Pompeii – A Snapshot From 2000 Years Ago

26 Dec

Let me start by getting something very clear, the spelling of the subject of this post!  The eruption of Mt Vesuvius on 24th August 79AD buried a town that was home to 20,000 people killing about 2,000 of them.  The name of that town was Pompeii.  Since then a new town was developed nearby (within a kilometre) and it is called Pompei.  So Pompeii is the archaeological site and Pompei is the modern town in which we stayed during our visit.  OK?  It had me baffled for a while too.  Now all I have to do is make sure I always use them the correct way!

We decamped from Rome on Wednesday 18th December and caught the 13h56 fast train from Rome’s Termini to Napoli.  A note to other travellers – book this ticket well in advance.  We didn’t and the return trip to Napoli cost us a punitive €78 each (supposedly a discount to the €116 full fare) whereas the return flight from Nice to Rome was €65 each including a checked bag!  Ouch!!  Looking at the TrenItalia website you can get return tickets for €39 each if you plan well ahead.

We arrived in Pompei at the hotel about 17h15.  It was called Hotel Diana and was only 100m from the train station and had the most helpful front desk staff ever.  Alessandro told us everything we needed to know about Pompei and Pompeii including about how you can get a great view from the bell tower for only €2 a head and the best place in town to eat.  He was right about both – the view was great and the restaurant was so good we went there both nights!  That evening we went for a walk to see the Xmas lights in town and take some photos (there’s a surprise!).

After going up the bell tower in the morning we entered the Pompeii Archaeological Site at about 10am, about 800m from the hotel.  Closing time was 5pm and that was almost the time we slipped out through the partially closed gates.  What a day.

I won’t go into a big lecture on the history and so on, you can find all that using Google, but I will say the whole site is a must see.  But you do need to allow plenty of time.  Running around it in an hour will not give you the best experience, there is so much to see on this 62Ha site.  The thing about it all is that it is a snapshot of Roman life nearly 2,000 years ago preserved and protected under 6m of volcanic debris for hundreds of years.

With that I will leave you with some photos…

One of the main streets in Pompei with Xmas decorations up.

One of the main streets in Pompei with Xmas decorations up.

The basilica and bell tower in the centre of the new town of Pompei.

The basilica and bell tower in the centre of the new town of Pompei.

There was a nice looking garden around the basilica but the gates were locked...

There was a nice looking garden around the basilica but the gates were locked…

The basilica front façade didn't look especially stunning and there was a service in progress so I could not wander in with my camera and tripod.  But Leanne did get a peak and the interior was awesome.

The basilica front façade didn’t look especially stunning and there was a service in progress so I could not wander in with my camera and tripod. But Leanne did get a peak and the interior was awesome.

The moon was just past full in this shot taken across the front of the basilica.  The haziness is smoke from wood fires.  It was very strong and all our clothes were infused with an almost spicy smokey smell.

The moon was just past full in this shot taken across the front of the basilica. The haziness is smoke from wood fires. It was very strong and all our clothes were infused with an almost spicy smokey smell.

A part of the Xmas decorations in the main square in Pompei.

A part of the Xmas decorations in the main square in Pompei.

The guy on the desk at our hotel told us about this treat - €2 to go to the top of the bell tower in the town centre where you get uninterrupted views. Even the locals don't know about it.  That is Vesuvius to the NW partly shrouded in cloud.

The guy on the desk at our hotel told us about this treat – €2 to go to the top of the bell tower in the town centre where you get uninterrupted views. Even the locals don’t know about it. That is Vesuvius to the NW partly shrouded in cloud.

The view facing SSW looking down the street to the train station.  Our hotel was on this street only 100m from the station.

The view facing SSW looking down the street to the train station. Our hotel was on this street only 100m from the station.

Looking into a ruined house in the Pompeii Archaeological Site.

Looking into a ruined house in the Pompeii Archaeological Site.

