Monday, February 17, 2014

Pompeii Ruins Part I

The star attraction in Pompeii is the ruins of the ancient city destroyed in AD 79 when Mount Vesuvius erupted. Luckily (sort of) an earthquake happened 17 years before and the population still hadn't returned to pre-earthquake levels. The city was buried for over a thousand years. In 1594 architect Domenico Fontana came across the ruins while digging a canal. Proper excavation didn't start until 1748. About two-thirds of the site has been excavated, revealing an area over 100 acres in size. Many of the homes and businesses still stand, along with the main civic buildings and the paved streets. We were amazed at the size of the ruins. It would be easy to spend a whole day wandering around every nook and cranny.

The welcome sign

We came in the Anfiteatro Entrance which led us past the old town walls and to the amphitheater. Gladiatorial battles were held here in front of crowds up to 20,000 members. It was built in 70 BC and is the oldest existing Roman amphitheater. In AD 59, a riot broke out between Pompeii fans and Nocera fans from a nearby city resulting in the amphitheater being closed for a few years!

Town walls

Amphitheater entrance

Sign in the entrance

Combating the rain

The exit

Outside the exit

Across from the amphitheater is the vineyard of the Forum Boarium. The excavations found nearly 2400 root holes and their supporting stakes, all laid out in rows with even spacing between the plants. The area has been replanted with grapes similar to those that appear on frescoes in the city.

Forum Boarium

Nearby is the Grande Palestra, an athletic field where locals kept fit. Caesar Augustus promoted youth associations using it and had a small chapel dedicated to himself as the Divine Emperor. The center has the remains of a swimming pool.

Inside the Grande Palestra (which we couldn't enter)

The pool

Nearby is the Praedium of Julia Felix, a garden orchard that was part of a bath complex.

Baths and gardens

Further down the road is a residential area with many houses of varying sizes. Most houses have porticoes, which are central courtyards.


A big garden inside


Kitchen area

Nicest supports ever

A typical street

One house is the Domus della Nave Europa, named for a fresco discovered there of a ship called the Europa. The courtyard has columns on three sides and the relative wealth of the owner is obvious from the size of the house.

Entering from the street

Portico of the Domus della Nave Europa

For crushing grapes or olives?

Either a bench or twin ovens

Also nearby is the Officina del Garum. Garum was a fish sauce, so the "office" was a shop that sold the sauce.

Officina del Garum

A common sort of shop in Pompeii is the Thermopolium. 89 of them have been found and they are a shop that sold hot food, much like a fast-food restaurant. People typically ate lunch out. Counters near the street have jars sunken into them where the food was kept.


One with a back room, maybe for tables

Fancier thermopolium

Is that a menu back there?

We discovered a two-story building but were unable to go inside. Often different parts of the site are closed to visitors. We did go down some roads that were supposed to connect to other streets only to find the way blocked. Getting around was a little frustrating, mostly because we had to backtrack past things we'd already seen!

Bigger building!

Another side of the building

A snake fresco!

Fresco detail

A blocked road!!

Stepping stones

Stepping stones at intersections are quite common. The streets were often flooded or filled with trash or sewage, so the best way to cross the street was to use the stones. J and L loved crossing the roads this way.

From here we headed over to the theater district, which will be in tomorrow's post!

1 comment:

  1. I got to visit Pompeii around 2009. It was for just a few hours, but it was a nice day, and I got to see a lot of the same sights as you did. It is a pretty cool bunch of ruins, with a lot of history.