison, Jefferson, and their comrades. Artists liked to depict the founders in Roman dress - togas were a favorite - and the founders modeled their oratory on the work of Cicero, the literary stylist and statesman who lived in the first century B.C.
At the news conference at the center, at Sixth and Arch Streets, William Rush's 1817 marble bust of Washington in a greatcoat and draped with a toga was unveiled to demonstrate the exhibition's themes and quality. The bust is on loan from the American Revolution Center.
A wide array of art and artifacts will explore possible parallels between American and Roman culture. Two eagles, one depicting the American symbol of state carved in 1804, the other a bronze Roman rendering probably broken off a military standard, will be shown side by side.
The football helmet of 1970s Eagles great Harold Carmichael will be shown next to a gladiator helmet and four original pieces from the gladiator barracks of a pavilion in Pompeii.
There also will be artifacts excavated from Pompeii, as well as the cast of a man who could not escape the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
Slave collars from both societies and Roman works owned and studied by those who crafted the U.S. Constitution will all be on view.
"Our goal," Eisner said, is to lead visitors "to ponder the lessons that ancient Rome can impart to America today."
Contact culture writer Stephan Salisbury at 215-854-5594 or email@example.com.