Monday, November 07, 2005

Forgotten Empire

Christmas has been getting a head start on Autumn these past few years. Most of the leaves used to be down by bonfire night, but last week the plain trees in Soho Square were still obstinately well-clad with predominantly green leaves.

This year we watched the fireworks from the bank of the Thames opposite Woolwich Arsenal (having elected not to venture over to the uncivilised side of the river). The big display there kicked off at 7:30pm unhindered by the downpours forecast earlier. We made it back to the balcony by nine and had another couple of hours of drinking and dancing to a loud reggeton beat before our private panorama of starry skies kindled and re-kindled by exploding bulbs of coloured phosphor.

It certainly felt autumnal when we set off on Sunday to see Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia at the British Museum. A few pics here of some of the treasures on show.

Does it deliver on its stated objective to "set the record straight"? Not really. There's not enough insight into the daily life and mentality of the inhabitants of Achaemenid Persia. This was then the largest empire the world had then known - which means that all Alexander of Macedon really had to do to enter the Guinness tablet of records was to append his own comparatively titchy patrimony to it.

To those of us schooled on such matters before the Iranian Revolution there wasn't that much need to set the record straight anyway; we had always appreciated the sophistication of this civilisation, but these days the West feels the need to constantly remind itself of the alternatives it might have trampled on.

I'd forgotten my own misgivings about these Sunday afternoon pastimes. The museum would be well advised to establish a special visiting time just for the buggy brigade, who could then have their own demolition derby in the confined pathways between the exhibits without having to inflict their recent parenthood on the rest of the paying public. Ditto the audioguide zombies, the deodorant-challenged and those old biddies that drag their withered noses along the glass and chatter away as if they were window shopping outside Peter Jones.