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Pompeii - The Buried City
Buried when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, the city of Pompeii is one of the world's greatest treasures. The city was found accidentally a couple of centuries ago and has been extensively excavated since then. The site retains the original streets and parts of many buildings. Specific items, including the plaster catss of bodies of people engulfed by pyroclastic flow, have been removed to the museum.
A visit allows you to get close to the experience of life in a first century Roman city. Its scale is astonishing. It is only on visiting Pompeii that it becomes apparent that it is indeed an entire city, not just a few ancient ruins. Vvisitors can wander at will through a vast area of streets and houses, feeling almost as if they are touring a modern city hit by a neutron bomb.
The most affecting parts of Pompeii for many visitors are the touches that remind you that its inhabitants were just like us - the barber's shop, the baths, the garden areas, the toilets, the pavements and gulleys and so on. There is even grafitti on the walls. Also, for anyone with the stomach to look at them, plaster casts of the dead provide a further jolt of recognition, setting off thoughts on how those people must have experienced the horror of their deaths. The famous account by Pliny the Younger expresses the horror of witnessing the eruption and of seeing heroism lead to death.
There is a good summary of Pompeii's history on Wikipedia At the time of the eruption, Pompeii was the location of holiday homes for wealthy Romans. The same is even more true of nearby Herculaneum, where the seaside villas of the very rich held some amazing works of art. Skeletons have been found at Herculaneum, where the circumstances of the engulfment were slightly different from those at Pompeii.
The Villa of the Papyri, Julius Caesar's father-in-law's seaside home, holds the only surviving ancient world library. The papyrus scrolls in the library (hence the name of the villa) were mainly very damaged by heat. However, there is some hope that modern technologies will allow them to be read.
Some of the more notable buildings of Pompeii are an amphitheatre, gymnasium, two theatres the Macellum (food market), Pistrinum (mill), the Thermopolium (a bar), and cauporioe (small restaurants) . A hotel near to the town covers a thousand square metres. Herculaeneum holds luxury villas, including the House of Neptune and Amphitrite.
On 28 June 2006, there is a programme on the archaeology of Pompeii and Herculaneum, on the UK's Channel 5 . The BBC produced a programme "The Last Day" which dramatised the eruption in Pompeii. This was watchable if not wonderful and can usually be found repeated from time to time on a various terrestrial, satellite or cable channels. The BBC has several interesting articles on Pompeii .
Etrusia displays some photographs of Pompeii, originally taken in 1974 by an English woman on her honeymoon. These old photographs were scanned in and severely reduced in size for display on the web, so they are not of printing quality, but they show the sort of amazing things that even a casual visitor will find at Pompeii.
Cite this work
Wake, H., "Pompeii - The Buried City," http:// romans.etrusia.co.uk
/roman_pompeii.php, 25 June 2006.