Villa of the Papyri

 

Hadrian desolated the House of God in Jerusalem. J.P. Getty built a memorial to Hadrian on the Pacific Coast, near Santa Monica and the Thomas fire. The Benton family is part of real Biblical history.

Jon Presco

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadrian

In Roman Judaea Hadrian visited Jerusalem, which was still ruinous after the First Roman–Jewish War of 66–73. He may have planned to rebuild Jerusalem as a Roman colony – as Vespasian had done with Caesarea Maritima – with various honorific and fiscal privileges. The non-Roman population would have no obligation to participate in Roman religious rituals, but were expected to support the Roman imperial order; this is attested in Caesarea, where some Jews served in the Roman army during both the 66 and 132 rebellions.[149] It has been speculated that Hadrian intended to assimilate the Jewish Temple to the traditional Roman civic-religious Imperial cult; such assimilations had long been commonplace practise in Greece and in other provinces, and on the whole, had been successful.[150][151] The neighbouring Samaritans had already integrated their religious rites with Hellenistic ones.[152] Strict Jewish monotheismn proved more resistant to Imperial cajoling, and then to Imperial demands.[153] A massive anti-Hellenistic and anti-Roman Jewish uprising broke out, led by Simon bar Kokhba. The Roman governor Tineius (Tynius) Rufus asked for an army to crush the resistance; bar Kokhba punished any Jew who refused to join his ranks.[154] According to Justin Martyr and Eusebius, that had to do mostly with Christian converts, who opposed bar Kokhba’s messianic claims.[155]

Pompeii, by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Why Herculaneum?

Because the Getty Villa is modeled after the Villa dei Papiri (Villa of the Papyri), a large country house from the 1st century BC located in Herculaneum. It is believed the villa belonged to Julius Caesar’s father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso, a powerful consul and rich land owner.

J. Paul Getty, the oil tycoon and art lover wanted to provide a context for his large collection of precious Roman, Greek and Etruscan artifacts. He was so fascinated by the Villa dei Papiri and its history that he decided to build a replica to house his expanding art collection and share it with the public. Because most of the original Villa dei Papiri remains buried under layers of volcanic ash, the architects of the Getty Villa based the floor plan on a precise map drawn by the engineers who had worked on the original excavation and gathered architectural details from other Roman homes of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae.

Ironically, Getty never saw the villa. He died in England, where he had moved, without ever seeing the completed site, which opened in 1974.

The Outer Peristyle

THE GREAT GETTY The Life and Loves of J. Paul Getty -Richest Man in the World. By Robert Lenzner. Illustrated. 283 pp. New York: Crown Publishers. $18.95. THE HOUSE OF GETTY By Russell Miller. Illustrated. 362 pp. New York: Henry Holt & Company. $17.95. HERE are some interesting facts about J. Paul Getty (1892-1976): He was, for a while, the richest man in the world; he refused to pay a penny of ransom for his grandson and namesake, J. Paul Getty 3d, until the boy’s severed ear was shipped through the mail by his kidnappers; as a monument to himself, he built a museum in the farther reaches of Malibu, Calif. He never saw it, but he left it so heavily endowed – $2 billion – that it must spend about $2 million a week to avoid taxes; throughout his life, every night, he hand-washed his own underpants.

These facts are perhaps less interesting than they are odd. As curiosities, they are more diverting than the kind of tabloid headlines at supermarket checkouts that announce, ”500-Pound Hamster Saves Tot From Burning Penthouse,” but they fall well short of historical standards of eccentricity and wretched excess. One thinks, for example, of the 17th-century Spanish dukes whose estates were bankrupted by their obsessive acquisition of dwarfs (a prime collectible of the era).

These two books, ”The Great Getty” and ”The House of Getty,” suggest that while their subject may have aspired to the ducal style (Getty believed himself to be the Emperor Hadrian’s reincarnation), he achieved only a kind of deluxe version of the Collier brothers, his psyche blocked by tunnels of money instead of canyons of old newspapers. Getty had the soul of a shopkeeper straining to express itself as an entrepreneur, and the only really interesting thing about him was that he was so rich – richer than anyone else. That fact generated clouds of mystery and puffs of mythology, but alas, Getty himself seems to have been dull, dull, dull, and, as an occasional change of pace, mean.

Robert Lenzner succeeds at making Getty the epiphenomenon into Getty the noteworthy. ”The Great Getty” is thorough and serious. Mr. Lenzner, who is the chief New York correspondent for The Boston Globe, adequately translates the purely business history of the Getty empire. In ”The House of Getty,” Russell Miller, a British writer and the author of ”Bunny: The Real Story of Playboy” and other books, seems to rely too heavily on the kind of information found in celebrity clip files, and he makes some startling omissions and mistakes. For example, he does not even refer to the cloud over Getty’s character that Mr. Lenzner follows through the files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the F.B.I. tracked Getty’s warm regard for Hitler but eventually cleared him of actually being an enemy spy.

