Adventures With Dino And Family -Part 8 – The Lost City of Pompeii!

Next up was a trip to Pompeii! While Aubre had studied much about Pompeii in school and had always wanted to visit the ancient city, I had merely harboured my own small fascination with the city since reading a children’s book about it long ago. Despite what we thought we knew about Pompeii, neither one of us quite knew what to expect!

A Page in History

Pompeii had quite an extensive and complicated history long before its famed destruction, or even its Roman rule. So to catch us up to speed real quick, I’ve compiled a very brief summary:

8th century BCE – First stable settlements by the Oscans
740 BCE – fell under Greek control.
524 BCE – fell under Etruscan control.
474 BCE – fell back under Greek control.
424 BCE – fell under Samnite control.
343 BCE – ruled by Samnites, but faithful to Rome.
290 BCE – forced to become a socii of Rome.
91 BCE – took part in Social Wars against Rome.
89 BCE – forced to surrender and become a colony of Rome.

Here’s when things start shaking… literally.

On the 5th of February 62 CE (17 years before Vesuvius would bury the city), Pompeii was struck by a major earthquake that dealt severe damage throughout the city. Temples, houses, bridges, and roads were destroyed. Chaos followed, and fires (caused by oil lamps that had fallen during the quake) added to the panic. Anarchy ruled the city over the days that followed, as theft and starvation plagued the survivors. While many of Pompeii’s inhabitants stayed to rebuild the city, a considerable amount moved to other cities within the Roman empire. A move that unbeknownst to them, would save their lives.

17 years later, on what is now believed to have been an autumn day in late October of 79 CE, Vesuvius erupted. It is estimated that the population of Pompeii at the time was between 6,000 and 20,000, and that around 2,000 people lost their lives in the tragic event. Pompeii was completely buried in 25 meters of ash and dust, and lost to human knowledge for over a thousand years.

Pompeii slept, forgotten and more or less undisturbed, until 1748, when Spanish military engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre began excavating the long lost city.

Enough about history! What is Pompeii like?

Aubre and I arrived in modern Pompeii by train bright and early in the morning! We made the 15 minute walk to the entrance of this famous archeological site, bought our tickets, and entered the ancient city of Pompeii.

The first thing I noticed, was a strange feeling of not having to look anywhere. Normally when I enter an archeological site, the first thing I do is to start looking for the ruins.

Pompeii was different. It was opposite. Instead of looking around, spotting scattered stone foundations and imagining myself walking through an ancient city, I was surrounded by ancient buildings and homes. I couldn’t not see them. I wasn’t imaginiting an ancient city, I was in one. I was on the streets of Pompeii.

I normally wouldn’t post such a bad picture, but this was my literal first sight upon entering Pompeii.

This wasn’t a grassy plain, speckled with the remnants of crumbling foundations and the occasional fallen column; this was an entire city with homes and bars, streets and sidewalks, theaters and statues. This was Pompeii, home to thousands of humans one moment, and their tomb the next. Pompeii was ghost town, beautiful and tragic.

The first thing we came upon was the Temple of Venus, and within it, this this statue. I dubbed him ‘The Guardian of Pompeii’, because he looked like the last sentinel of the city. (Also featured in the ‘featured image’)
Next we came upon was the Basilica. To be clear, what you’re looking at was only a part of it. I’m actually standing within the Basilica, or what remains of it.
Still in the Basilica, looking out toward the Forum of Pompeii.
Vesuvius looms over the Forum of Pompeii.
Centaur statue in the Forum.
A typical street of Pompeii.

With no real Itinerary we looked at the map and headed off in the direction of the amphitheatre, exploring the sites along the way.

Some columns throughout the site were supported to help keep Pompeii on its feet.
Along the way to the Amphitheatre, we came across the Grand Theater.

