Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Travels with Tutu: Pompeii

Our last tour was to the incredible site of the excavations of Pompeii. As you probably know, the city of Pompeii sits just beneath the large volcano Mt. Vesuvius. In 79 AD, Pompeii was a thriving Roman metropolis, with shops, public baths, several theaters, a well known red light district, a well laid out road system, good water, and surrounded by a thriving agricultural area. Then on August 24th, 79 AD, the volcano erupted, and 19 hours later, the town was buried under 40 feet of volcanic ash. The town remained buried until 1748 when archaeologists began the slow and painstaking task of slowly uncovering and recovering what lay buried. It is a fascinating story. The work that has been done is incredible. One stands in the middle of the forum, or a square, or looks down a long avenue, and can almost feel the life that must have been. Even the pulsating heat (the sun came out with a vengeance as we arrived) could not detract from the immenseness and quiet dignity of this shrine. Our guide, who was excellent, took us on a tour of only one of several sections. The sight is about 65% excavated, and the daunting task is ongoing. In the sections that have been restored though, we were able to get a great picture of what life must have been like:
  • The many theaters provided arenae where the people went not only for entertainment, but also for debates, meetings, and other gatherings.
The road system was well developed, paved (a bit choppy for those of us with bad knees), with drainage to keep the water out of the homes and shops that lined these roads. Location, location, location was as important then as it is today. Bars and shops tended to be erected at important crossroads.
There were community ovens built of brick (seen here behind the building). This photo also shows the grooves in the stones in the front where sliding doors (or gates) were able to glide open and shut.
  • The water system was quite developed. There were aquaducts bringing water from the mountains. There were terra cotta pipes to carry water from one place to another. And wells like those seen here, were available throughout the town.
There was a booming 'red-light' district, and the local brothel is one of the most restored buildings (including the second story) at the site. The mosaics depicting the range of services available insured that customers and providers had a clear idea of what was being offered and what it would cost. I wish I'd gotten a picture of those stone beds---they sure didn't look too inviting to me!
  • And then there is the sad site of actual casts of skeletons found in the ruins. Some pictures of these are in the photo album Pompeii on Facebook.
This whole site was so fascinating, it begs for more reading and becoming more informed. We bought a fabulous book "Pompeii, Herculaneum and Capri, Past and Present" ISBN978-88-8162-185-9 which is "an illustrated guide with reconstructions and a CD-DVD included". The pages provide pictures of the site as it is today, and then has overlays to show what the site looked like in its glory days. Lastly, if you're interested to find out more, the Discovery Channel has a great introduction on its site. I can't wait to sink into some of these. But tomorrow it's back to reality, now that the pictures are posted.


  1. These pics are great. Thanks for sharing your fabulous vacation with us. I've enjoyed the armchair travel.

  2. Looks like you're having a great time. I remember doing a project on pompeii as a kid. And my mom recently went there. It looks so neat, I'd love to be able to see the everything my self one day. Enjoy your trip, thanks for sharing your pictures.

  3. Looks like you had a wonderful holiday! I'd love to explore Italy, and I really want to visit Pompeii, but I've never made it to the Med yet. Some day...


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