The excavations of Pompeii have been a Unesco Heritage site since 1997. The exceptional state of conservation of the city is due to the terrible eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, when the ash buried men and things under a thick blanket of dust at a depth of about 6 meters.
For 1700 years Pompeii was buried, erased from the face of the earth. Sheltered from the elements of the time, the shape of the bodies still intent on their daily activities has remained intact to this day. The first discoveries and objects occured from 1748 and even today new remains are brought to light, because Pompeii lives…
Following the main road, once past the entrance, you will find the amphitheatre along the way. It is one of the oldest buildings in the world, dating back to 80 BC.
It was an arena of bloody clashes between gladiators and can accommodate as many as 20,000 spectators.
Externally it has two orders: the lower part with blind stone arches, under which during the shows the merchants sold their goods, while the upper order has round arches. Between the two orders there is an ambulatory and to allow spectators to reach the highest stairways were built two large staircases.
The arena itself is made of rammed earth and, unlike other buildings of the same type, has no underground area. The entire circumference of the arena is bordered by a parapet, around 2 meters high, which was decorated with frescoes, now gone lost, depicting duels between gladiators and in particular one that represented the beginning of a struggle.
Curiosity: in 1971 Pink Floyd recorded a concert without an audience in this timeless place. “Live at Pompeii” is one of the most beautiful pages of rock music.
At the end of the road that runs alongside the Amphitheatre you will be connected to Via dell’Abbondanza, the most important road in town, from which all the others run.
There are two other points of interest within walking distance: the Teatro Grande and the Teatro Piccolo, both of which are connected.
The Teatro Grande is still very active today, was built in the second century BC and can accommodate as many as 5,000 spectators. A curiosity: it was in this place that the comedies of Plautus and Terence were staged.
In ancient times the theatre was an entertainment linked to religion and taking part in a show was at the same time a civic belonging (only free citizens went to the theatre), of religious festivities (the shows took place during the festivities) and finally of pure fun.
The connection with the religious aspect is testified by the proximity of the Theatre to the doric temple, designed together.
The theatre was free and the richest citizens were paying for it in order to ingratiate themselves with the electorate.
Therefore, the spectators were accommodated according to a hierarchical social order: the closer to the scene were the actors, the richer citizens and those with political duties; the higher were the members of the productive classes, the “entrepreneurs” and, finally, the people.
Higher than all the women, who according to an imperial deliberation of Augustus had to sit there. The Teatro Piccolo, on the other hand, was mainly used for musical performances and had a roof, which is remarkable for a building of this kind.
The Forum is the center of every Roman city and so is also for the Forum of Pompeii. The Greeks taught us that the square is the city, that the place where people meet, do business, vote and discuss politics, pray and buy, is really the symbol of civilized life.
The Forum of Pompeii is located at the confluence of the most important streets: the first leading on one side to Vesuvius, which looms threatening behind the Temple of Jupiter and the other to the sea. The Forum was also used to ask for justice (and still today the word “Forum” is used to indicate the seat of the court), which was administered in the Basilica, which is on the same short side of the square.
The name of this building and the internal aspect of the hall, with the colonnade that divide the aisles, makes us think of our Basilicas, places of worship. But for Pompeian people - as in all Roman cities - this was not the case: the Basilica was precisely the court, a covered place where the judge sitting on the chair at the end of the nave, decided after listening to the parties and their lawyers.
Finally, the Forum had one last fundamental function: the market function. In the corner near the capitolium we find the macellum, a kind of food supermarket of the time, where meat, fish and even vegetables were sold, as it’s demonstrated by the food remains that were found in the excavations.
And probably a market was also one of the most beautiful buildings of the Forum, in front of more or less the Temple of Apollo on the long side: the building of Eumachia, where it seems that there was a kind of trade of wool.
Via dell’Abbondanza connects to many secondary roads from the Forum: turning right you can visit the Lupanare, the first meeting house dating back to Roman times. The Lupanare of Pompeii is one of the essential destinations for many visitors.
It is a two storey-building reserved exclusively for the practice of prostitution. Not that in the city there were no other brothels, but they were usually located in the upper rooms of taverns and private houses and not located in a special building.
