Speaking about volcanoes and buried cities, the first to come to our mind is the ancient Roman city of Pompeii near today’s city of Naples in Italy. The eruption of the nearby Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79 AD (during the reign of Titus) totally destroyed and buried Pompeii and Herculaneum and damaged severely the surrounding villages and villas around the Bay of Naples. They were buried under 6-metre layers of ash, stone and lava killing thousands of citizens. After the volcano eruption the site was forgotten and lost for around 1500 years before the first rediscoveries started. Nowadays it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world most famous tourist attractions in Italy keeping a record of the ancient Roman city.
P O M P E I I
The city of Pompeii was a very important commercial hub of the Roman Empire before the volcano eruption of 79 AD. The reason was that the settlement was located at the mouth of the Sarno River. After almost 2000 years, the city has still been giving visitors the possibility to see what it looked like in the distant past. All this was possible owing to the 6-metre layers of ash, as mentioned above, which preserved the ancient town and its constructions till present times.
The excavations of Pompeii started around the middle of the 17th century. The buried city and its ruins are among the top destinations in Southern Italy and this is the reason why there are a huge number of tourists visiting the world famous archeological site, especially in nice weather. At the same time, all the sights in the archeological complex have a very complicated and long history and that’s why the best way to get acquainted with and appreciate more the buried city and its wonders is to have a guided tour or to be with a person who is familiar with the history of Pompeii. If you allow me, I could walk you through the town without pretending to tell you everything about it. I am neither a professional tourist guide nor I know about the town too much. I am just a very curious wanderluster and Homotouristicus by profession who will share her personal memories of Pompeii with you. Let’s get started our trip around the buried and rediscovered city of Campania Felix.
If Foro Romano di Pompei (The Roman Forum of Pomeii): The most ideal place to start our visit is from la Piazza del Foro (the Square of the Roman Forum) which was once the pulsating heart of the ancient city of Pompeii. So, we shall enter the city from la Porta Marina. This was Pompeii’s main and most impressive entrance while nowadays we can only enjoy the ruins of this gate (out of seven others) as well as the ancient city’s walls.
The life of the citizens flourished around the glorious and enormous Square of the Forum which was built in the 2nd century BC. The main intension was to donate to the city a public place where people would gather and have public discussions, something like the Ancient Hellenistic Agora. This was achieved through the building of arcades and colonnade as well as the presence of 3-nave basilica. The square itself was projected enormous so that it could welcome and gather together the citezens of Pompeii during the public discussion.
Moreover, we can still see the ruins of the public Buiding of Eumachia (l’Edificio di Eumachia), The Temple of Apollo (il Tempio di Apollo), the Temple of Jupiter (il Tempio di Giove) and the Forum Baths (le Terme del Foro).
La Basilica Romana di Pompei (The Roman Basilica of Pompeii): Most probably it was built between 130-120 BC under the project of the expansion of the antique city and its surroundings. It was erected around the Roman Forum at a place where once there had been a residential complex. The Roman basilica was 53 metres long and 24 metres large. It was constructed in rather ordinary way with one external arcade and the classical division inside which was typical for most of the Roman Basilicas of that time. That place served as a building dedicated to both administrative jurisdiction and commercial exchange.
Le Terme di Pompei (The Therml Baths of Pompeii): There is no doubt that other most fascinating places in Pompeii were the Stabian and Suburban thermal baths which were realized only some decades before the volcano eruption. We can say that as a whole Roman baths and these ones in particular, are the early prototypes of today’s SPA centres because they offered a great variety of rooms and ambiences as well as activities.
Bathers entered them from vestibules and stopped first in the so called apodyterium (or changing room). The stuccoed vault in the men’s changing room is very impressive, indeed, because it was decorated with whimsical images of putti or these winged babies or with nymphs. Speaking about the latter, some thermal baths, especially those in private houses like la Casa di Giulia Felice in Pompeii, possessed the so-called ninfeo (nympheum) – a sacred building dedicated to a nymph.
After having changed the clothes guests and bathers left for the tepidarium (warm room) and then passed through the caldarium (hot room). There were also swimming pools in the open air that were surrounded by rich and green vegetation. All sections in the public baths were richly decorated with frescoes and most of them have still been preserved and seen on the thermal walls. Most of them are very erotic and represent either heterosexual relations or a relation between women. Owing to all these frescoes of various types we can get an idea of the models of costumes and swimsuits that were worn in Imperial Rome.
Il Lupanare (The Brothel): As an important commercial and trade centre, Pompeii was dotted by numerous private houses such as la Casa del Fauno, la Casa degli Amorini, la Casa di Giulia Felice and la Casa del Centenario. Villa dei Misteri is also worth a visit because it houses the paintings if del Triclinium.
While wondering along the stone and authentic ancient city’s streets, you will see a sign hung on the walls and gates of houses. It is in the form of an excited phallus. Well, this symbol of prosperity, fertility happiness as well as a protector against evil eyes was ubiquitous in the Ancient Roman Empire and the ancient Romans were totally obsessed with phallic images in art and architecture.
Apart from all this, guides think that the place of the greatest interest to tourists visiting Pompeii is il Lupanare Grande. Gosh 🙂 Lupanar is the Latin for il bordello (brothel). It’s supposed to have been the most famous and the largest pleasure house in Pompeii. It had 10 rooms in which le lupe (the ladies practising the oldest profession) offered their services to the their clients on the stone beds in each of them. As to the other ornaments, there are still preserved graffiti and erotic paintings in it.
L’anfiteatro Romano di Pompei (The Roman Amphitheatre di Pompeii): The Roman amphitheatre of Pompeii is really notable. It was one of the important public structures in the city. The ovoid amphitheatre of the city was built in the southern parts of Pompeii in the 70 BC where there were less houses and dwellings and traffic wasn’t so intense. The building was partially destroyed in an earthquake in 62 BC. It was reconstructed soon after it. It was a functional arena for gladiatorial battles and circus performances until it was buried under the lava of Vesuvius and then laid under the ashes for centuries. A curious fact is that this famous amphitheatre of the ancient city of Pompeii inspired music giants Pink Floyed and they recorded their epic Live At Pompeii in the 70s of last century.