A Roman pedestrian crossing. All wheelbases were standardised to straddle these stepping stones where people could cross the road without getting their sandals wet/dirty. This was important because the roads were used as open drains.

A Roman pedestrian crossing. All wheelbases were standardised to straddle these stepping stones where people could cross the road without getting their sandals wet/dirty. This was important because the roads were used as open drains.

A close-up look at some artwork in a fast food stall, one of dozens lining the main streets.  The cut-outs in the counter held hot or cold food or even wine keeping it insulated.

A close-up look at some artwork in a fast food stall, one of dozens lining the main streets. The cut-outs in the counter held hot or cold food or even wine keeping it insulated.

There were many beautiful mosaic floors that have been well protected under the 6m of ash and rocks that covered everything on 24th August 79AD.

There were many beautiful mosaic floors that have been well protected under the 6m of ash and rocks that covered everything on 24th August 79AD.

Marble tripod table legs with lion’s heads and paws. The inscription on the top of each leg identifies the table as having belonged to Casca Longus. He was the first assassin to strike Caesar in the Senate in 44BC. He died in 42BC along with Brutus at the Battle of Philippi in Macedonia. His lands and possessions were confiscated and publicly sold. The table was then or sometime later bought by the owner of this house.

Marble tripod table legs with lion’s heads and paws. The inscription on the top of each leg identifies the table as having belonged to Casca Longus. He was the first assassin to strike Caesar in the Senate in 44BC. He died in 42BC along with Brutus at the Battle of Philippi in Macedonia. His lands and possessions were confiscated and publicly sold. The table was then or sometime later bought by the owner of this house.

Two stepping stones indicate that this was a two-way street.  It looks like this is heading into a stretch of single lane.

Two stepping stones indicate that this was a two-way street. It looks like this is heading into a stretch of single lane.

Some of the details in the buildings were very advanced.  In this bathhouse the walls were double skinned with a cavity to keep the heat in.  the ceilings were fluted so that condensation didn't drop on the people but would run down to the sides.

Some of the details in the buildings were very advanced. In this bathhouse the walls were double skinned with a cavity to keep the heat in. the ceilings were fluted so that condensation didn’t drop on the people but would run down to the sides.

The rooms in the brothel looked more like prison cells with their stone beds.  Apparently they were covered with a soft mattress.

The rooms in the brothel looked more like prison cells with their stone beds. Apparently they were covered with a soft mattress.

From the centre of the site there was an elevated viewpoint over half of the area.  Click on this image to get a better view.

From the centre of the site there was an elevated viewpoint over half of the area. Click on this image to get a better view.

A quiet side street.

A quiet side street.

2,000 people perished in 79AD of a total population of 20,000.  Many bodies were able to be preserved by injecting the cavity in the ash with plaster before excavating.

2,000 people perished in 79AD of a total population of 20,000. Many bodies were able to be preserved by injecting the cavity in the ash with plaster before excavating.

We could not get very close to the Temple of Jupiter so it is a bit difficult to see the only remaining part of his statue, the head.

We could not get very close to the Temple of Jupiter so it is a bit difficult to see the only remaining part of his statue, the head.

In front of the Temple of Jupiter was this altar.

In front of the Temple of Jupiter was this altar.

These bollards are at an entrance to the Forum.  They are here because the Forum was a pedestrian only area.  What I did not find was the parking building, there was not a 'Wilson Parking' sign to be seen anywhere!

These bollards are at an entrance to the Forum. They are here because the Forum was a pedestrian only area. What I did not find was the parking building, there was not a ‘Wilson Parking’ sign to be seen anywhere!

Figures in a bathhouse.

Figures in a bathhouse.

Vaulted ceiling details in a bathhouse.

Vaulted ceiling details in a bathhouse.

This is a calderium, hot room, and apparently water sprayed from this fountain on to the heated floor creating steam.

This is a calderium, hot room, and apparently water sprayed from this fountain on to the heated floor creating steam.

