At the peak of its empire, when the Union Jack flew over a quarter of the planet, England collected art and artifacts as fast as it collected colonies. This place, the British Museum, is the showcase for those extraordinary treasures.
Its centerpiece is the Great Court—an impressive example of Europe's knack for preserving old architectural spaces by making them fresh, functional, and inviting. The stately Reading Room—a temple of knowledge and high thinking—was the study hall for Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling, and T.S. Eliot. Karl Marx researched right here while writing Das Kapital.
它的中央物是「大中庭」－－一個歐洲維護古老建築空間技巧的出色例子，藉由使老建物變新、具功能性，且吸引人。宏偉的閱覽室－－一座知識及崇高思想的殿堂－－曾是 Oscar Wilde、Rudyard Kipling，以及 T.S. Eliot 的自習室。Karl Marx 在寫《資本論》時正是在這裡做研究的。
The British Museum is the chronicle of Western civilization. You can study three great civilizations—Egypt, Assyria, and Greece—in one fascinating morning. The Egyptian collection is the greatest outside of Egypt. It's kicked off with the Rosetta Stone, which provided the breakthrough in deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Discovered in 1799, it told the same story in three languages: Greek, a modern form of Egyptian, and ancient Egyptian.
大英博物館是西方文明的記錄。你可以在一個迷人的早晨裡看到三大文明 (埃及、 亞述以及希臘)。埃及展品是埃及境外最傑出的。它從羅賽塔石碑開始，羅賽塔石碑提供解開古埃及象形文字之謎的突破性發展。於 1799 年被發現，羅賽塔石碑描述一段相同的故事，使用三種語言：希臘文、當代的埃及字體以及古埃及文。
This enabled archaeologists to compare the two languages they understood with the ancient Egyptian, which was yet to be deciphered. Thanks to this stone, they broke the code, opening the door to understanding a great civilization.
The Egypt we think of—you know, pyramids, mummies, pharaohs, and guys who walk funny—lasted from about 3,000 to 1,000 B.C. It was a time of unprecedented stability—very little change in government, religion, or arts. Imagine 2,000 years of Eisenhower. Egyptian art was art with a purpose. It placated the gods—the entire pantheon, a cosmic zoo of deities, was sculpted and worshipped—and it served as propaganda for the pharaohs. They ruled with unquestioned authority and were considered gods on earth. And much of the art was for dead people—for a smoother departure and a happier afterlife. In ancient Egypt, you could take it with you.
Corpses were painstakingly mummified: The internal organs were removed and put in jars. Then the body was preserved with pitch, dried, and wrapped from head to toe. The wooden coffin was painted with magic spells and images thought to be useful in the next life.
The finely decorated coffins were put into a stone sarcophagus like this. These were then placed in a tomb, along with the allotted baggage for that ultimate trip. The great pyramids were just giant tombs for Egypt's most powerful—carefully designed to protect their precious valuables for that voyage into the next life.
In its waning years, Egypt was conquered by Assyria—present-day Iraq. These winged lions guarded an Assyrian palace nearly 900 years before Christ. Assyria considered itself the lion of early Middle Eastern civilizations. It was a nation of hardy and disciplined warriors. Assyrian kings showed off their power in battle, and by hunting lions. This dying lioness, roaring in pain, was carved as Assyria was falling to the next mighty power: Babylon. History is a succession of seemingly invincible superpowers, which all eventually fall.
Greece, during its Golden Age—roughly 400 B.C.—set the tone of so much of Western civilization to follow. The city of Athens was the site of a cultural explosion, which, within a couple of generations, essentially invented our notion of democracy, theater, literature, mathematics, science, philosophy, and so much more.
An evocative remnant of Greece's glory days is the sculpture, which once decorated the Parthenon—a temple on the Acropolis Hill in Athens. Here, a long procession of citizens honors the goddess Athena. The carvings of the temple's pediment—even in their ruined state—are a masterpiece, showing gods and goddesses celebrating the birthday of Athena. The Greeks prided themselves on creating order out of chaos, here, symbolized by the struggle between half-animal centaurs and civilized humans. First, the centaurs get the upper hand. Then, the humans rally and drive them off. In Golden Age Greece, civilization finally triumphed over barbarism.