The environment is composed of 5 cells on the ground floor and 5 on the upper floor and within each room is placed a masonry bed on which were placed mats or mattresses.
Of interest are the erotic paintings on the doors to the rooms, a probable “claim” of the services in which the housed prostitute excelled, or a simple way of distinguishing the various rooms.
The Domus was a type of house used in ancient Rome. It was a private urban home and was distinguished from the “suburban villa”, which was a private home located outside the city walls, and from the “rustic villa”, located in the countryside and equipped with special environments for agricultural work.
The Domus was the home of wealthy patrician families, while the poor classes lived in buildings called “insulae”.
Six of these domus have been restored with the funds of the “Great Project Pompeii” and were inaugurated last December 24th.
They are all on Via dell’Abbondanza and offer an extraordinary insight into what life was supposed to be in the Roman city in the years immediately before the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. buried it with its fiery ashes.
Among the Domus that are worth visiting is the Domus of Efebo, whose owner, probably immediately after the earthquake of 62 AD, bought and restored several adjoining houses, creating a sort of urban villa.
Another very interesting house to visit is the house of the Cryptoportico, which must have been of great prestige in the Augustan age, with the rooms decorated with scenes of the Iliad, paintings of the highest quality and thermal baths.
This Domus takes its name from the presence, along three sides of the quadrangular garden, of an underground fenestrated porch (cryptoporticus) on which opened a living room (oecus) and thermal environments. On the walls there was a real art gallery: the cryptoporticus and the oecus presented along the walls a pictorial cycle inspired by the episodes of the Iliad. The four spas are also decorated with refined paintings.
Particularly fascinating is the visit to the “fullonica of Stephanus” (so called because the name “Stephanus” is mentioned on the facade), as it represented one of the many laundries (at least 13 those ascertained) present in the ancient city. It was equipped with many masonry tanks for rinsing, fed by an uninterrupted flow of water and stone tanks for dyeing, washing and stain removal.
Upstairs there were large terraces where the fabrics were dried and treated with a press that was used to iron the fabric and make it bright. As a demonstration of the owner’s prestige, the rooms were decorated with paintings of a certain taste. In a pre-industrial society such as that of Pompeii, a dyeing laboratory was of great importance. Finally, it is worth visiting the house of Proculo, the baker.
The Sanctuary of the Public Lari was probably built after the earthquake of Pompeii in 62, an event considered by Pompeii as a sign of the wrath of the gods and its construction was therefore to atone for the divine aversion: it was dedicated to the Lari, as demonstrated by a fresco that was found, which depicted the damage caused by the earthquake in the Temple. The proximity to the temple of Vespasian, allowed, during the holidays, to celebrate simultaneously both the Emperor and the gods protecting Pompeii.
The Sanctuary, twenty-one metres long and eighteen metres wide, is still incomplete: at the time of the eruption, the access colonnade had not yet been completed and only the bases of the columns can be seen.
* The Temple of Isidae is a Temple of Roman times, buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 and found as a result of archeological excavations of ancient Pompeii. The exploration of the sacred structure has provided a large number of artifacts and paintings with religious subjects, exhibited in the greatest part in the National Archeological Museum of Naples.
The construction of the Temple of Isidae dates back to the second century BC but following the earthquake of Pompeii in 62, the entire structure was rebuilt. A few years later, the building was buried under a thick blanket of ashes following the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius in 79. It was then explored in the eighteenth century, resulting in one of the best preserved buildings of ancient Pompeii.
*The Temple of Apollo is a Temple of Roman times, buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 and found as a result of archaeological excavations of ancient Pompeii. It is one of the oldest temples in the city and, for many years, the busiest.
The construction of the Temple dedicated to Apollo dates back to the eighth or seventh century BC as evidenced by some findings and was mostly an open area where there were some altars. During the Samnite age the Temple was completely rebuilt and dedicated to Apollo, who at that time was the most venerated deity of Pompeii and therefore the Temple was the largest religious center of the city.
But with the arrival of the cult of Jupiter it lost importance and was isolated from the view of the nearby houses by the construction of a wall. But with the arrival of the cult of Jupiter it lost importance and was isolated from the view of the nearby houses from the construction of a wall.
