Monday, November 07, 2011

Article: Jens Togata

Jens Togata

Adventures in Archeology: Pompeii

by Jenni November 7, 2011

Hi everyone!

My apologies for my absence of late; we just got back from a 5 day trip to Southern Italy including Pompeii, Cuma, Naples, Amalfi, and Paestum!  It was a great time.

On the first day, we went to Pompeii where we got to see all of the ancient city that was preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.  The layers of hot ash that fell on the city when Vesuvius erupted perfectly preserved all of the structures in Pompeii, which were discovered in the 18th century (about 1700 years later!).  It was quite amazing to see such a complete slice of history.

One of my favorite monuments in Pompeii is the amphitheatre, which is in amazingly good shape.  There was a riot there in AD 59, which caused the Emperor to put a 10 year ban on games there.  There's even a painting of the riot!  (I'll tell you about that in a later post.)

The Amphitheatre at Pompeii

Inside the Amphitheatre at Pompeii

Another great thing about Pompeii is the vast number of paintings and mosaics that are still preserved.  A lot of them have been taken to the Naples Archeological Museum (which we visited on a different day when we were there), but many of them are still "in situ," which is a technical term for "still in its original place."  One thing I can say about the Pompeians is that they LOVED interior decorating.  I've never seen such rich wall paintings in houses before.  Here are a few examples:

Fresco in the Peristyle of a Pompeian House

Detail of a Wall Painting in a Pompeian House

Besides the houses themselves, the structure of the city was cool to see also.  The stone streets are still exactly like they were in Roman times with raised stone crosswalks and ruts from where the carts drove.

A View of a Crosswalk/Street in Pompeii

Some Buildings in Pompeii

Pompeii was clearly a pretty well-off city, as evidenced by the fact that they had, not only an amphitheatre, but also a theatre (hypothetically) for music concerts and another one for dramas!

Odeon (Music Theatre) in Pompeii

Inside the Large Theatre, Pompeii

Inside the Large Theatre, Pompeii

In case you still have any doubts about the type of image Pompeii was trying to create for itself, I'd like to direct your attention to the impressive forum.  At the end of the forum there once stood a large temple to the Roman god Jupiter, which, when looking down the forum made for a spectacular view, framed by an imposing vista of Mount Vesuvius.

View of Mount Vesuvius from the End of the Forum (Ruins of the Temple to Jupiter in the Foreground)

Hindsight is 20-20, Pompeii.

Anyway, I think one of the most fun things I saw in Pompeii was the writing on the walls.  That's right, there is still ancient graffiti and election "posters" on the city walls.  How cool is that??  I would never graffiti a building, but if I did, I would do it in Latin.

Ancient Wall Writings

Pompeii was such a great city to visit!  There's a lot more I could say about it, but I think I'll leave it at that.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more adventures from Southern Italy, visits to beautiful churches, and questions from third-graders! Ciao!