Today was a beautiful day to visit Pompeii! And what an amazing sight to see!
Pompeii is believed to have been founded in the 7th or 6th century BC, and came under Roman rule in the 4th century BC, before becoming a Roman Colony in 80 BC. It was then destroyed 160 years later when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. They believe that over the course of three days the city was buried in up to 20 feet of volcanic ash.
What amazed me walking around the town is that Mt. Vesuvius was able to be seen from everywhere! It looms over the whole city. The landscape of the area was totally changed be the eruption, but before that the city was near the sea. (Now it is about two miles away.) They believe that the oldest structure is a temple built to a Greek god and would have overlooked the ocean at the time it was built.
Pompeiians? (Pompeiiers? Pompeiinites?) The people of Pompeii must have really enjoyed the arts as they boast two theaters almost next door to each other. The smaller theater would have been a enclosed building completely covered in marble and was used for music and singing. The sound would have reverberated around the whole room!
The second, and much larger theater was open air, and used for plays.
Pompeii was also a training ground for gladiators and soldiers, with their school being located next to the theaters. However, they would not have fought there… just saved that for the Colosseum, I guess.
There are a couple of main roads, and many side roads. But interestingly people actually always walked on the sidewalk, allowing the horses, carts, and sewage water to take over the middle. There are tall stones set at intersections, there were stepping stones for people to use to cross the street without touching the aforementioned sewage water.
Speaking of water, there were five public bath houses. They were separated for men and women, and had about five rooms each. The entry, which in this bath house had been rebuilt, and the decorations that had been found in chunks reapplied.
Then there was a locker room, and cold bath, and warm bath, and a super-hot steam room. This room would have huge fires outside feeding heat under the marble floors, and then a fountain would poor water onto the floor creating a hot bath and lots of steam. The marble floor has not been rebuilt yet, but the small stacks show you the height it would have been, with space beneath for the hot air.
You might be wondering how they got all this water around the town, well believe it or not, they actually had lead pipe plumbing in the walls!
In the same courtyard was this gym that still had some of the original stucco decorations on it.
We also visited a local brothel (no longer in business), it has become very famous because of the paintings on the walls that have survived the centuries. Let’s call it a picture menu for those visiting the brothel.
There were several wells around town for the people to get water, each well has a different face on it. They believe that these were also landmarks to help folks find their way around town prior to google maps.
We visited a temple to Apollo, the sun god, and his twin sister Artemas. High on the white pillar is a sundial. These statues are not originals, but are duplicates, with the originals in the National Museum in Napoli.
Our last stop was the forum, we know that this is where most business would have taken place. There was a temple to Zeus, and a large market. Today what was the market is filled with artifacts. There was a lot of pottery. They also have several molds of people that were caught in the blast. These are not petrified or mummified remains, but are instead plaster molds made from the voids left by the bodies after they decomposed.
They believe that the poisonous gas from the eruption would have killed many people in just a matter of minutes, who would have then been buried in the ashes. The site of Pompeii was left undiscovered from nearly 1,700 years, the first people who started excavating it were actually treasure seekers rather than archeologist. Because of this, a lot of items and marble from around town have been lost. However, they have done a phenomenal job of rebuilding the city. I was actually surprised how much of the city had been restored.
There is so much to see in Pompeii, I know that I missed a lot of it! It could day a couple of days to explore all that they have uncovered here. And they think they still have about 30% more of the city to excavate.
Tomorrow I leave Italy for Paris. My time here, although marred by illness, was amazing. Italy is so much in my heart, and every time I leave I can’t wait to come back! I have a list of places I’d like to see in the world, and it seems that Italy will remain on the list no matter how many times I visit.
Tours are great for seeing a lot, but really what you need here is time. Time to just sit and enjoy the place and people. That it what Italy is truly about.
I am looking forward to Paris, and I’m really looking forward to seeing my cousin, Tiffany, who is meeting me there! We are going to have an amazing time! Also, I’d kill for some French fries right now, so it looks like I’m heading to the right place!