*The Temple of Jupiter was built around 250 BC and was originally dedicated to Jupiter: it was built in a period of strong urban expansion of the city and soon became the main sacred structure of Pompeii.
Following the conquest of the city by Lucius Cornelius Silla, the Temple was dedicated to the cult of the Capitoline Triad, for this reason called Capitolium and then, in addition to the veneration of Jupiter were added to the veneration of Juno and Mars. It was in fact custom among the Romans to dedicate to these gods temples that were located in the center of the city.
The House of the Faun is a Roman house, buried during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 and found following the archaeological excavations of ancient Pompeii: it is one of the largest houses in the city and it owes its name to a bronze statue depicting a satyr (male deity minor, personification of the fertility and vital force of nature, connected with the Dionysian cult).
The first construction of the house dates back to the second century BC and is smaller than the current one. It is characterized by a large garden. Subsequently the house was completely rebuilt and enlarged, reaching an area of about 3,000 square meters. The choice of having a house with a large atria and peristyles and a few servile and residential areas is due to the fact that em>the owner needed to show off his wealth and his power.
The House of the ancient hunt, like the other houses along Via della Fortuna,was excavated in the 1930s. It is distinguished from its neighbours by the successful preservation of its paintings. The construction dates back to the tuff period as seen from the pillars in blocks of tuff.
This house has the typical scheme of the house “ad atrium” organized in a sumptuous way, so that the guest, just entered, could guess the social status of the landlord. On the back wall of the garden is depicted a complex hunting scene that gave the name to the house.
The House of Menander is a large urban domus of the ancient Pompeii of almost 1800 square meters. It was excavated in the years 1926-1932 and is a good example of a domus of a wealthy family of ancient Pompeii. It takes its name not from the owner of the house, but from the image of the Greek poet Menander, found there.
The oldest part of the house consists of an atrium built in 250 BC with the immediate surroundings and is relatively modest. About 100 years later the Domus was modernized. Tuff capitals were used for the front door and the tablinum. Low masonry seats for customers were built along the facade of the building and the entrance was framed by two Corinthian pillars.
In the Augustan period the domus was substantially modified; first of all a peristyle was built using the space obtained from the demolition of the adjacent residential buildings. In the space to the west some thermal baths were obtained, while to the east is the economic part of the domus.
The name of the last inhabitant of the house is Quinto Poppeo: his name was found in a bronze seal in the servants’ quarters. 118 silver vases were found in a corridor under the small atrium of the house and gold pieces and coins were also found in the same container.
Shortly before the eruption of Vesuvius, it is thought that further modernisation works were being carried out in various places in the house, as evidenced by the finding of amphorae filled with stucco and a temporary oven.
The House of the chaste lovers housed an industrial bakery with a large oven, areas for the preparation of bread , warehouses, a sales point and a stable where the skeletons of mules used for this type of activity were found. The house of the rich baker was under renovation and in fact there are many preparatory drawings on the walls.
The name of the house was determined by a fresco found in the dining room that represents two lovers casually convivial. There is no furniture (probably taken from the first excavators), but some furnishings show that the house was inhabited at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius.
It was possible to save part of the ceiling on which a medallion was painted. The name of the house dates back to an inscription on the right of the entrance: “ Lovers, like bees, spend a life as sweet as honey. I wish it was like this. “
Vesuvius is a volcano located in a dominant position with respect to the Gulf of Naples and is one of the two active volcanoes of continental Europe, as well as one of the most studied and dangerous in the world because of the high population of the surrounding areas and its explosive characteristics.
Vesuvius is located in the territory of the national park of the same name established in 1995, the symbol of the city itself. With a height of 1.281 meters, the volcano rises inside a partial basin of about 4 km in diameter and is an eye catcher of unusual beauty in the panorama of the Gulf.
The Vesuvius National Park was founded on June 5th 1995 for the great geological, biological and historical interest that its territory represents. This park was established mainly to: a) preserve the values of the territory and the environment and their integration with man; b) safeguard animal and plant species, as well as geological peculiarities; c) promote environmental education, training and scientific research activities.
In the Park it’s possible to make excursions along the numerous present paths.