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Pompeii was a Roman town/city famously destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 24 August, 79 AD. It is located near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania and is considered one of the world's most important historical sites (the eruption of Vesuvius also buried the Roman towns of Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabiae).

It is thought that Pompeii was founded in the 7th or 6th century BC by the Oscans. It eventually became a Roman colony in 80 BC. Because of the way the volcanic ash rapidly buried the city and has preserved it, the site has given archaeologists a detailed picture (akin to a 'snapshot') of what life was like in the Roman Empire around 2,000 years ago. Although there was a small unearthing of Pompeii in 1599, it wasn't until 1748 when the city was properly rediscovered, with intentional excavations by the Spanish military engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre. The 'Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata' form a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting about 2.5 million visitors annually. A few notes, accompanied by details of my visit some years ago, follows.

Pompeii was encircled by three kilometres of walls with eight known entrances. Each entrance (gate) was named accordingly as to where they led. We entered the excavations through Porta Marina (Marine Gate) to see, first off, the Basilica and then the Civil Forum. The Basilica of Pompeii (below) is dated at the end of the second century B.C and is the oldest known basilica of the Roman world.

The Civil Forum was the main square of the city and it was pedestrianised. It was the political and religious centre of the city and surrounded by civil, religious, and commercial buildings. This is shown below and to the right of the photo is the Temple of Jupiter.

We then went in the Forum Baths. Hundreds of Romans didn't escape the eruption of Vesuvius, in A.D. 79. As a result, they were buried in the volcanic ash that was deposited, which eventually hardened. Their bodies decomposed, leaving a hollow in the resulting sediment. During excavations, plaster casts have been taken of these hollow 'moulds'. As a result, it is possible to see plaster casts containing the original bones of the Roman people who died in the tragedy. Some of these were on display here in the Forum Baths and show them in exactly the same posture as when they died.

The next 3 photos show the paved streets and illustrate Pompeii's drainage and sewage disposal system. The blocks in the road acted as stepping stones, allowing pedestrians to cross the street without having to step onto the roadway as it doubled up as a drainage system. The blocks were set at fixed intervals to allow vehicles to pass over them.

Next, we took a look at some of the houses in the city starting off with the House of the Small Fountain, located on the Via di Mercurio. It was first excavated in 1823 and again in 1826. The original layout (early 1st century BC) retains the typical plan of an atrium-style house where on entry, a visitor would be able to establish the owner's social status. Shown in the photo below is the well preserved fountain itself.

Next was the House of the Tragic Poet (The Homeric House or The Iliadic House). Just inside the doorway is a mosaic, depicting a guard-dog; this house, dating from the 2nd century BC. This house has been of interest to scholars and writers due to its elaborate mosaic floors and frescoes which depict scenes from Greek mythology. We then went in the House of the Vettii, one of the most famous of the luxurious residences in Pompeii (shown in the two photos below). Here, almost all of the wall frescos are very well preserved. The frescos were completed in one of the later Pompeian styles, following the earthquake of 62 AD. Perhaps one of the most well known sights in the house is In the entrance foyer - an almost life-size fresco of Priapus. Without going into too much detail about the fresco, it is he, whom gave rise to the medical term priapism. A small cubicle leading off from the kitchen contains a statue of Priapus as well.

The photo below is from the House of the Faun which was built during the 2nd century BC It was one of the largest and most luxurious private residences in Pompeii (and indeed the Roman republic). The house was noted for its great pieces of art, although most of the original artworks are now to be found in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. The most famous pieces, including the Dancing Faun (which gives the house its name), have been reproduced and placed in their original locations within the ruins of the house. [Note: On another day, we went to visit the National Archaeological Museum and spent some time there looking at many artefacts which were excavated from Pompeii, Stabiae and Herculaneum. It is indeed well worth a visit and highly recommended for anyone visiting Pompeii (and/or the other two sites) who wishes to see more.]

Bakeries made and sold bread for the citizens of Pompeii and were a common industry. Shown in the photo below is a mill used to grind corn into flour.

We then walked back through the Civil Forum, seeing more plaster casts of Roman victims of the volcanic eruption and then exited Pompeii back out of Porta Marina, where there was understandably no shortage of souvenir sellers. There was a lot more to see in Pompeii which would have warranted spending a full day (or two) there, including the Stabian Baths, the Theatre and the Amphitheatre. The ancient city covers an area of 170 acres and to get another idea of the size, the Amphitheatre is about 1km from the Porta Marina.

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