Around the rim of the fountain is engraved the name of its sponsor and how much he paid.

Around the rim of the fountain is engraved the name of its sponsor and how much he paid.

Another fast food joint.

Another fast food joint.

Arch at the top end of the Forum with the now completely cloud covered Vesuvius in the background.

Arch at the top end of the Forum with the now completely cloud covered Vesuvius in the background.

The House of the Faun was 2,970㎡.  This (replica now) statue of a faun is apparently renown for its artistic merit.  It all goes over my head, I just take the photos!

The House of the Faun was 2,970㎡. This (replica now) statue of a faun is apparently renown for its artistic merit. It all goes over my head, I just take the photos!

The interior garden at the House of the Faun surrounded by Corinthian columns.

The interior garden at the House of the Faun surrounded by Corinthian columns.

There’s a meaning here: The penis and the sack of money balance each other on the goldsmith scale above a fine bowl of fruit. Translation? Only with a balance of fertility and money can you have abundance.

There’s a meaning here: The penis and the sack of money balance each other on the goldsmith scale above a fine bowl of fruit. Translation? Only with a balance of fertility and money can you have abundance.

One of the many bakeries in the town.  The mills were filled with wheat in the top and turned either by donkeys or by slaves with the flour falling through to the flat area at the bottom.

One of the many bakeries in the town. The mills were filled with wheat in the top and turned either by donkeys or by slaves with the flour falling through to the flat area at the bottom.

A small shrine in a private house.

A small shrine in a private house.

Wheel grooves worn into the stone paving.

Wheel grooves worn into the stone paving.

Some of the best preserved frescoes are in the House of Mystery.  This is in an area of town to which the better off citizens would escape the hustle and bustle of city life for a break in the summer.

Some of the best preserved frescoes are in the House of Mystery. This is in an area of town to which the better off citizens would escape the hustle and bustle of city life for a break in the summer.

An ancient Roman ambulance.  Obviously designed to navigate the narrow streets and the restrictive stepping stones.

An ancient Roman ambulance. Obviously designed to navigate the narrow streets and the restrictive stepping stones.

Can't remember what this one was but I liked the photo!  Enjoy.

Can’t remember what this one was but I liked the photo! Enjoy.

A narrow one-way street.  This one seems especially deep.  Scholars have apparently worked out which direction these one-way systems flowed by studying the scuff marks left on the stepping stones by passing wheels.

A narrow one-way street. This one seems especially deep. Scholars have apparently worked out which direction these one-way systems flowed by studying the scuff marks left on the stepping stones by passing wheels.

Another of the 35+ bakeries known to have existing in Pompeii before the eruption.

Another of the 35+ bakeries known to have existing in Pompeii before the eruption.

By the time our visit was nearing an end the sun was getting very low.

By the time our visit was nearing an end the sun was getting very low.

The Orator's Tribune on the western side of the Forum.  The pedestals would have been populated with statues of the town's illustrious citizens.

The Orator’s Tribune on the western side of the Forum. The pedestals would have been populated with statues of the town’s illustrious citizens.

The Temple of Isis.

The Temple of Isis.

4 Responses to “Pompeii – A Snapshot From 2000 Years Ago”

  1. Suez777 June 17, 2015 at 15:33 #

    Great shots except for the “roman ambulance” which looks suspiciously 20th century I’m afraid (complete with rubber tyres, headlights and an electric wiper)!! Somehow I don’t think it was ever used to traverse Pompeii’s streets or to transport its citizens. They didn’t have hospitals. :o)

    • bikernz June 17, 2015 at 21:09 #

      I am glad you enjoyed my little joke. 😉

  2. Jeff December 31, 2013 at 21:50 #

    Absolutely beautiful late afternoon light shots.. magnificent!

    • bikernz January 1, 2014 at 11:31 #

      Thanks Jeff. It is not often that I appreciate a grey overcast day but it worked out well for photographing these ruins.

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