With a spectacularly well preserved seating area and stage, it’s easy to imagine coming here for a night’s entertainment.
Next we found a separate and smaller theater that was also on the way to the Amphitheatre. I guess the people of Pompeii really liked their theatres.
We next explored some of the homes along the way. Each one had an impluvium in the entrance, used to gather rainwater.
The walls were still brightly painted, depicting mythological stories and creatures.
Little figures of mythical beasts were found on otherwise blank walls. This winged horse was palm sized.
Some houses had inner courtyards with gardens. Don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty certain these aren’t the original plants.
Some had fancier impluviums than others.
Many houses had incredibly detailed mosaics on the floors.
Courtyards for days. There were a good number of fountains found in the fancier houses.
Hard to believe this was painted 2,000 years ago in a city buried by a volcano.
I would love to have seen these paintings in their prime.
No sure if I expressed how many mosaics covered the floors of the houses.
Song walls had decorations painted on them, from furniture to shelves holding miscellaneous trinkets as seen here.
I’m sorry if you’re getting tired of seeing 2,000 year old paintings, but I couldn’t get enough of them! How many painters do you think ever imagine their work being viewed 2,000 years later?
If a wall wasn’t covered in paintings, it at least had little a small figure painted here or there to fill its space. This little guy was about half my palm.
Another city street, I think we’re just around the bend from the Amphitheatre at this point.
At last we’ve arrived! I have only my poor photography skills and lack of a wider angle lense to blame for the poor shots.
Into the deep.
Pretty sure this says something epic and glory inspiring.
Time to enter the arena!
With all the people about, it was impossible to get a clean shot, and without a wider lense, this was about as good as it gets. It was really amazing to be standing in the arena, and my memories will always overshadow my shitty pictures.
With that we headed back toward the center of town, stopping to peer in more homes along the way.
As you can see, not every single home was a fancy schmancy place.
I’m telling you, everyone and their mom had an impluvium! We should bring them back into style. Free water!
This guy gets two shots. One, straight on to show you its detail and amazing state of preservation.
Another to show you its size, and to show more examples of how the ancient Romans seemed to like havin decorations painted on their walls.
Seriously, all these were painted 2,000 years ago!
This is called Venus in the Shell (found in the House of Venus in the Shell). Really, it was spectacular, this picture doesn’t do the painting justice, nor does it express its size. It was quite large.
Slightly closer up.
I Don’t remember what this was, but look at it!
Holy smokes batman, can you say huge and intricate mosaic?!
The original ‘Beware of dog’ signs.
Slowly we made our way back to the roman forum to begin heading out in a new direction
Vesuvius looming behind the Temple of Jupiter.
An alley way behind the “restaurant” we dined in. Vesuvius loomed everywhere. It was honestly a bit haunting.
Another intricate indoor fountain.
Not entirely sure I think this is a winged cow! Forget Pegasus, I want Bessius!
More incredible paintings. Sorry for the low lighting.
Did I mention intricate fountains?
And mosaics?
Another inner courtyard garden.
The scapes were simply incredible.
Almost every entryway had mosaics.
Did I mention that Vesuvius loomed over evertyhing?
Another fancy Impluvium!
The fanciest of all mosaics, though not all of it survived.
Some outdoor decor. I think this was a pub. I wanted to zip back in time and have a drink here. Chat with the locals, tell ’em to get outta dodge.
Now nearing the end of our exploration, we headed back to the beginning a back way, and found this back view of the Grand Theatre.

Our last time passing through the Pompeii Forum, Vesuvius sleeps beside the city it buried for over 1,700 years.
As we make our way to the exit, the sun sets over the Basilica.
Of course, since we left the way we came, the Guardian of Pompeii was the last we saw of the long forgotten city.

Closing thoughts:

Pompeii is like no other archeological site I’ve ever experienced. I know I said that in the beginning of this post, but I want to expand on that thought. You see, it was much more than a thought. It was a deeply resonating emotion.

When I stood within the ancient Greek temples of Paestum, strolled through the scattered remains of the Phoenician port city of Tharros, and explored the ruins of Velia, I was in awe.

I couldn’t believe I was touching stone shaped and set by human hands 2,000+ years ago. I stood within a towering, monumental temple and marveled at how incredible it was that this massive human achievement has stood the test of time. It was a positively grounding and inspiring feeling.

But Pompeii was not the same. It didn’t stand the test of time; it was victim to a catastrophic and tragic event that happened to preserve it.

In Pompeii you’re not just walking through an ancient house, you’re walking through the home of another human being who went from living a normal life one moment, to fleeing for their life the next. As the world churned beneath their feet and the sun was extinguished from the sky by a blackness darker than night, they fled their home never imagining that 2,000 years later your touristy butt would be snapping photographs of their living room, bedroom, or kitchen.

Pompeii is amazing, don’t get me wrong. It’s still incredible, and I still marvelled, but it was a different kind of marvel. It was a solemn marvel. I marvelled at the significant insight into ancient Roman life that Pompeii provides, but the somber truth of why I was able to get this gleam into ancient human history hung heavily about my step. It walked the streets of Pompeii with me, it whispered softly on the breeze, and loomed over the ancient city in the form of a sleeping giant.

Vesuvius sleeps for now, but this ghost town stands testament to its destructive capabilities. Two million people now live in its immediate vicinity. Will we be more prepared for Vesuvius’s next eruption? Or will history repeat itself?

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