”When I think of Paul, I think of money,” said Getty’s friend, the Duke of Bedford. The money began piling up in 1903, when Getty’s father, George, a businessman who had grown up in desperate poverty, traveled from Minnesota to Oklahoma to settle an insurance claim and while he was there got caught up in the oil boom and bought a claim for $500. The wells came in, and George, who was a hard-edged skinflint, knew how to parlay one good claim into an oil company. The family, a dour little group of father, deaf mother and Paul – the only surviving child – eventually moved to Los Angeles. Young Paul took a dilettante’s approach to life until his father persuaded him to try the oil business.

In 1914, he arrived in Tulsa, the only man wearing a wristwatch, and within a year he claimed to have made $1 million trading leases. Getty was a kind of idiot savant of the oil business. He loved every well, knew what it cost to drill, what it produced. All his life he bought low, sold high and used every advantage of luck and timing. By 1957, Getty had built an enormous conglomerate. That year Fortune declared him the richest man in America with $700 million to $1 billion -richer than the Rockefellers, the du Ponts, the Mellons.

In the 1970’s Getty got unimaginably richer, Mr. Lenzner writes, because of ”the explosion of pride, greed and outright blackmail on the part of the Arab oil-producing nations.” As Arab oil prices rose, so rose Getty Oil prices. The billions rolled in virtually entirely to Getty and the family trust his mother had set up. He himself owned and managed the entire gigantic money machine. When he died in 1976 at the age of 83, the Getty Oil Company lasted just eight years before being taken over by Texaco, but his children and grandchildren were left to divide an income of $1 million a day.

This was all done in a singularly joyless way. Mr. Lenzner describes a friend of Getty’s who ”always puzzled how this yokel became the world’s richest man. In the end, he decided that an ‘extraordinary shrewdness lay underneath the coldness, cruelty and naivety.’

He understood that Getty succeeded because he ‘never lost his cynicism about people’s behaviour and that he saw excitement or emotion as a weakness.’ ”

In the Getty family the sins of the fathers passed all too quickly on to the next generations. George distrusted his son, resented his aptitude, and, finally, secretly changed his will to leave the company in control of Paul’s elderly, conservative, stubborn mother.

Paul, in turn, had five sons by four of his five wives. Insatiable and ungiving, he nevertheless cherished a maudlin vision of a Getty dynasty, even as he made sure none existed by remaining remote, controlling and disdainful. He gave his sons too much responsibility (or too little) and publicly relished their failures.

His eldest son, George, died a suicide from pills and alcohol, after inflicting small stab wounds on himself and insisting he was still ”strong, powerful, masculine and able to bear pain.”

The youngest, Timmy, died at the age of 12 after many operations. His father never left England to visit him in the hospital. Getty never invited his parents to any of his weddings, and he never attended those of his children. A wedding is a family ritual, and Getty had no concept of family. Suspicious and unimaginative, he did not know his offspring and so was capable of believing that his family was plotting to get money from him when his grandson was kidnapped in 1973.

Getty was sexually insatiable as well, permanently prowling, sporting face lifts and hair dyes and demanding certificates of freedom from disease and releases from any expectations of financial gain. Money has a certain allure, however, and he ended his life with a collection of desperately hopeful women, all living together in his Tudor mansion in England, none of them aware that his favorite pastime was rewriting his will, changing his insultingly small bequests: $209 a month to one, $1,167 to another.

As a bon vivant, Getty was a glum face in the jet set. His idea of a great time and a boon companion is perhaps best conveyed by his unusual description of his friend Richard Nixon: ”a cheerful, convivial person who enjoyed trading jokes, playing the piano and chatting with friends.” AS an art collector, Getty was too timid to be vulgar, too suspicious and uncertain to be a patron of anything new and too cheap to acquire a great collection. Sir Francis Watson, one of his advisers on the decorative arts, said, ”The act of being mean gave him great pleasure. . . . Getty’s collecting was a para-artistic activity. He acted up to the image of very rich men who are collectors of money, and works of art come second.”

