Pompeii forum with Mt. Vesuvius in the background

Pompeii

We hadn’t seen Pompeii, the Roman city buried by ash when Mt. Vesuvius exploded. The best artifacts from Pompeii are located in the Naples Archaeology Museum. Seeing both the ruined city and the artifacts from the city would be more complete. Naples is a 1-2 hour train ride south of Rome, and Pompeii is a 1-hour train ride south of Naples. Could we do both in one day?

We checked train schedules and laid out a timeline.  If we caught a 7:10 am train from Rome, went to Pompeii, returned to Naples for the Archaeology Museum, and returned to Rome after 11:00 pm, we could do both in one very long day.  We later learned that Rick Steves suggests this trip with the same trains.  We deferred Pompeii-Naples trip to our fourth day, to give us more time to get over jet lag.  We purchased Rome-Naples train tickets for the super saver fare that’s a quarter the price of the full fare.

Pompeii was a Roman city that was buried when the nearby Mt. Vesuvius erupted and exploded in 79 AD.  Pompeii captured Roman life well because it remained buried and was spared destruction during the fall of the Roman empire.

The train rides from Rome to Naples and then to Pompeii went smoothly.  All eight of us arrived at the main train station with plenty of time to catch the 7:10 train.  We transferred trains in Naples and arrived at Pompeii at 10:00.

Outside the main gate to Pompeii is the former dock. Make out the square boat rings to the right of the cypress tree in the middle of the picture.   Pompeii was a port in 79 AD; today it is a mile from the sea.  Note that the unexcavated bank to the left of the dock is much higher than the dock, indicating the amount of ash that was deposited.

dock at Pompeii
dock at Pompeii

The next photo shows the Pompeii forum (city plaza) with Mt. Vesuvius in the background.  Five miles away, Mt. Vesuvius formerly was shaped like a cone before it exploded.  Trace the sides of the mountain upward to form a triangle, to see how much of the mountain was blown away by the explosion.

Pompeii forum with Mt. Vesuvius in the background
Pompeii forum with Mt. Vesuvius in the background

Archaeologists digging through the hardened ash at Pompeii found cavities formed by people buried by the ash.  By slowly filled the cavity with plaster, they were able to make a plaster cast of the person with their bones.

plaster cast of person caught in the eruption. Note skull.
plaster cast of person caught in the eruption. Note skull.

To supply water to homes, the Romans built these arches to transport water from block to block, store water, and provide water pressure due to the elevation of the water stored in the arch.

Aquaduct arch. Stored water from aquaduct to provide water with pressure.
Aquaduct arch. Stored water from aquaduct to provide water with pressure.

There was a home with a bronze statue of a faun and a large mosaic.  Both were taken to the Naples Archaeology Museum and replaced with copies.  Here’s the copy of the mosaic of the Battle of Alexander.  The mosaic was intact before it was moved, but it was damaged during the move.

Copy of the Battle of Alexander mosaic
Copy of the Battle of Alexander mosaic

Pompeii streets were well designed.  There were curbs and sidewalks, and the streets were paved with hard basalt stones.  Romans used horse-drawn chariots, so streets back then were much dirtier than now.  When crossing the street, pedestrians hopped from stone to stone to stay clean and dry.  Chariots had standard axle sizes, so chariots could pass over the stones.

Roman road had curbs and stones to cross the street
Roman road had curbs and stones to cross the street

To help pedestrians walk at night, sidewalks had white stones.

white marble marks the sidewalk, to better see at night
white marble marks the sidewalk, to better see at night

Of course Pompeii had an amphitheater.  When you stand at the center of the stage and clap, you can hear the clap echoing back.

amphitheater
amphitheater

We enjoyed Pompeii, spending over three hours.  Pompeii showed the design and order of the Roman infrastructure: streets laid out in a rectangular grid, sidewalks marked with white stones to aid walking at night, standard axle wheels, and water distribution to homes.

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charley280

I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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