Today it’s one the most famous Roman sites in the world, but Pompeii was just another Roman seaside resort until Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. Just a day later, thousands of people have been killed and the whole city was buried under a blanket of volcanic ash 25 meters deep, forgotten until it was unearthed by explorers 1700 years later.
The effect of this eruption was totally traumatic, as is shown by the lack of ability to reoccupy the sites of this city that had been destroyed. It was normal practice to rebuild the cities of this region after even the most massive earthquakes, but the cities of Hereculum and Pompeii were not re-occupied. The site had instead been riddled with tunnels dug by explorers. Not by modern explorers which would be expected, but by the roman explorers themselves after the eruption. The cities buildings were riddled with holes, room after room, and even though Pompeii has had richer discoveries than any other Roman site recorded, it was a city already extensively sacked by looters.
The cities on the north of the Bay of Naples quickly recovered. Puteoli continued on to be an important commercial center. The Bay continued to attract wealthy holidaymakers, but never again earned the huge levels of popularity it once had from two centuries before the disaster, when it had been a playground of many wealthy emperors and senators.
This dramatic destruction of Pompeii had stayed in people’s minds for many years but eventually was forgotten. Pompeii’s destruction soon became a myth, apart from maybe folk tales, only existing as a name for this area, La Cività. It was also known as the lost city.
But the layer of ash did an amazing job of preserving the details of the buildings, from the colorful frescoes and ornate mosaics to the underground engineering used to heat the baths. You can even still see the paintings in the entrance to the brothel describing the different positions customers could choose from.
Inside the main city walls, you can walk through the paved city streets. The layout is just as it would have been before the eruption, with private homes mixed in with shops, restaurants, temples, an amphitheater, and even a hotel. And the extent of the preservation gives an amazing insight into how the Romans lived here. Indentations in the road which have been worn down by the wheels of chariots, and an early ‘beware of the dog’ sign made out of mosaic tiles.
Amazing Forum Baths. Located near the forum, these baths are incredibly well preserved. You can peek inside the wall to see how they heated the baths back when they were still in use. Their innovation is incredibly impressive, and it’s not hard to picture the baths as they were. While the forum baths are the smallest of the various bath ruins in Pompeii, they are arguably the most elegant. There were separate areas for men and women, including separate entrances. The bath not only had hot baths but also cold and tepid baths as well.
There are also the eerie body casts. Back in 1860, archaeologist Guiseppe Fiorelli realized the empty spaces in the ash around the human bones he found were where the bodies had decomposed, and you could make a cast of the position they were in when they died by filling them with plaster. They’re curled up in a fetal position or with hands shielding their faces – apparently, the temperatures reached 250°C and would have killed anyone long before the ash arrived. It’s impossible to imagine how terrifying it must have been.
As interesting and magnificent as it is after so much time, everything is so well preserved, it is said that about 2,000 Pompeians were buried in ashes, but the eruption killed as many as 16,000 people. Overall it is a must-see place if you are visiting Napoli. You won't be disappointed. Thanks for reading the article I hope you liked it, and we’ll read on in the next one. 😀😀