Providing a breathtaking Illusion of antiquity, the ancient city of Pompeii is situated near the bay of Naples in the southern Italian region of Campania and is still and forever shadowed by its tormentor, Mount Vesuvius. Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
According to myth, the Greek hero Herakles bestowed upon Pompeii its name whilst passing through Italy after defeating the three-headed monster giant Geryon. The name Pompeii derives from the word Pompe/Pompa, the Ancient Greek word for the procession in honour of Herakles’s triumph over the giants as one of his twelve labours.
Pompeii was established on the end of ancient lava flow and sometime around the 8th century BC by the Campanian Oscan, a local italic population. It was only a small site.
The foundation of the Pompeii we know of today is attributed to the ancient Greeks who took full control of the region and transformed Pompeii (and nearby city of Herculaneum) into an important trading centre and port. The city developed and grew especially under the strong influence of the nearby ancient Greek coastal colonies of Cumae and Neapolis (Naples). The beginnings of the city planning and buildings were established during this period.
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
Pericles – Ancient Greek Statesman – 495 BC 429 BC
The Greek political influence diminished when Pompeii fell under the control of the Etruscans and then the Samnites and in 290 BC the city became a subject ally of Rome. However Greek (Hellenistic) culture continued to be the leading influence especially in art, architecture, religion and way of life.
Pompeii became a Roman colony in 80 BC and by now was the largest trading centre in the southern portion of the coast. The city was bursting with wealth and was transformed with new public buildings and monuments. Many large villas with mosaic floors, Greek art and garden courtyards were built for its wealthy citizens. The city became a favourite resort of the opulent Romans and model place for families to settle.
It all sounded too good to be true when In AD 62, Mount Vesuvius, now stirring, gave warning of its destructive power when Pompeii was devastated by a major earthquake.
However, warning signs were mostly ignored and Pompeii, now with a booming population of about 20,000 inhabitants choose to rise above the ruins and continued to grow and prosper whilst rebuilding and restoring its damaged buildings and infrastructure.
The reconstruction of the city was in full swing when the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius occurred in AD 79 (August 24, according to some historians). In just over two days Pompeii was buried under volcanic debris (lapilli, ash and red-hot scoria) between 5 to 7 metres deep. At least 2000 people who choose to stay in Pompeii and see it out were trapped and died. Some others who escaped the city late were killed by poisonous gases whilst trying to reach safe ground.
Pompeii was lost to world for around 1500 years when rediscovered accidentally around 1600. Small scale excavations started around 1748 and then finally in 1860 large-scale scientific and systematic excavations organised by the Italian government were underway. Today, around three fifths of Pompeii has been excavated.
Pompeii is a vast site and even at the peak of the summer tourist season I was able to capture images without any people in the vicinity. I highly recommended you visit it if you get the chance. Ideally you will set aside a full day for it.
Further images from Pompeii, Italy can be viewed from my image library website –www.stevensklifas.com
All Images, Text and Content On This Blog Are Copyright Steven Sklifas
Above: View of the Basilica with the elegant Hellenistic styled two-level Tribunal in the background. Dating back to the 2nd century BC, the basilica is the oldest public building in the city. It was originally a covered market and then became the seat of the Law Courts at the beginning of the 1st century AD. It was then that the Tribunal was built at the west end of the building. The surrounding portico consisted of 28 fluted Corinthian column reaching 11 metres in height.
Above: Another view of the Tribunal and Basilica complex.
Above: View of a statue of a youth with a cloak covering his head at the Portico north wall of the Stabian Baths. The statue is of Hermes, the god of the palaestra in his guise as Psychopompus, the guide of departed souls. The Stabian Baths are the largest, best preserved and oldest baths at Pompeii.
Above: The large theatre built during the Hellenistic period (3rd and 2nd centuries BC) on the foundations of an earlier Greek version. The theatre was remodelled, enlarged and adapted during the Augustan period and could seat 5000 spectators.
Above: Bronze copy of the original statue of Apollo in front of the portico at the sanctuary of Apollo. The original is in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. The Temple of Apollo, believed to be the oldest structure found at Pompeii was erected in the 6th century BC by the Samnites on a site which the Greeks had consecrated to the Apollo’s worship. The Temple consisted was a patchwork of architectural styles as it was modified in the 2nd century BC and again in the 1st century AD under Emperor Nero.
Above: Bronze copy of the bust statue of Diana in front of the portico at the sanctuary of Apollo at Pompeii, Italy. The original is in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.
Above: Sacred well surrounded by small circular temple adjacent to the Greek Doric Temple at the Triangular Forum Pompeii Italy.
Above: The Quadriporticus, a vast square, surrounded by an arcade of 74 columns. which originally served as the theatres foyer. During the time of Nero the court was transformed into a barracks for Gladiators who were engaged in contests in the nearby amphitheatre.
