travel, Uncategorized

The Ruins of Pompeii

We took a day tour from Rome to the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii with Walks of Italy. Situated near the city of Naples, the ruin of Pompeii is one of the best and most well-preserved archaeological sites in the world.

Pompeii’s Forum
Casts of Pompeii
Mt Vesuvius

In its day, Pompeii was a busy and successful port town, producing an abundance of grains, wine, and olive oil for export to other regions.  Pompeii was part of the Roman empire, and was a popular holiday destination for Romans. Seventeen years before its famous demise, a massive earthquake shook the region, destroying a large part of the city.  Residents rebuilt Pompeii, but the earthquake took a financial toll on the Romans, many of whom were not able to rebuild their homes with the same luxuries as before. This is shown through the intact and repaired frescoes uncovered in the Roman villas. Wealthy Romans in Pompeii before the earthquake could afford to hire the best fresco artists in the area to decorate their villas, but after the cost of rebuilding their homes, had to settle for lesser talents to embellish their walls and repair the finer works of art.

Painted villa fresco

In 79 A.D., the nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted, sending a mass of ash, pumice, rocks, and hot gases 12 miles into the sky. The intense heat and poisonous gas from the eruption scorched Pompeii residents on the spot, killing them in as little as two breaths.  Ash and pumice continued to rain down on the city for hours, collapsing roofs and buildings, and burying the city in 13 to 20 feet of ash. An estimated 2,000 residents were killed in the eruption. Ironically, the city of Pompeii had celebrated the feast day of the Roman god Vulcanalia , the god of fire and volcanoes just one day before the eruption.

Pompeii vineyards with the same grapes grown as in 79 A.D.
Graffiti on a Pompeii building

Not all residents perished in the eruption, however. Those who escaped found that their problems weren’t over. Pompeii was considered cursed by other Romans, and had been destroyed because its residents did not respect their gods. These cursed people were not welcome in any other part of the Roman empire. Survivors were forced to change their names and personal backgrounds to avoid detection in their new cities.

The Roman emperor heard of the destruction of Pompeii, and sent out a search party to look for survivors. They never found the city. The lava had added miles to the shoreline, and the Romans, looking for ruins along the shoreline, returned to Rome empty-handed. The city remained buried and forgotten up until the 1700s, when archaeologists first got to work on the site.  The ash worked as an incredible preservative, with buildings, food, artwork, and even human remains preserved. Archaeologists poured plaster into the voids left around the human remains, recreating the forms of the deceased. The Italian king of Naples demanded that the best of the ruins be brought to him, and they are now preserved in the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

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While much of the site has been excavated, there are still parts of Pompeii that remain uncovered today, and archaeologists are still working to uncover and preserve Pompeii. Pompeii today offers a glimpse of what everyday Roman life was like thousands of years ago, and is a must-see attraction if you’re visiting the south of Italy.

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