Monday, June 22, 2015


Oh, my!  What to write about Pompeii?  

Everyone knows about Pompeii so it hardly seems necessary to write any details about this famous archaeological site.  This was our day visiting Pompeii.

Mt. Vesuvius as seen from train
BeBe is docked at Porto Nuovo inside the commercial port of Salerno.  I had been unable to book tickets online for either the Pompeii trip or for the upcoming trip to Rome, so we had found the main terminal the previous day and purchased those tickets in person.  The first train from Salerno to Pompeii is on the Trenitalia line and departs Salerno at 08:24, arriving Pompeii approximately 09:13.  The train was right on schedule.

Temple of Apollo  (yet another one)

Alighting in Pompeii we found a snack shop to fortify ourselves for a day of walking; then found a taxi.  It is only about a 20-25 minute walk to the main entrance but we figured there would be plenty of walking inside the site and should save our energy for that.  Taxi was 15 Euro -- a bit on the expensive side for such a short ride; but we enjoyed 'chatting' with the driver, Boccia Angelo, who spoke only a few words of English.  I do not understand the name because he preferred to be called Angelo.  He pantomimed that he had 8 sons and no daughters.  8 sons!  
Cathedral is today's Pompeii
Surprisingly, he was not happy about that; claiming that he ended up with 8 sons because they kept trying for a daughter.  That surprised us as we assumed that Italian men usually wanted sons rather than daughters.  Angelo gave Elisabeth and me little bracelets made from lava rocks as souvenirs.  He was so jovial that we did not mind the slightly expensive price for such a short ride.  He also gave us a map of the site and showed us which exit to take to have the shortest walk back to the train station.

The small theater for political speeches

There are 2 main entrances for old Pompeii, Porta Marina and Piazza Anfiteatro.  We entered main entrance gate situated beneath the Porta Marina 'gate' and exited from the Piazza Anfiteatro 'gate' which was a 5-minute walk to the train station.  The other 'gates' at Pompeii are Porta Stabia, Porta Sarna, Porta Nola, Porta Vesuvio and Porta Ercolano. During our day of walking around we saw all the 'gates' except for Porta Ercolano at the far northeast.  It was hot and we got tired of walking, deciding that the necropoli and 2 villas situated out past Porta Ercolano were not worth the effort.

One of the rooms in the house owned
by the character in Elisabeth's book

Granddaughter Elisabeth is taking Latin in school.  She just completed the first year (7th grade) and will have another 5 years of Latin by the time she graduates high school.  In the Latin class last school year they read a semi-historic novel about Pompei.  The characters in this novel were based on actual people who lived in Pompeii when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D.  These people were identified by name through papers and documents found during the excavation of Pompeii.  These documents were found mostly within the actual homes of the various people, as well as in what served as a bank back then.  These papers survived because there was no lava flow through Pompeii; some small lava rocks bombarded the city during the eruption but it was the pyroclastic blast that killed everyone, unbelievably hot gases that instantly killed all life.

Another room in the house of the guy
in Elisabeth's book

One of the characters in the book was called Lucius Caecilius Iucundus and Elisabeth knew exactly where on the map his house was located.  However, our little map indicated that particular house was the home of Caccia Antica.  Elisabeth said that this same map was illustrated in the book and she was certain that Casa della Caccia Antica (#37 on our little map) was the home of the fictional Lucius Caecilius Iucundus, so nothing would do except that we find that house.  Eventually we succeeded.

The main visitors entrance leads to an entrance into old Pompeii itself at the Quadriportico dei Teatri, which leads directly to the Teatro Grande (large theater) and the adjacent Teatro Piccolo (small theater or Odeion).  The Odeion is where politicians would give speeches.

From there we headed up Via Stabiana for blocks, passing the home of Cornelia.  Then we, and hundreds of other tourists, entered single-file through a doorway of a small home which had some rather interesting wall paintings.  Was this a tiny brothel?  Or someone's home?

Phallic symbol indicating a brothel
Meandered a bit and then south down a street where we found another drinking water fountain.  Another block farther south I noticed a phallic symbol carved into the stone near the corner of a building.  As I paused to take a photo, I overheard a guide explaining to his group of tourists that there are thousands of phallic symbols all over Pompeii.  This particular one was there to identify a brothel.  There are phallic symbols depicted as both circumcised and non-circumcised; these were to identify which brothels were for Jews and which were for those men who were not Jewish.  But phallic symbols were considered the good luck symbol of Pompeii and are found all over the city, not just marking brothels.  Who knew!  Never read of that before.  I'll give that guide the benefit of doubt but am aware that not everything a guides tells tourists is always truthful.

