mercoledì 7 maggio 2014




The origin of the Vesuvius has been placed by the experts amid the telluric formations of some twelve thousand years ago. The Vesuvius complex has certainly been responsible for the most disastrous eruptions witnessed by, presumably, terrorised early historical men. Today, it is the only active volcano on the continent of Europe and certainly among the most famous  volcanos in the world.
The volcan had alternating phases until the first millennium B.C. and enjoyed a long period of calm for a good eight centuries, until it was shaken by the terrible eruption of 79 A.D., which, according to geological reconstruction, gave rise to the present Vesuvian outline with its large cone inserted amidst the remains of an analogous preexisting and larger formation.
The cause of the returning to activity of the volcano, occurring between pauses lasting many centuries, is attributed by the experts to an increase in the gaseous formations produced by the magma, following the mixing of the original magmatic masses with sedimentary masses.
The experts date the historical period of Vesuvius with the famous earthquake in 63 A.D. described by Seneca. This was probably the forewarning of the later and more terrible reawakening in 79 A.D. The phenomenon first announced its presence with several preliminary tremors; when, finally, the violence of the gas and the incandescent material succeeded in once again opening the subterranean channel, the eruption exploded sky wards with appalling power: one Whole side of the mountain was torn away for a length of two kilometers.          



On the morning of 24 August 79 AD, a sudden tremor abruptly interrupted the daily routine of the inhabitants of Pompeii. This was followed shortly afterwords by a tremendous blast signalling the beginning of a violent eruption with a column of lapilli rising over 20.000 meters into the sky. Carried by the wind, this cloud of lapilli hailed down upon Pompeii, submerging the city in just a few hours in some three meters of material. The roofs of many houses caved in under the weight, often crushing and killing those who had taken refuge within. But the worst was yet to come. At dawn of the following day, the first flow, composed of hot gas and fine ash, hit Pompeii and sealed the fate of every person and animal it encountered.     

The burning ash clogged the lungs and caused Death by suffocation. Shortly thereafter, when already no living thing was left in the city, a second flow much more powerful than the first, fell with fury upon the walls of the town toppling or sweeping away their upper portions. It has been calculated that this flow was probably travelling at speeds of between 65 and 80 kilometers per hour as it engulfed and carried off objects, roofing Tiles and even the bodies of the dead Pompeians. Other surges hit Pompeii in waves after the city had already been destroyed. In the end, Pompeii was left buried under 5-6 meters of ash and lapilli in a desolate grey landscape whose only features were a few protruding walls.  


The flourishing years of the Samnite period, connoted by considerable urba expansion and the development of public and private architecture influenced by italic art, were follwed in the second century by a period of even Greater development, as a result of the Pax Romana and the improvement of communication and trade conditions created after the Roman conquest. Thus began a further expansion of the city, in which the imposing commemorating public buildings and the magnificent, elegant private buildings were inspired by the aesthetic tenets of Roman arts.

Foto di Ross Elliott

The Vesuvius


The sight from Porta Marina

Similar to a bastion, it is the most imposing of the seven gates of Pompeii. It takes its name from the fact that its road led to the sea.  It has two barrel arches (round arch opening) later combined in a single, large barrel vault in opus cementicium.


Venus was the Goddess of beauty and the Mother of the Universe; she had power over life and death and was worshipped in Pompeii even before the colonization. The temple was built during the early part of the Sullan colony (80 BC) to honor the Goddess,  protectess of Lucius Cornelius Sulla.
The temple was built at the western edge of the hill of Pompei, on a terrace overlooking the sea, and faced North-South towards seaside. The temple had a tufa podium and all sides were enclosed by porticos and embellished with marbles.
Of the splendid temple, only an altar and two bases of statues are left.      


The Basilica was the heart of the financial activities of the city and of its civil and commercial litigation. It was housed in a magnificent and solemn building  at the South-western corner of the forum. It had a rectangular shapes and covered a a large area, measuring 55 X 24 meters. The main entrance was situated on a short side of the rectangle. The interior was divided into a nave and two aisles. 


Aerial views of the Forum

The Forum was the center of the public life of the city. It had a large rectangular shape and stretched from north to South.  At the end of the square there is the temple of Jupiter. On the eastern side of the square is a building built at the expense of the priestess Eumachia: the set of the guild of the manufacturers of woollen cloth. The threatening Vesuvius is in the backgound.