Getty liked to tell his friends he wanted ”to be the acceptable face of capitalism.” Whatever he imagined that face to be, it certainly was not civic-minded. When the Rockefellers urged him to use his money to make a significant contribution he was silent, and then lectured them on not having thrown out the leftists from the University of Chicago. ”Getty’s cardinal rule,” Mr. Lenzner writes, ”was to give nothing to the government because they wasted it. He very nearly succeeded in this goal” (there were years in which he paid no taxes at all). ”Secondly, he wanted to prevent his children and grandchildren from obtaining vast wealth. . . . On this score he failed.” Perhaps luckily for the nation and the world, Getty was too small-minded and unimaginative to have realized the power he had because of his money. He had no sense of responsibility and no particular vision, either for good or evil. He was merely greedy, the paradigm of the old saying, ”He knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.” J. Paul Getty was the ultimate Yuppie. These biographies appear as useful reminders that being rich is not enough.

Photo of J. Paul Getty, 1936; Photos of four of Getty’s five wives: Jeanette Demont, Adolphine Helme, Ann Rork and Louise Lynch

In Roman Judaea Hadrian visited Jerusalem, which was still ruinous after the First Roman–Jewish War of 66–73. He may have planned to rebuild Jerusalem as a Roman colony – as Vespasian had done with Caesarea Maritima – with various honorific and fiscal privileges. The non-Roman population would have no obligation to participate in Roman religious rituals, but were expected to support the Roman imperial order; this is attested in Caesarea, where some Jews served in the Roman army during both the 66 and 132 rebellions.[149] It has been speculated that Hadrian intended to assimilate the Jewish Temple to the traditional Roman civic-religious Imperial cult; such assimilations had long been commonplace practise in Greece and in other provinces, and on the whole, had been successful.[150][151] The neighbouring Samaritans had already integrated their religious rites with Hellenistic ones.[152] Strict Jewish monotheismn proved more resistant to Imperial cajoling, and then to Imperial demands.[153] A massive anti-Hellenistic and anti-Roman Jewish uprising broke out, led by Simon bar Kokhba. The Roman governor Tineius (Tynius) Rufus asked for an army to crush the resistance; bar Kokhba punished any Jew who refused to join his ranks.[154] According to Justin Martyr and Eusebius, that had to do mostly with Christian converts, who opposed bar Kokhba’s messianic claims.[155]

A tradition based on the Historia Augusta suggests that the revolt was spurred by Hadrian’s abolition of circumcision (brit milah);[156] which as a Hellenist he viewed as mutilation.[157] The scholar Peter Schäfer maintains that there is no evidence for this claim, given the notoriously problematical nature of the Historia Augusta as a source, the “tomfoolery” shown by the writer in the relevant passage, and the fact that contemporary Roman legislation on “genital mutilation” seems to address the general issue of castration of slaves by their masters.[158][159][160] Other issues could have contributed to the outbreak; a heavy-handed, culturally insensitive Roman administration; tensions between the landless poor and incoming Roman colonists privileged with land-grants; and a strong undercurrent of messianism, predicated on Jeremiah’s prophecy that the Temple would be rebuilt seventy years after its destruction, as the First Temple had been after the Babylonian exile.[161]

Relief from an honorary monument of Hadrian (detail), showing the emperor being greeted by the goddess Roma and the Genii of the Senate and the Roman People; marble, Roman artwork, 2nd century AD, Capitoline Museums, Vatican City

The Romans were overwhelmed by the organised ferocity of the uprising.[162] Hadrian called his general Sextus Julius Severus from Britain, and brought troops in from as far as the Danube. Roman losses were heavy; an entire legion or its numeric equivalent of around 4,000.[163] Hadrian’s report on the war to the Roman Senate omitted the customary salutation, “If you and your children are in health, it is well; I and the legions are in health.”[164] The rebellion was quashed by 135. According to Cassius Dio, Roman war operations in Judea left some 580,000 Jews dead, and 50 fortified towns and 985 villages razed. An unknown proportion of the population was enslaved. Beitar, a fortified city 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) southwest of Jerusalem, fell after a three and a half year siege. The extent of punitive measures against the Jewish population remains a matter of debate.[165]

Hadrian erased the province’s name from the Roman map, renaming it Syria Palaestina. He renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina after himself and Jupiter Capitolinus, and had it rebuilt in Greek style. According to Epiphanius, Hadrian appointed Aquila from Sinope in Pontus as “overseer of the work of building the city”, since he was related to him by marriage.[166] Hadrian is said to have placed the city’s main Forum at the junction of the main Cardo and Decumanus Maximus, now the location for the (smaller) Muristan. After the suppression of the Jewish revolt, Hadrian provided the Samaritans with a temple, dedicated to Zeus Hypsistos (“Highest Zeus”)[167] on Mount Gerizim.[168] The bloody repression of the revolt ended Jewish political independence from the Roman Imperial order.[169]

Inscriptions make it clear that in 133 Hadrian took to the field with his armies, against the rebels. He then returned to Rome, probably in that year and almost certainly – judging from inscriptions – via Illyricum.[170]

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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