Typical street.  These raised sections served as a
way to cross the street when it was filled with water
or mud.  The ruts were for cart wheels.  The cart
bottoms were raised high enough to clear the barriers.

We then turned right onto Via dell'Abbondanza and followed the crowds to the Foro or forum, the main gathering area in any Roman town.  Elisabeth pointed out the Temple of Apollo and the Temple of Giove (the Roman god Jupiter); again, things she had learned from Latin class.  She also pointed out the Sanctuary of the Public Lares which was most interesting architecturally with all its niches and columns.  

Head of Jupiter has survived intact.  Amazing.

She also drew our attention to the white carving of the head of Jupiter inside the Temple of Giove.  It has survived intact through the volcano eruption and multiple earthquakes.

There is a snack shop just behind the Temple of Giove and we stopped for a rest.  To cool off in the air-conditioning and rehydrate before continuing onward.  

Enjoying the streets of Pompeii
Next was the men's baths.  Not nearly as impressive as the Terme Stabiane several blocks distant.

The Terme Stabiane was most impressive.  And it featured something we had never heard of -- baths for both men and for women situated within the same structure!  None of the other Roman sites we have visited anywhere have had areas for men and for women within the same building.  Not even close to one another.  

Wall painting in a home.  Unusual taste?
Or typical for the time period?
This is the city's oldest spa building, dating to the second century B.C.; and was built on a previous system with successive restorations.  On the eastern side are two main divisions, totally separated; divided into a section for women and a section for men.  

Each section had a frigidarium (room with cold bath); an apodyterium (dressing room); a tepidarium (warm room); a caldarium (room with hot bath); and furnaces beneath to heat both the room and the water.  On the north side was a large latrine; we could not tell if there were a section for women there or not; normally a latrine would be just for the men.  On the west side was a natatio (pool).  

Carving on outside of hall at baths
I was most impressed with the carvings in the stucco on the outside of the hall and gym. Never seen anything like that.  The details were amazing.  

Ceiling in part of men's bath
was especially ornate

Her hand shows how thick is the
wall plaster

Helping her grandfather with a phone call.

Basically, this is a restaurant.  The people of Pompeii
did not eat the mid-day meal at home.  They usually
would eat at an establishment such as this.  Each
well held different foods.  This particular place had
several dining rooms where people ate laying down.

One of the dining rooms.  The recessed area on left
is where a bed was fitted for eating.

Another of the dining rooms with recessed
area for dining bed.

Restoring a room.  They color-match with existing
plaster and never paint darker than original colors.

Table base.  Interesting story.
On top of each lion's head is inscribed
name of P.Casca Longus, identifying
the table belonging to him.  He was the
first to strike Caesar in 44 B.C.
Later, he was killed along with Brutus
at the Battle of Philippi in Macedonia
in 42 B.C.  His property was
confiscated and sold at 'public sale.'
  Apparently the owner of this home in
Pompeii purchased the table.

Plaque in lower entry into amphitheater
I am having computer issues and need to wrap this up before it crashes again. I think my new hard drive is defective.  

Amphitheater to seat 20,000

We saw way more than I can write about today.  The final thing near the exit was the Anfiteatre or amphitheater.  It was not all that large as compared to the one at Ephesus. This one in Pompeii was built around 70 B.C. and seated around 20,000 spectators.

Casts of the lovers

We happened to visit Pompeii while the amphitheater was hosting The Great Pyramid designed by Frencesco Venezia.  Inside the wooden pyramid were casts of 20 of the victims of Pompeii who died when Mt. Vesuvius erupted.  This exhibit was quite moving.  One can see the facial expressions of the people as they died, some while asleep.  

Photograph of the actual lovers

One cast in particular is most evocative.  It is of a man lying down with a child lying next to him...while a smaller child (toddler size) is rising up from his father's mid-section and looking away with what looks like a startled body position. 

It is as if the small child had just heard the loud boom of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and twisted his body and turned his head in that direction.  

And instantly died.  

Frozen forever in position in that instant of time. 

Children and father, frozen in moment of death

1 comment:

  1. Pompeii is so interesting and sad! Looks like an amazing thing to see.

    Isn't it odd how there are so many phallic symbols in world history?! LOL!

    As always, I enjoy reading your posts. It's always an interesting history lesson!


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