The temple of Jupiter is at the end of the square of the Forum. Here not only Jupiter, but also Juno and Minerva were worshipped, forming the traditional triad. The temple was built during the Samnite period; later the Romans transformed it into the Capitolium of Pompeii. The style is italic; there were a high podium and an entrance staircase on the front.



It was the main road in Pompeii. It begins in the forum and has an orientation east-west.


Crossing of the Consolare road  with a lane

We can see large cut stones crossing the road from one side to another: they allowed pedestrians to cross the road without getting wet when rainwater flooded the road. Between each stone there is a narrow space allowing the wheels of the vehicles to pass. 


The palaestra has a colonnade on three sides.

The Frigidarium consists of a circular basin framed with four semicircular niches


Undressing room (Apodyterium)

Plaster mould of a victim of the eruption

Ceiling decorated with stucco works in relief




Characteristic and verywidespread in Pompeii (there were 89), the thermopolia were public establishments (a sort of "snack-bar") that served hot food and drinks: it was indeed not customary to have lunch at home. This is a typical, simple structure: one room opening into the road, with a brick tap into which were sunk the jars containing the goods.  



The house dates back to the second century B.C. and is a beautiful example of private architecture of the Samnite period. It takes its name from the little statue of the Faun in the impluvium. With its 2.970 square meters it is the largest house in Pompeii.
The entrance on the left leads directly into the public section, the door on the right to the private rooms: an atrium whose roof is supported by four columns, stalls, latrine, baths, kitchen.  
The architecture recalls hellenistic taste; the wall decoration is refined in the first pompeian style.
The rooms have splendid mosaic  floors.

This mosaic depicts a battle between Alexander the Great and Darius, the Persian King. The original mosaic is in Naples, in the Archeological Museum. 

The original of the Faun in the Archeological Museum

Statue of an ephebus


The name is due to the cherubs on gold laminate that decorated one room. The building is organized around the peristyle with garden, onto which the rooms open. The garden was decorated with Marble reliefs and sculptures reminiscent of the natural world.





A priapic statue from the garden

Priapus weighing his phallus

Apollo conquering the Python

Cupids goldsmiths

The house belonged to a house of rich merchants and reflects the tenor of life of the wealthy class of Pompeii in the first century a.D.In the atrium are two safes and all around are rooms decorated with pictures of mythological subjectsin the fourth pompeian style. The house ha no tablinum, but the peristyle receives more attention. here the garden has been reconstructed with elements furnished by the excavatinos and plants and fountains: so it appears as it has looked originally. The rooms which open out here are decorated with fine murals and the tricliniar room is one of the most refined examples of Pompeian decorations. The walls have a red background split up by banded pillars and all around runs a frieze depicting cupids in everydays activities, such as the selling of oil, biga racing, goldsmiths at work, gathering grapes, the wine market, etc. The servants quarter with an upper storey is concentrated around a secondary atrium and there is also a flat with a porch reserved for the women.  


The Sacrifice of Iphigenia (now preserved in the Naples Archaeological Museum)

Theatrical rehearsal (now preserved in the Naples Archaeological Museum)

This house, built in the imperial period, had an unusual destiny. It definitely belonged to a wealthy shopkeeper, as demonstrated by the two shops flanking the vestibule and communicating with the house, but it has gone down in history as The Tragic Poet's house, because the mosaic floor found in the tablinum portrays a theatrical rehearsal  directed by a corego, who instucted the actors. Neverheless, the house is usually not so much for this elegant work as for the mosaic found on the vestibule floor (also of excellent manufacture but not as precious as the former), showing a dog grinding its teeth and the words "cave canem" (beware of the dog). The two-storey house was decorated with elegant pictorial works inspired by Greek poetic cycles (including Admetus and Alcestis in the atrium, Dido and Aeneas in the triclinium, the Sacrifice of Iphigenia and the Abduction of Chryseis) or mythology (Ariadne and Theseus, Venus and the Cupids, Marsyas and Olympus in the triclinium) now preserved in the Naples Archaeological Museum.      
In architectural terms the TYragic Poet's House is a combination of the typical italic style, in which the atrium constitutes the core around which the main roomsare situated, and the style popular in the imperial period, most evident in the rear of the house, with the peristyle, the elegant triclinium and the bedrooms ornamented by wall paintings.