Above: View along a main street Vicolo di Mercurio which is paved with large polygonal blocks of Vesuvian lava bordered by raised pavements. Further up can be seen stepping-stones for pedestrians, allowing then to cross the street without getting their feet wet when awash with strong downpours of rain. The stones did not impede the movements of wagons or chariots. In the background is Mount Vesuvius.
Above: North view of the Triumphal styled Arch of Caligula at the start of the Via Mercurio. In the background is Mount Vesuvius.
Above: Narrow side paved lane with stepping stone to let pedestrians cross without getting their feet wet, Pompeii Italy.
Above: View of the grandiose Artium with 16 Doric fluted columns, 4.5 metres in height, around the impluvium in the House of Diadumeni. It is also known as the house of M. Epidius Rufus and was built-in the 2nd century BC.
Above: View of Atrium with impluvium and mosaic floor, to the tablinum and peristyle at the House of Paquius Proculus, Pompeii Italy. The house is one of the most beautiful in the city and is also known as the House of Cuspius Pansa.
Above: The south side of city gate Porta Nocera. The gate is one of the seven gates that form part of the three kilometres defensive wall of Pompeii. And originally dates back the to the Samnite era. Outside this gate is the Necropolis of Nocera.
Above: The ruins of the Temple of Jupiter at the northern end of the Forum. The great temple was built around 150 BC, however was seriously damaged by an earthquake in 62 AD and was being rebuilt when the devastating eruption hit. The Forum was the centre of political, economic and religious life in Pompeii.
Above: View of the Thermopolium with its large terracotta jars set into marble counters at the House of Vetutius Placidus. The Thermopolium was an ancient snack bar and bistro where hot and cold food and drinks were served and able to be eaten there.
Above: View of the exterior of the amphitheatre which was built-in 80 BC and the oldest structure known of its kind from the Roman World. Its exterior arcades and access stairways to cavea support the seating area which could hold 12,000 spectators. The amphitheatre was used for sports and gladiatorial contests, hunts and battles with wild animals. It was enlarged by the Romans overtime due to the spectacles becoming so popular.
Above: View of the elliptical shaped amphitheatre arena which was built-in 80 BC. The amphitheatre was used for sports and gladiatorial contests, hunts and battles with wild animals. It was enlarged by the Romans due to the spectacles becoming so popular. The stadium seats 12,000 spectators.
Above: View across the atrium with Impluvium to the tablinum and Peristyle of the House of the Figured Capitals, Pompeii Italy. The house is on named as there were capitals carved with figures at the entrance of the house.
Above: View of a broken grain mill, a bench and the oven in the bakery at the House of Pansa. Each mill consists of two stones of volcanic rock; one which is solid and conical set on a round masonry base. And the other which is hollow and bicocnical and rotates on the first. Occupying a whole block of the ancient city, the House of Pansa original structure dates back to the Samnite period and was modified over many hundreds of years.
Above: View across the Atrium with marble lined impluvium to the tablinum and peristyle of the House of the Bull or Bronze Bull. The back facade of the peristyle consists of a fountain or nymphaeum; from three niches, adorned with glass paste and seashells, water once ran down in a graceful series of cascades.
Above: Part view of the sports field and large open air peristyle of the Stabian Baths. The Baths are the largest, best preserved and oldest baths at Pompeii.
Above: The Hellenistic bronze statue of the Dancing faun in the Tuscan styled Atrium with Impluvium at the House of the Faun, Pompeii Italy. Built in the 2nd century BC, the House of Faun is the largest house found at Pompeii and occupies an entire city block and has over 40 rooms. It is also one of the most beautiful examples of aristocratic homes from the Roman period.
Above: View of the copy of the famous Alexander the Great battle mosaic on the Exedra floor of House of the Faun. The mosaic shows the battle between Alexander and Darius, Persian King. The original mosaic is in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.
Above: The Odeon or small concert hall theatre which was built-in 80 BC on the foundations of an earlier structure. Built into the hillside, the cavea of small theatre formed a hemicycle fitting into the slope as its Greek predecessor did. The theatre was originally covered with a wooden roof and could accommodate nearly 1000 spectators. I was used for musical performances and mime.
Above: Looking across the impluvium in atrium, tablinum to the fountain at House of the Large Fountain. The house takes its name from a delightful large fountain, adorned with coloured glass paste mosaics and stuccos and bronze statues (copies).
Above: Close up view of the fountain at House of the Large Fountain. The house takes its name from a delightful large fountain, adorned with coloured glass paste mosaics and stuccos and bronze statues (copies).
Above: Fountain with the marble relief of Silenus as a fountain-god resting on a wine-skin. The fountain is found on the corner of Via della Fortuna and Via del Vesuvio. In view are also seen stepping-stones for pedestrians, allowing then to cross the street without getting their feet wet when awash with strong downpours of rain. The stones did not impede the movements of wagons or chariots.
All Images, Text and Content On This Blog Are Copyright Steven Sklifas