Sunday the 22nd of January
(Sorry it is late but the internet in the hotel died last night.)
Pompeii and Herculaneum
Today we took a 3 hour drive to the south of Italy to visit the very impressive sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Both these small Ancient Roman cities were destroyed in 79AD by Mt Vesuvius which lies on the bay of Naples (Napoli) and for a long time remained frozen in time, buried by volcanic ash.
Pompeii and Herculaneum are important archaeological sites because they provide an excellent insight to how the Ancient Romans lived and what technology they had at their disposal. More importantly perhaps, is that excavations of these towns in the 1700s unearthed, for the first time in history, the shapes of the bodies which had been preserved for almost 2000 years. Given that the Ancient Romans largely cremated their dead, the discovery of human remains was ground breaking.
At Pompeii we were met by a tall, dark Italian of suave persuasion and with a great sense of humour. He instantly captured the attention of the boys, and proceeded to provide us with a great deal of information about this fascinating Ancient city.
Herculaneum, (Ercolano) situated on the other side of Mt Vesuvius, proved to be even more interesting and astounding. This town, of around 5.000 was home to many wealthy Ancient Roman citizens, was a holiday resort and was comprised of Villas, shops and baths.
The two sites differ mainly in the size of the excavations and the number of high class roman villas that have been found. The boys had a real educational experience today, they did not just see pictures and watch a documentary, but they walked along the streets of a roman town. Stood in the centre of the arena and looked at the rows of seats where the people cheered their heroes and watched gladiators die.
In the Arena
They stood at the front bar of the stores where ordinary people laughed and joked with each other over a drink or a meal. Walked through the bath houses where men would have sweated in the caldarium, and washed away the grime of the day in the pool. Gossip was exchanged and business discussed.
In the bath house the grooved roof stopped cold water droplets falling off the roof onto the bathers
Paintings in the bath house
In glass cases we saw the plaster casts of those who had been caught by the ash cloud and died trying to breath as they were suffocated by breathing rock. Below is a few thoughts by some of our group.
One of the people killed by the eruption
Well today the group went to Pompeii and Herculaneum to visited the sites Mt Vesuvius’s destroyed. We saw many fantastic artefacts and ruins that have been preserved over time. To see all the art that was still there and the detail of the paintings was fantastic.
Today we started the day with a 3 hour drive to Pompeii where we met our tour guide Roberto who took us through the remains of the amphitheatre and showed us the remains of houses and shops including showrooms, laundries and even fast food stores. We then went to a pizzeria and got lunch. After this we drove to Herculaneum, a half hour drive from Pompeii. An error in the program meant that Mr Scritchley ended up being our guide for a walk around the remains Herculaneum. Herculaneum was in much better condition and you could see the amazing artwork in the tiles and on the roads. As we were leaving Herculaneum we met an archaeologist who showed us where they were currently excavating; he told us that they have just found the amphitheatre, a major discovery.
A fast food outlet
Dylan holding up the bar
Our expedition to Pompeii began this morning at 7:30am, an hour that many of group found particularly inhumane. Nevertheless, bleary eyed and slightly short of temper we all boarded the bus in pursuit of some of the best preserved Roman architecture on earth. Arriving at the site we were met by a fantastic guide named Roberto who proceeded to show us this truly remarkable city, pointing out a number of key sites and explaining the daily lives of the people. From temples to baths, homes to amphitheatres, Pompeii presented a remarkable example of Roman life literally frozen in time. From Pompeii we travelled to Herculaneum; this perhaps lesser known city also fell victim to the volatile nature of Mt Vesuvius but in contrast to Pompeii still retains many of the original frescos and mosaics that are now sadly missing from the former. The day proved both educational and enjoyable, with many wishing for an even greater amount of time amongst these stimulating ruins.
Another mosaic floor but this time in Herculaneum
We have so many experiences from these two places we don’t know how to explain every section without writing a book instead of a blog. So here is a list of pictures and brief explanations to show you what we have seen today.
Jarryd standing on a stepping stone in Pompeii (so the populace did not get nasty things on their feet from the road / drain)
Ruts in the street stones made by the iron shod wheels of carts
The main street of Pompeii, lined by shops. (It seems they really liked to shop)
Another street with the group on the move
The Gymnasium where young men In Pompeii worked on their fitness(it even included a swimming pool)
Another type of shop….the bordello (they had lots of these)
A cold water fountain in the men’s hot baths
The group walking in Pompeii with Vesuvius in the distance
The group together at Pompeii
A very high class villa in Herculaneum
The toilet in a villa in Herculaneum (there was no effluent in the streets they had a deep drainage system to wash all the nasty stuff away, remember we are talking 2000 yrs ago!)
A beautiful wall mosaic (this would have been VERY expensive)
This photo shows the tunnels that have been excavated in the cliffs. In here they have found that there are at least 4 more complete streets, a family of 5 who did not make it and a 20,000 seat amphitheatre. It will never be cleared as part of Naples sits on top.
The depth of Herculaneum (the pic is taken from the current ground level)