This house, like most of the more luxurious residences in Pompeii, had a small garden immediately Beyond the atrium. On the back wall of the garden the owner built a grandiose nymphaeum, inside which he placed the work after which the house is named: a splendid mosaic-decorated fountain, among the most precious specimens of Pompeiian mosaic art. The backdrop to the basin is a niche surmounted by a small pediment entirely covered with coloured paste tesserae, which create surprising colour effects and a variety of ornamental patterns. An opening in the center allows the water to gush out and fall back into the basin, cascading down the steps of a small staircase. The decoration of the mask was completed by the two theatrical masks protruding at the sides, and the small bronze of a putto with a dolphin in the centre of the basin. 


The rich and disinhibited Pompeii had many brothels.  At the crossroads of Vicolo del Lupanare and Vicolo del Balcone pensile there is the only brothel remained. The building has a considerable size, as the rooms were ten, five at each floor. At the entrance of each room there was a wall painting, which explicitly depicted the services offered by prostitute inside.   


The house takes its name from the graffito on the north wall of the peristyle, depicting a cargo ship labelled "Europa" (alluding to the Greek heroine). The rooms open onto the peristyle, from which one may enter the large garden that once grew beans, perhaps onions and cabbage, grapes, exotic plants. The seeds were kept in 28 terracotta vases found along the boundary walls.   


This large, rectangular building with porticos along three sides and a pool in the center dates back to the Augustan period: it provided an exercise park for the youth associations promoted by the emperor's propaganda, and here the latter was worshipped in a room at the center of the west portico.  


This is one of the oldest and best preserved amphitheaters in existence and held over 20.000 spectators. The auditorium is divided into three sectors: the "ima cavea" (front row) for important citizens, and the media and summa, higher up, for everyone else. A velarium, or awning, was often spread over the stands to protect spectators from the sun.  The building was used for gladiator battles. Two gates opened onto the main axis of the arena: participants in the games paraded in through one gate, while the dead or injured were carried away through the other.

Plaster mould of some victims of the eruption


It is one of the more than 100 villas discovered in the Vesuvian area, usually related to agricolture. It is perhaps the most famous an most admired, because of its extraordinary paintings. It is a large four-sided building built on a slope, so that it rests partially on the ground, partially on a covered porch. After the earthquake in 62 A.D. the Villa was undergoing extensive repairs, which were interrupted by the eruption of 79 A.D. The frescoes depict a mystery ritual scene, perhaps a woman's initiation to marriage, perhaps  a "Dionysian cult".   

Flagellated woman and naked Bacchante

Reading of the Ritual and girl offering sacrifice

1. Vestibolo
2. Peristilio
4. Tablinum
6. Cubicolo nuziale
7.Anticamera nuziale
8. Oecus
9. Cucina
10. Atrio secondario
11. Torcularium
12. Zona di servizio





In the Archaeological Museum of Naples there is a "Gabinetto Segreto" where erotic paintings and mosaics from Pompei are on display.

Priapus is weighing his enormous member

Liegende maenade


An image of modern Pompei



The Vesuvius now

  • TEMPIO DI GIOVE (1) - Dedicato a Giove Ottimo Massimo, si trovava alla estremità settentrionale del foro e fu costruito tra il 150 ed il 120 a.C.

  • TEMPIO DI APOLLO (2) - Fu iniziato nel VI secolo a.C. e terminato nel II secolo a.C. Una iscrizione sulla soglia della cella conferma la consacrazione ad Apollo.

  • BASILICA (3) - Qui avevano luogo i giudizi e le transazioni economiche. All'interno, una grande navata era delimitata da colonne enormi.

  • EDIFICI MUNICIPALI (4) - In questi 3 edifici (la sala dei duumviri, la curia e la sala degli edili) si riunivano i magistrati e il consiglio della città.

  • COMITIUM (5) - Si è sempre ritenuto che le elezioni si tenessero qui, ma oggi si pensa che si usufruisse di tutto il foro. Fu costruito nel II secolo a.C. 

  • EDIFICIO DI EUMACHIA (6) - Fu costruito per la sacerdotessa Eumachia che lo dedicò al culto dell Concordia e della Pietas Augusta in nome del marito e del figlio. 

  • TEMPLI DI VESPASIANO E DEI LARI (7) - Il primo era dedicato al culto dell'imperatore deificato. Il secondo era forse dedicato agli spiriti custodi della città. 

  • MACELLUM (8) - Era il mercato della carne e del pesce. Sui lati si apriva un portico, dove si allestivano le bancarelle. Di fronte all'entrata c'erano tre saloni pubblici.

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