17 Jun 2011
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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!