Lonely Planet Writer

A Rome exhibit is displaying a group of recently-discovered Roman statues for the first time

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that in Italy you’re going to find ancient ruins and hidden treasures as soon as you start digging, be it to build a house or a sand castle. This is certainly true for the Lazio region and its capital Rome, the city that was once the centre of the known world. And this summer, one of those hidden treasures is being shown to the public for the first time.

The Villa Adriana archaeological complex is a Unesco World Heritage site. Photo by Valeria Cantone/Shutterstock

In 2013, archaeologists found a very well preserved villa around Ciampino, in the province of Rome. The villa belonged to Messalla Corvinus, a famous patron of the arts in the first days of the Roman Empire, and as if the villa itself wasn’t enough of a discovery, an exceptional group of seven statues was also found within its boundaries. And now, after years of restoration, they are finally on display.

The exhibition “And tell me you don’t want to die, Niobe’s myth,” is now opened at the Villa Adriana archaeological complex in Tivoli, still in the province of Rome. The exhibition centres around the seven statues, which represent Niobe, a figure from Greek mythology, and her children, known as Niobids. According to the myth, Niobe bragged about her seven sons and seven daughters to Lato, mother of the twin gods Apollo and Artemis, mocking her for having had only two children while Niobe herself had fourteen. In retaliation for Niobe’s arrogance, Apollo and Artemis killed all of her children, and she herself turned into a stone out of grief. The myth is found in the poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which he wrote while he was staying right at Corvinus’ villa.

Villa Adriana is the setting for the exhibition. Photo by Jacek Sopotnicki/Getty Images

The exhibition is a homage to Ovid himself, but also an occasion to explore how the myth of Niobe has evolved throughout its two-millennia-long history through visual art, literature, and music. Along the Niobids statues found in Ciampino, the exhibition will also feature ancient red-figure ceramics, marble statues, Renaissance friezes and modern paintings – including Mario Sironi’s “Nudo con albero” from 1930.

The exhibition will take place in the Ercole Vincitore Sanctuary, opened specifically for the occasion. Photo by AZemdega/Getty Images

You can find more information about the exhibit’s location on its official website here.