Saturday, August 3, 2013

Pompeii, Destroyed by a Volcano

This artist rendition of the "Last Day" of Pompeii is not completely accurate. Mt. Vesuvius is really about 6 miles from the city of Pompeii. But it is neat to see the buildings surrounding the forum. Photo from Wikipedia. For more details click on this link.

It was another awesome day to take pictures... great clouds constantly changing. A perfect day to visit the ruins of Pompeii. This city was destroyed and buried under 13-20 feet of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Upon arrival at this UNESCO World Heritage Site we stood around for a couple of hours... hoping that someone would open the gates.  The staff here was striking for not getting paid for over a year!! However around noon the police came and ordered them to open the gates and we were allowed in.

Imagine 5-10,000 people all decending on this attraction at once... it was pretty crowded. And we now had only had 90 minutes to try to see what we could on this huge 163-acre city of ruins before our bus takes us back to our ship.

There were lots of streets of just ruined houses.

They estimated that 20,000 people lost their lives when the volcano hit.

Here's a street map of Pompeii.  The coloured streets are the main arteries.

Large flat stones paved the streets. Notice the "crosswalk" in the centre near the top.

When it rained the streets became the storm drainage system. The space between the stones also allowed horse drawn carriages to still drive down the street.

These large flat stones at the intersections let the people cross the "river" and not get their feet wet.

The Temple of Apollo was the focal point of the forum...

This artists rendering shows a possibility of how the Temple of Apollo looked, surrounded by two rows of columns... with the back wall in veneered marble.

This is what remains of the columns...

Pretty cool how the columns are made of a large number of smaller pre-fabricated stones cemented together in a circle around a central solid column.  Seeing the mortar holding these stones together made me ask... "When was cement first invented?" This artifact is well over 2,000 years old.

Today's Portland cement was first developed by Joesph Aspdin, a British stone mason, in 1824... and he was the first to patent it.  But there is no doubt other formulas for making mortar.  The Romans learned how to use lime mixed with brick dust or sand.

It was such a perfect day to be taking photos... and Vesuvius was being entertained by fluffy 'mammary' clouds. That's my word for these voluptuous cumulus clouds.

Many of the columns were designed and made in sections to make production and installation easier.

There were lots of columns...

And a variety of capitals.

Was this a food service kitchen facing the street?  Could this be the "McDonalds" of it's day. Each pot likely filled with something.  What could it be?

These are not shallow pots.  It looks to me that this was what Wikipedia calls a theropolium.  It is believed they were not used for hot foods, as cleaning would be difficult.  But likely were used for dry foods like nuts or seeds and grains.

A Roman aqueduct provided water for more than 25 street fountains, at least four public bath houses as well as a large number of private houses and businesses.  This brass faucet is no doubt a modern solution, as the old aqueduct is "out of order."

This large bath was inside a building.  It had seating around the outside... the "hot tub" of the day.

There was more than one amphitheatre in Pompeii. In fact there are three.

This was the smallest one... and it was simply beautiful.

This tour guide was explaining to his small audience how good the acoustics were here.

This larger theatre was absolutely wonderful.

The design of this amphitheatre has been praised for it's simplicity... and especially for traffic flow.

Entrance and exit from the amphitheatre is either from the top or the bottom...

and both come out at ground level.

We did not realize until I was doing research for this blog post that there was one more HUGE amphitheatre in Pompeii... and it was in this largest amphitheatre that Pink Floyd made a feature film production in 1972.  Check out the whole story of Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii.

This is one song... Echos... only 5 minutes.

The whole two hour production is posted on YouTube and is totally awesome.  Along with the music are scenes taken from the ruins at Pompeii as well as many famous works of art.  It is kind of like having the Pink Floyd band as background music to the historic Pompeii artifacts.

Thanks to Wikipedia I can show you a picture of this largest amphitheatre.

Credit: Karl Brullov - The Last Day of Pompeii - Google Art Project

How did the people of Pompeii die? The results of a study published in 2010 show that exposure to at least 250 degrees Celsius hot surges at a distance of six miles from the vent was sufficient to cause instant death... even if people were sheltered within buildings.

During early excavations of the site, occasional voids in the ash layer had been found that contained human remains.  The archaeologist Fiorelli realized these were spaces left by the decomposed bodies and so devised the technique of injecting plaster into them to recreate the forms of Vesuvius's victims.

"I am ready to meet my Maker.  Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter." 
-Winston Churchill


  1. A lot of interesting stuff here! definitely love the theropolium with dolia.. the wikipedia article refers to Asellina -- is that the one you saw?

    Also, the multi-part column construction is pretty interesting, hadn't seen that before..

  2. We saw three or four of these theroplium... but can not say for certain we saw Asellina. Fun to read about it.

    We were moving pretty fast and not spending too long at any one place. But it has been fun to discover new things thru our research. We are getting the most out of our trip thru blogging about it.

  3. Well, I was about to ask about the excavation and then you answered it. Interesting. I especially like their drainage system and that crosswalk. Clever.

  4. Necessity is the mother of invention.