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Pompeii, Italy


Our trip from Naples to Pompeii took about an hour by bus. As we entered the town where the ruins were located we passed a number of vendor stands. Our visit to Pompeii, where people thrived over 1,900 years ago taught us more about the ancient Romans than we could ever have imagined to this point.

Pompeii and the neighboring town of Herculaneum were destroyed and buried under 20 feet of ash and pumice stone when Mr. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. killing over 2,000 people in Pompeii. Much of it has been removed during the last 200 years revealing details of everyday life. The catastrophe must have happened quickly as you will see in some of the photos that follow. At the time, the roofs of the building were made primarily of wood. Obviously, with the heat the wood burned away leaving only the brick, marble and stone structures that remain to this day.

The above is a photo of a artists reconstruction of the Temple of Apollo. At the time most of the 'main' building were covered with marble. When the excavation was being completed the marble was sadly taken to other parts of the country for use on 'new' buildings.


As we entered the 46 acre site we could see the remnants of a city that had been destroyed almost 2,000 years ago. As you look at some of the photos that follow you will note that some of the structures are constructed of brick and stone. The reason is that the brick was used to repair the structures following an earthquake that occurred in 62 A.D. that were then recovered with marble. During World War II there was also some damage caused by bombing. Those repairs were also made with brick.

We were met in Naples with a local guide who continued to tell us of the events and significant items we saw along our tour. In the photo on the left he is standing on an elevated stone in the street intersections. The stepping stones are spaced so that the Roman chariot wheels would pass by them. Pedestrians would use the raised stones as stepping stones to traverse the often muddy and wet streets.


Imagine hand excavating over 20 feet of mud and ash to reveal the structures in the background.


The above is a bronze statue that was found, and still remains on its pedestal.


Note the inscriptions on the marble ledge. Also, note how the individual stones were positioned and keyed together to create a continuous beam from column to column.


This is a warehouse structure that was separated from the public by a chain link fence. Through the fence we could see the pottery and artifacts that were found during the excavation of the ruins. The figure of a man on the table is a plaster cast. While excavating, when they found a void in the mud and ash, plaster would be poured into it to fill up the space. Only then was the soil removed. In this case, the mold revealed a body that had been buried during the eruption by the ash.

The casting on the left is that of a dog. The casting on the right is a person who apparently had died while sitting and attempting to cover its face from the falling ash from the volcano.

The casting on the left is that of a pregnant women.

Arch of Caligula: This arch marks the beginning, and is in front of, the Forum Baths. This is an honorary arch in brick with a single passageway. Its attribution to Caligula is based on an equestrian statue in bronze, found in fragments, which must have originally been set on the attic (top). The photo to the right, copied from a book we purchased, shows how it might have looked when it was covered with white marble. The streets that you can see through the arch illustrate what the city might have looked like prior to the eruption.


In Pompeii there was an area where people would go to for the public bath. The water was heated by a unique method of directing the water through the walls where it was heated by the sun and then flowed into the bathing pools.

The actual baths were divided into two opposing non-communicating sectors, one for men and one for with women.

The above is some of the statuesque columns and ornate wall castings in the baths. They provided for air spaces for the passage of hot air.

In the residences of the wealthy, mosaic patterns of animals and wildlife using ceramic tiles adorned the entrances. The photo on the left is a floor mosaic in the entrance that depicts a dog with a chain, as if he were a watchdog, together with the warning cave canem (beware of the dog).

Many of the houses were decorated with painted frescos on the living area walls.

The above is a view from an entrance into the 'family room' as it was known at the time. Some of the family rooms had cisterns to collect water for decorative as well as for use.

The above is another example of how some of the wealthier homes were designed with water features within them.


As you can see, the streets are narrow and made of stone. Notice the worn tracks in the stone caused by the many wagons and chariots that traversed the streets.



The side streets are very narrow. Again notice the ruts worn in the stone from wheel traffic. 

The photo on the left shows a water pipe that was installed below the roadway. Believe it or not, when Pompeii was built back in the 2nd century B.C., the Romans installed underground piping to supply water to the town. Unfortunately, it was lead pipe -- the only malleable material that could be used at the time.


Some things never change. The street photo above is of the the Red Light District. Inside the building there are a number of rooms. Above each room is a painting depicting various sexual positions.


As we neared the end of our tour we passed by the amphitheater that was in use at the time. At this time the stone seating is being grown over with plant life but the acoustics are still quite good. We took delight with a little girl, in the center of the stage area, singing her heart out to all who would listen.

Next stop: Athens

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Last modified:    April 2013