MB & family visited the ruins at Pompeii during their recent Italy trip. Pompeii is close to the city of Naples in the Campania region of Italy, and as bad luck would have it, lies approximately 8km from Mount Vesuvius. Vesuvius exploded in November of 79AD (although there are conflicting dates in various historical accounts) and continued to erupt for 2 days. Within a very short time, the city of Pompeii with some 15,000 inhabitants, the nearby smaller town of Herculaneum, and many nearby communities were covered in up to 10m of ash and rock. Some 80% of Pompeii has been excavated to date, and much of Herculaneum is also excavated.
Only some 2,000 bodies have been unearthed during excavations. It is not yet know what happened to the others. It is thought that many may have met their deaths at the port area, attempting to escape onboard ships, and the port area has yet to be excavated. It is also thought that some may have escaped in the days prior to the explosion, haven taken notice of the agitated behaviour of local animals.
Doing a bit of research in recent days, MB has discovered that most people died from heat, rather than suffocation from ash. It is thought that surges of extremely hot air and dust blasted out from the volcano in a number of surges, reaching some 300C temps. It is thought that such heat was sufficient to kill all in its path, even if the victims were within their houses at the time.
From Nat Geo – http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/11/101102/pompeii-mount-vesuvius-science-died-instantly-heat-bodies/
Over the centuries the location of the towns were eventually forgotten and only discovered again some 1,700 years later, by local landowners excavating their land for entirely different reasons. Pompeii was easier to excavate than Herculaneum, as it was mostly covered with ash, which crumbled relatively easily upon excavation. Herculaneum was cover with lava which solidified into hard rock. The first excavations at end of the 17th century revealed wall many murals of a sexual nature, which was partially the reason they were soon covered in.
The exposed city has revealed incredible detail of the daily lives of the inhabitants. They could buy ‘fast food’ on the street. They had 4 communal bath & sauna houses in different locations of the city. They had a brothel with 5 slave girls on duty to service the needs of those who needed. There were many very wealthy individuals who lived in substantial villas with walled external courtyard gardens. Two amphitheaters catered for Gladiator fighting, drama, and musical concerts. Bread was baked in a city bakery, and donkeys turned adjacent stone mills to grind the grain needed for the bread. Chariots carried people through the streets and one can still see the grooves of the steel-rimmed wheels of the chariots on the streets stone paving.
And all disappeared forever following the events of two calamitous days.
If HX followers ever get the chance to visit Pompeii, MB highly recommends a local guide, which doesn’t cost a whole lot, and adds greatly to the enjoyment of the visit.
MB makes commentary on the following pics, to give further Pompeii information.
Pompeii has many humanoid monuments by Polish-French artist (Igor Mitoraj) depicting human inhabitants damaged by the volcanic eruption. MB did not feel they were appropriate in the setting. But what the hell does MB know!
Another one – at the edge of the Gladiator training ground
The doors in the background are entrances to the small quarters of the slave Gladiators, at the edge of the training grounds. During the excavations, a number of slave-remains were found in the quarters, still in their chains, in the positions in which the died, unable to escape. A Gladiator ghost passes by and is immediately snapped by super-snapper MB!
The Gladiator training area, with the gladiator accommodation in the background.
The amphitheater where drama, and Gladiator ‘entertainment’ played out
The smaller amphitheater where music concerts took place. Empty pottery pots of various sizes were placed under the stage which faced outwards towards the crowd, and were used to improve the acoustics of the theater.
Residents generally dumped their domestic rubbish in the streets, which was collected by slaves or washed away by rains from time to time. To avoid stepping into the rubbish when crossing the street, raised stepping stones are inserted into the paving at all street junctions, at a low enough level for the chariots to easily drive over them.
The interior of a villa of one of the wealthier residents of the city with painted internal walls, and with the external courtyard visible in the background.
A modern gate leads to the slave quarters of the villa.
The wall painting of a famous resident of pompeii, a comedian as MB can remember. It is thought that the wealthy owner of the villa was a sponsor of the artist.
Pompeii street scene.
Typical road paving and street scene.
Marble paving inside the entrance door of a villa reads in Latin – ‘Beware the Dog’
Lupanare – the Latin word for ‘brothel’.
A stone bed in the brothel. Presumably, some animal furs and cushions were used for creature-comfort. The rooms did not have any doors, so either the customers had no requirement for privacy, or some sort of curtain was used.
The prostitute slave girls were thought to be from various parts of the Roman empire from where they were captured. Consequently, they did not speak Latin. So to avoid difficult conversations to explain his needs, a customer merely pointed to any one or more of the different paintings over each door, which each depicted a different sexual position, to indicate his personal preference.
A phallic road sign, cut into the street paving, indicated the direction to the nearby brothel. In case a lad might be lost.
Info sign at the main square of Pompeii.
A remaining monument. An attempt was made to rescue various monuments in the days following the eruption. Obviously without much success.
The inside of one of the ingenious communal sauna houses. Lead pipework carried hot water within the walls to keep the structure heated, allowing steam to form inside. The curved roof allowed the steam to cool into water droplets and trickle back down to the warm walls, where it again formed into steam. Clever or what!
The arched oven on left was where the bread was baked and where carbonised (burnt) bread was discovered during the excavations. Three (one hidden) mills in the foreground ground the grain to make the bread. The reason it is know that donkeys (rather than slaves) turned the mills is because of the stone paving on the ground. Elsewhere, slaves were used and it was considered good enough to have mud paving for them to walk round & round upon.
Stone urns from which food sellers sold Roman Empire-era fast food to passers-by.
As the excavations happened ‘top down’ (logically), plaster was often poured into open voids underneath the excavated floors which then captured the final resting (dying) position of the dead bodies underneath. Note the hands to the nose – in attempt to prevent the inhalation of hot ash or extremely hot air and dust. Note also the adjacent jars with pointed ends. They contained wine or oils and were transported upright in the bottom level of ships – which were covered in a thick layer of sand – allowing the pointed ends to easily ‘stick’ into the sand and thus stand in the upright position.
The court/justice courtyard, just off the main square.
Roman Empire era ‘cats eyes’ in the paving. These white chips were cast into the paving on the road from the nearby port, which allowed the road to be much more visible in the burning torch-light of night, as goods were brought to the city from the ships. Clever or what! (again).
This particular area was just getting ready for the construction of another monument or amphitheater when the eruption occurred. The stones are still visible where they are thrown in hap-hazard fashion, before the construction was about to commence.
Mount Vesuvius in the background.