Ruins of Pompeii
While in Italy I promised Stefan a trip to Pompeii. We took a tour which is something I was really dreading as I hate tour groups, but in the end I’m glad we did because we learned so much more with a guide than we would have on our own.
Everyone knows about Pompeii, the Roman city that was buried under 13 to 20 feet of volcanic ash after Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. The eruption destroyed the city and killed the inhabitants, and the city was lost for over 1,500 years until it was rediscovered, preserved by the layers of ash that protected it from the elements. And that’s all most people know. It’s all I knew until our tour.
Today Pompeii is inland, but when it was a bustling city Pompeii actually was on the coast. Pompeii was a major international shipping hub. People from all over the world would come to Pompeii to conduct their business.
Above you can see the first layer of a building. The bottom, preserved layer, consisted of different shops. Above the shops the shop keeper and their family would live. Unfortunately, all the second floors in Pompeii collapsed.
We were lucky to visit Pompeii in the off season. While there were still quite a lot of people here, our guide told us that in the Summer you can barely walk down this path. Also, despite us needing jackets in nearby Naples, it was fairly warm walking around Pompeii because of all the stone and no shade. I couldn’t imagine walking around during the summer here. Crowded, hot, uneven stones…. it would be hell.
Our first stop was the Ampitheatre of Pompeii. This is the earliest known ampitheatre made of stone.
It was amazing to see how detailed things were back then.
Here you are looking at more shops where people would have lived above them. The shops lined both sides of the street.
This would have been someone’s garden.
We also got to see the home of a wealthy person. Above is a picture of what their garden would have looked like.
You can tell when you were in the home of someone very wealthy by not only the size, but the paint color as well. Red paint was very expensive then.
The streets of Pompeii were designed to not only be a path for chariots, but also was the city’s drainage and sewage system. Pedestrians would walk on the sidewalks. If you had to cross the street you would step on one of the raised stones periodically found in the street. That way you didn’t have to step in sewer water.
Crosswalk (pictured above). Back when these streets were in use, the bar between the stones was not there. That is a modern day addition to help preserve what they can. Notice in between the stones how there is a line that appears to have been dug out. These were chariot tracks. The roads were designed for chariots to move easily on them, and these large stone crosswalks were designed to where the chariot could pass between them easily.
Above is a picture of what a bar in Pompeii looked like. In the holes they would place large jugs of wine which a bartender would dispense.
This was actually pretty cool! When excavating a house some archaeologists found an underground room. At first they thought it was a food storage room, but upon further inspection it is another house. This leads them to believe that Pompeii is built upon a different lost Roman city! We were told that they decided to not investigate further because they don’t want to dig up Pompeii to maybe find another lost city.
While in Pompeii we also visited one of the public bath houses. Pictured above is what would have been a sauna room.
Probably the most interesting part of our trip was our visit to the brothel. We were told in the summer that it could be over a 2 hour wait to see the brothel. Once inside the brothel it is very tiny, about the size of a walk-in closet I would say. It takes exactly 2 minutes to see the brothel in its entirety. I couldn’t imagine waiting 2 hours to see it! Pictured above is a bed where the magic happened. The beds are tiny! The people of Pompeii were all pretty short we were told. The brothel had about 6 of these beds all in sectioned off little rooms.
Pictured above is an erotic picture found in the hallway of the brothel. Remember how I told you that Pompeii was an international shipping hub? Well, the women working in the brothel could not communicate with the men coming from all over the world. In order to know what their client wanted they had all these pictures hanging up. The client would come in, point to what he wanted, and off they would go to one of the tiny beds.
So how could these men find the brothel if they couldn’t ask for directions? These “arrows” on the ground pointed them in the right direction! How funny is that? I had fun pointing out all the arrows I could to Stefan after I heard that. “Hmm.. so we just stepped outside of the church. Wonder where the brothel is. Oh to the left! Follow the arrow!”
Below you will see pictures of the Forum of Pompeii. The Forum was the economic, religious, and political center of Pompeii. The main temples, basilica, and courts were all placed around the forum.
You can see Mt. Vesuvius in the background.
We also got to see some of the plaster casts. When Pompeii was being excavated there were holes from where everything was, even bodies. Archaeologists would pour plaster in between the layers of sediment so that they could tell what it was. They got detailed plaster casts of people, animals, and more.
These were difficult to look at, as you could make out the facial expressions on most of them. The people of Pompeii did not know that Mt. Vesuvius was a volcano, so they had no idea what was happening to them when it erupted.
We did not even scratch the surface of Pompeii. We spent 4 hours walking around here and learned a ton of new info. Our guide told us it could take days to walk around and fully experience everything available to the public. There are even more areas of Pompeii that are not available to the general public. Definitely go to Pompeii if you get a chance! Pompeii is actually deteriorating at a rapid rate. It has been on the ‘World Monuments Watch’ list 3 times since 1996. Hopefully the funds can become available in order to preserve it.
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