Pompeii

July/August 2002

 

I did a day trip from Napoli to Pompeii as part of my Grand European Motorcycle Tour on the Old Bitch.  After all the fun and games involved through Napoli's famously chaotic traffic, I decided to park the bike for a few days and take the train out to Pompeii.

 

It was well worth the visit and I spent many hours getting completely lost in the ruins of the most famous city in the Roman Empire.  Several years later, I read Pompeii By Robert Harris.  I wish I'd read the book before I'd seen the ruins.  The book really helps to bring the ruins to life (in the same way I guess as Wilbur Smith's Egyptian series).  I highly recommend it.

 

Here's the photos of my visit (and a few I stole).  

 

Around The Forum

The Forum with the Temple of Jupiter and Arch of Nero at the rear

 

The Temple of Vespasian. The temple altar is at the centre. The raised area toward the rear was likely constructed to house the statue of the deity for which the temple was named.
 

Close up of the altar.

 

Another view of the Forum.  The reconstructed Doric columns on the right mark the entrance to the Building of Eumachia. 

 

The building functioned as the cloth market and is so named as they found a marble statue of Eumachia there.  Eumachia apparently was a priestess of Venus who shelled out the cash to build it there.  She obviously thought the clothes shopping was pretty dire when she arrived in Pompeii and decided to build her own market/shopping centre.

 

The Burbs And The Villas

Buggered if I can remember of find out what this part of town was but there was a lot of it.  I suspect it's along the Via Di Nola somewhere.

 

Frescos inside the Stabian or Forum Baths (no idea which). 

 

Fast food joint roman style.  Around the city are many place like this where the locals could pop in and get a quick bite to eat.  Inside the holes were pottery vats filled with hot or cold drinks, soups, or whatever.

 

Another street in the burbs.  Near the red lady, you can see stepping stones in the middle of the street.  Water was often flowing in the streets from overflowing public fountains and waste water was commonly thrown out into the streets. To keep one's feet clean and dry, it was necessary to cross where stepping stones were placed.

 

House of Venus in the Shell

 

This house essentially is built around the garden. On the bottom wall there is a painting portraying the birth of Venus from a shell in the company of little cupids.

 

Here she is

 

Her hairstyle follows the fashion popular during Nero's reign. A statue of Mars and marble basins with doves are also painted.

 

House of Venus looking back toward the entrance.

 

Atrium of an unknown villa.

 

And another.  You can still make out the paint on the walls. 

 

The Theatre District

Here is an aerial view of Pompeii between the Forum in the upper left and the theatres in the lower right. Adjacent to the large theatre to the left in the trees is the Triangular Forum.

 

The big grassy square with the porticos behind the stage of the theatre was originally used as a foyer for the public during intermission. 

 

The general lack of buildings due to the earthquake of 62 A.D. caused it to be transformed into a gymnasium and hotel for the gladiators and their families. That's why it is called Gladiators' Barracks.

 

The body of a fettered slave and that of a bejewelled matron gone to see a young gladiator were found during the excavation.  Obviously a whole lot of loving was going on.

 

Centre Stage at The Theatre.

 

The Theatre could hold 5,000 spectators. Built in the Samnite period during the second century B.C., it underwent several reconstructions.

 

Its current shape essentially dates back to the restoration carried out in the Augustan period by the architect Marcus Artorius Primus thanks to the munificence of Marcus Holconius Rufus and Marcus Holconius Celer, according to the inscriptions. The construction on a hill-slope is typical of Greek architecture.

 

The seats of the ordinary spectators were located inside the cávea, the wider seats at the bottom had comfortable chairs (bisellia) were for important people, while the two lateral boxes (tribunalia) over the entrances of the orchestra (vomitoria) were reserved for very important people.

 

Near the Theatre was the Temple of Isis.  

 

The Temple of Isis consists of a cell on a high podium with a staircase on its front. In front of it to the left there is a sacrificial altar. On the side of the altar there is a temple-shaped entrance which leads to a reservoir that used to contain the sacred water of the Nile. 

 

I found it really interesting as I'd spent time at the Temple of Isis in Egypt near Aswan. 

 

The Amphitheatre

The amphitheatre of Pompeii is the oldest of those we know from the Roman world. It was built after the foundation of the settlement (80 B.C.) by order of the mayors Gaius Quintius Valgus and Marcus Porcius, those who also ordered the construction of the Odeon. After the earthquake it was restored by order of the mayors Gaius and Cuspius Pansa, father and son. The building was erected in a peripheral area to avoid traffic jams in the city on the occasion of shows. The monumental stairs on the outside lead to the cavea with the spectators' seats. It could hold up to 20,000 spectators. The main part of the steps and of the upper balcony reserved for women is still intact. The level of the arena is lower than the outside area. This means that the theatre was  partly built upwards and partly set into the ground like the Coliseum.

 

Fights between gladiators used to take place inside the arena. The games were opened by a solemn parade. The wrestlers wore heavy and completely decorated parade armours, helmets, dagger, shields and jambs. In 59 A.D. the spectators' enthusiasm led to a bloody brawl between the supporters of Pompeii and those of Nuceria. The event was “photographed” in a famous Pompeian painting. After the riots, Rome's Senate inflicted a ten-years “disqualification”  on Pompeii's arena, but the measure was withdrawn in 62 A.D. because the earthquake had severely hit all citizens.

 

Want more?

If you want to find out out more about Pompeii on the web (and where I stole some of the text and a a few of the photos), check out the following sites:

  1. Pompei Sepolta - Travelling backwards 2000 years

  2. Pompeii Virtual Tour - a bit of a Christian perspective but good content apart from the absence of the Brothel and any thoughts on eroticism in roman times.

  3. Tour Of Italy For The Financially Challenged - Pompeii