POMPEII…Going Back in Time, part 1

Hi Everyone

We’ve taken a cruise and one of the stops was at Naples.  While there, we spent three hours inside the ruins of Pompeii.  Most of you know that this Roman city on the gulf of Naples, was destroyed and covered with 22 feet of ash (not to mention a pyroclastic cloud that rolled down the slopes of Vesuvius), and many of its inhabitants killed.  The bodies encased in ash are gone from the lava cobblestone streets of Pompeii.  They are to be found in museums now.  What you do find as you walk this 177 hectare city, are many, many streets.  And each street had villas, a baker, prostitute/brothels, and other shops that kept the city thriving.

This is an iconic photo. In the background is Mt.Vesuvius (where you see the clouds). Last eruption was in the 1940’s and Naples sits around its slopes. Everyone says Vesuvius is over do to erupt. What’s worse is this volcano is so close that I don’t see how many could honestly escape through the highways or by sea if it decided to erupt once more. I fear there would be tremendous loss of life. In the foreground are the ruins of Pompeii to remind one and all of Vesuvius’s might and power should she choose to utilize it

Pompeii has a long and illustrious history.  It has been created, lived in, added to, over a long period of time.  Pompeii sits on a lava spur of Mt. Vesuvius.  It is a short distance to the sea and from the Sarno River.  One can see why Bronze Age man settled here.  Over time, Pompeii was created by the Oscans, the Greeks, Etruscans, Samnites  (424 BC) and eventually taken over and improved by the Romans until it was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 62 AD.  The damage was not all repaired when Vesuvius erupted and kill many of the people in 79 AD.  A graphic description of the eruption and loss of Pompeii and Herculaneum, was given by Pliny the Younger to Tacitus.  Pliny the Elder, commander of the Roman fleet at Misenum, paid with his life as he and his ships made efforts to rescue those fleeing these two cities as Vesuvius created carnage. Life ended for everyone in the short span of two days.

Pompeii is huge! It’s over 144 hectares and said to be home to 20,000 people at one time. This was NOT a village but a thriving city. The roads where people walked, wagons creaked along bearing their loads and goods, horsemen rode, was all this lava cobblestone you see And walking on it nowadays, you must be careful. I’m sure there’s a lot of sprained ankles in this place by visitors..

Pompeii never rose again.  It was buried under 22 feet of ash!  Literally, it would become a time capsule and the first signs of the buried city came to light in 1594 and 1600 when architecht Domenico Fontana cut a channel in the Civita area for Sarno river water.  Then, in 1748 proper excavations were started by the King of Naples, Charles of Bourbon and they have continued ever since to the present.  Excavations showed the every day Roman life from furniture, to the construction of the villas and homes, brothels (lupinar), bakeries, baths, theaters, an amphitheater, many temples to gods and goddesses plus the beautiful plaster wall paintings and decorations, and tools used daily, were found.  Most of these items are now found in local museums or elsewhere.

Above one of the villa entrances is the name of the owner carved in white marble. At one time, all the villas had the names of the owners on them.

Come with us as we explored this first 10% of Pompeii.  We spent three hours there, and that’s not enough time.  We want to go back and walk the streets of this incredible gift from history and see all of it.  If you are going, take two days and do it right.  NEVER come in the summer time–  hoardes of tourists by the thousands will overwhelm the streets of Pompeii.  Locals suggest Oct/November or Feb/March is the best time to see Pompeii.

There are many temples within Pompeii. One of the best that still has some plaster sculptures evident, is the Temple of Isis.

There were MANY temples in Pompeii.  But the temple of Isis was one of the most complete.  It had beautiful, still viewable, plaster sculpture of people and animals.


I believe this is a plaster sculpture of the Egyptian goddess, Isis. This plaster is on a column near the entrance to the main temple. I could be wrong about this…but it is a sculpture of a woman

And the artistic rendering of the human body is something behold in these plaster reliefs.  The woman on the right panel, if you look closely, looks almost real enough to think she is alive.  Look at the gorgeous rendering of the folds of her dress.

Here are some more very beautiful plaster sculptures still visible on some of the columns of the Temple of Isis. The one on the right is particularly beautiful.
Here is a shaded avenue where the columns are still standing. The trees provide a wonderful respite from the heat….and since so much lava stone was used in the building of Pompeii, it reflects the heat and increases it. So, any shade is good!
Here’s another simpler mosaic of black with white diamonds laid out in the entry way of this villa.
Here is a mosaic on the floor of another villa depicting a boar. Boars were considered fertility symbol of male strength and prowess–as you can tell if you study this photo carefully
I believe this was a niche in a villa reserved for a house god or goddesses…but not completely sure about it. Still, beautiful masonary work.
Here is an entrance to a gladitorial school. You can see on the floor mosaic of black and white, two gladiators sparring. See the “chains” on their ankles, so they can’t escape
Here is a beautiful and colorful plaster that has survived the ash that buried Pompeii and also weathered time and elements. Pompeii was like Palm Springs to the Romans. It was where the rich, famous and wealthy all had villas. It was a get away for those who had money.
We were fascinated by the building techniques used by the Romans and their forebears, the Samnites. Red bricks were made by hand and then concrete (which the Roman’s discovered) were added. And then, a plaster was put over everything. And it was on the plaster walls that were beautiful paintings of gods, goddesses, mythology, animals and Nature were put. Unfortunately, many of these are destroyed, but some survive in museums locally as well as in other areas of Italy.
A basalt/lave hewn watering trough. We found many in the city of Pompeii. One can imagine the wagons drawn by oxen or donkeys or horses stopping at one of them to get a drink of water. The water and aqueduct system was throughout Pompeii.
The dogs of Pompeii. Once we were inside Pompeii ruins we saw several German Sheperds. We learned from locals that they live there and the people feed them. I gave this dog one of my morning rolls.
English Sparrow visiting Dave who gave the bold little beggar some of his morning donut
Dave in Pompeii taking a time out break and eating a sugar donut
This is a roman villa entrance. Every entrance, at one time, had a beautiful mosaic to welcome visitors. Once inside this area was the atrium, which you can see is a rectange. The atrium was a water catch basin. The roman houses had an open square above the atrium area to catch the rain. Below the atrium was a cistern to store it. Amazing plumbing.
Here is another photo with Mt. Vesuvius lurking int he background, the white clouds indicating where it’s at–with the ruins of Pompeii in front. Right now, Napolitanos say the volcano is “sleeping.” Mt. Vesuvius is not dormant. It is active.

There are many more photos we would love to share with you.  And if I get the time, I’ll post them, too.  Pompeii is an incredible historical gift to the world.  And the Italians have really gone an extra mile to make it available to the public.  Bravo Italia!