Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The destruction of Pompei in 79 AD was always one of the more memorable stories of ancient history when I was in grade school. I was fascinated by the idea of everything becoming frozen in time, just as it stood, until it was discovered over 1,500 years later. It never occurred to me then that I would be able to visit it one day, but here we were, walking down the stone paved streets and peering into homes and businesses and public buildings, all under restoration since its discovery in the mid 1700's.

We could see Pompei approaching from quite a distance. It is in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius, and the whole town has a kind of smoky appearance from a distance, although I did not sense it as much as we toured the site. A major earthquake took place early in the morning on August 24 in 79. As the residents were recovering from the after effects, Vesuvius exploded with such force that the city was buried under about 60 feet of rock and ash in fairly short order, within 48 hours. (How weird is it that I'm writing this post on nearly the exact annniversary!)

If you love a good crumbling column (and what artist doesn't!) then you will certainly be happy here. The buildings that have been restored are really incredible ... private homes that were quite large and elaborate, with pools and beautiful courtyards and lovely mosaics and frescos on the walls. Businesses, such as the bakery (above is a photo of the ovens) were found with the baked bread still intact inside. Apparently the baker, who came in to work before the earthquake, never removed the loaves and they have been amazingly preserved. The bath houses, the library, the brothel ... its all still there. You get such an eerie feeling walking around in the footsteps of the former residents.

I was struck by how many of the everyday objects of art survived ... vases, urns, there are hundreds of shelves like the ones shown here, with items from the excavation. There are also casts of the residents' remains that are similarly eerie ... captured forever in their last poses. A dog. A pregnant woman. So sad to experience such an untimely end.

The textures on the buildings and walls were an amazing visual treat while visiting the site. All in all, a fascinating day, and there wasn't even a paper store to visit!

1 comment:

  1. Great photos! I was lucky enough to spend a day in Pompeii myself a few years back and found it every bit as fascinating as it had seemed when reading about it. I hope you also made it to the Naples Museum of Art that has all the good pieces of mosaic, statues, etc. that were rescued from the ruins and preserved. They have a "secret cabinet" (gallery) where they keep all the more riske things since Pompeii was filled with phalluses, etc.