The ancient city of Pompeii is located in the southern region of Italy called Campania near the coast of Naples and was an important port town. This once great Roman city was buried under tons of ash and pumice when in 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius erupted. This thriving city of 20,000 people that was built up with private and public establishments under both Emperors Augustus and Tiberius was destroyed.
After the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii was rediscovered and is still undergoing extensive restoration and excavation. There is an extraordinary collection of architecture, sculpture, paintings and mosaics. The major artifacts were moved to Naples by the Emperor many, many years ago.
We entered through the Marina Gate in Region VII (there are 9 Regions under excavation at Pompeii) where you are immediately greeted by the Suburban Baths. These were private baths some with erotic paintings; others with extravagant decorations.
Our private guide, Agostino, regaled us with all sorts of racy stories! Excavated in 1960; 1985-1988
The Marina Gate & Walls provide access to the west side of this city and is the most impressive of the 7 gates of Pompeii. It seems the name came from the fact that the route out led to the sea. The gate has 2 barrel vault portals made of concrete and dates back to 80 B.C. The 2 portals provided entry for both horses and other pack animals and the smaller was for people. Excavated 1862-1863
Another highlight was the Temple of Genius Augusti (Vespasian) which was built at the request of the Priestess. It consisted of a small courtyard, marble altar which depicts a bull being led to sacrifice and a small temple with 4 columns and exquisite marble decoration. Excavated in 1817
The Bakery of Popidio Prisco: The mill and the bakery were adjacent to each other as they were part of the same production process. There are 5 large lava millstones that were used to grind the wheat. Bread was baked in a variety of shapes in the large central oven and sold to residents or to wholesalers. Excavation 20’s of the 19th century.
The Sauna Room and public baths were a significant social scene where Romans would relax and be pampered after leaving the gymnasium. There was both a hot and cold bath here. Water was abundant in this city.
The Streets of Pompeii were established on a grid plan The streets have grooves for the horse carts. Since the streets often flooded there are footsteps that allow pedestrians to cross the road without getting their feet wet.
Interior of home of a wealthy merchant with colorful frescoes and ornate decorations
The Forum: this was a public space originally at the center of Pompeii’s commercial, religious and political life and is surrounded by many of the most significant buildings of the city. The Basilica was a public building where business and legal matters were conducted. It was at one end of the Forum.
The Building of Eumanchia has an ornate carved marble frieze. Note the “key” which supports the gate without a central support. Eumanchia was a local priestess and a successful business woman to boot! Women rock!
The ruins of Pompeii:
This exploration of a time gone by is well worth the visit. It is immense and you can easily fall into the trap of everything looking the same. Take my advice and hire a private guide or you will miss the highlights here as following the map will have you wandering endlessly in circles! A word of warning: wear comfortable shoes!!! The streets are very uneven and you can easily lose your footing.
Now onto the Puglia Region. Here is a link to Alberobello our next adventure. Stay tuned for Matera, Lecce and the gorgeous Borgo Egnazia