Since we were in Naples, although we were there for our anniversary, we felt like we had to go see Pompeii, which is about half an hour outside of town. Now that we did see it, we are both super glad (admittedly, a bit surprised we were so glad) that we did. The ruins are massive! Over 44 acres of incredibly well preserved buildings and artifacts and it is such a sight. If you are ever near Naples, I strongly recommend going, as it truly brings history to life.
For this post, everything is pretty much exactly how it came out of the camera. No photo editing after the fact, since I wanted to represent it as accurately as possible. When else am I going to get to play arm chair historian?!
Also, for that reason, please bear through the large amount of photos. I have definitely included some funny photos and only one mocking a very stereotypical tourist. That is much further below. Not the photo directly below, which is one of Greg.
Pompeii was one of the places were I am so glad we had a tour guide; she had lots of knowledge and it is simply easy to get lost in there! The ruins were buried in 25 feet of volcanic ash since the eruption on August 24, 79 AD. Reports from survivors in neighboring towns are that there was an earthquake then eruption. Ash shot approximately 20 miles high and then formed a mushroom cloud shape, so although they wouldn't have described it as so at the time, it seemed like an atomic bomb. Afterwards, it rained ash and was pitch black and completely covered the area.
The toxic volcanic gasses were blown by the wind and killed all the people in Pompeii in about two minutes. When they did the excavating of ash, if they came to a hollow area, they paused, injected a plastic mold to fill up that space, and then excavated around to know what had been in there. As such, they have molds of many of the people, and they were able to analyze the person's size, remaining bones, and any remaining jewelry or other artifacts to get a really clear sense of their age, position in society, job, health, etc.
In 1747, they started excavating by accident because it was a dry summer. Really, they were trying to dig for water for their farms, but found instead Roman marble statues. The farmers sold the statues to the king, who immediately bought the area for very little and started excavating the Roman city of Pompeii.
It was one of the biggest cities at the time, which is part of why there is now such a large gathering of ruins. It was adjacent to a navigable river (long since dried up), and fertile fields, plus within the Holy Roman Empire, it was a central location for trade. Plus, it was destroyed at the height of the Roman Empire, so it was clearly a city at its prime. Most of the buildings were two stories tall, but the second story crumbled under the ash, so you only see signs of that in a few spots.
About twice a month, the mayors paid to put on a theater show for free for everyone. There were food and wine at the intermission for free. This was not just because the mayors were nice people, but really because they wanted to keep their constituents happy. This open area would have been covered and was essentially the gallery area for the show.
The bulk of the seats were for the commoners, the larger bottom rows were for VIP's, and on the upper side (not pictured) were essentially box seats for the mayor to get prime face time with his constituents so that they knew who provided it all. One of the most fun things about the ruins is you get to go so close and explore and touch so much, as evidenced by Greg pretending to be a wealthy VIP.
The ruins were preserved in such good shape, that they even found authentic graffiti; this says vote for Cornelius. Really, that's not just me making it up! The letters at the end were an abbreviation that stood for something like, vote for him, he's a really good guy.
Most homes were relatively modest, but to show the wealth at the time, some houses were up to 14,000 square feet, and those are just homes, not palaces. The homes, regardless of size, all had mostly the same layout: a walkway entry to a private courtyard that on the immediate right had the small dining room (only up to nine people at a time they felt was good luck); on the back right had the owner's office so you always saw him first when you walked in; towards the left were the entertaining areas; for rich folks, on the second floor which was shorter, the servants' quarters (so if there was an attack, they were a buffer); and on the third floor, plus any additional floors up, the actual family lived there. This is the courtyard of a big house.
The ash preserved all of the wall paintings and decorations very well, so even though it is almost two thousand years later, you can see fairly clear, vibrant pictures and wall decorations. You can tell some, such as here, were general wall paper like patterns, and some were painted on artworks of hunting scenes, etc.
They think this is a portrait of the guy that owned this house. It was where his office would have been, so even if he wasn't home, anyone who entered knew he was a big deal. Doesn't he look it?
Towards the entertaining areas, historians found these skeletons, which based on all the jewelry and artifacts found right around them, they are pretty sure these were looters from a neighboring village who went in after the eruption, and in the process of digging through the ashes for items to steal, released the toxic gas, which killed them.
In less gruesome finds, this was one spot of many of detailed tile mosaics on the floor. It boggles my mind to think that they did such detailed work so long ago, without any of the modern tile saws we have today.
Since this guy was wealthy and built such a big home, he did it by buying four regular sized homes next to each other, and just building over them. These are walls from one of those original homes, below what was one of the entertaining areas.
This is inside of one of what would have been a shop. Yay shopping!
This is our tour group trying to crowd into the shade on one of the main shopping streets at the time. They know it was shopping because the buildings were laid out very differently, and some of them still have preserved paintings showing what was sold inside that shop. Also, I'll spare you one extra photo, but they invented a sliding door, so that, like shops in a mall today, they didn't waste valuable store real estate with a pivoting door.
Any guess what this is? The answer isn't pretty. Since they didn't have washing machines at the time, this is a bin for washing clothes. That alone, isn't so bad. Since they didn't have laundry detergent, the best way to remove grease from the clothes was acid. What's a readily available, highly acidic product? Yes, that's right, urine. They washed the clothes in a giant bin like this of urine, then a bin of water. Um, ew.
As for slightly more appetizing ruins, this is essentially a quick service restaurant. Most folks didn't have a kitchen or dining room, so they came to eat all meals somewhere like this, with the bins getting filled first with boiling hot water, then a big bowl of soup or what not being placed in the bin to keep the soup warm. There was no space for tables, so people got their soup to go (or for any Europeans reading this, via take way.) The volcano erupted during a lunch period, because these had those larger soup serving bowls in them when they were uncovered.
The streets were mostly all the same width and all were designed sloping down so that sewage or rain would drain out fairly quickly. Rather than people having to cross and step into that run-off (not going to lie, my first instinct there was to call it a nasty, gross, sewage stream), they invented these large stepping stones that served as crosswalks. To get this photo, I stepped down into what thousands of years ago was "run-off."
In the "all roads lead to Rome" theory, this was the intersection of the main north-south and east-west road in town, showing Vesuvius in the background, and Rome is straight down one of these roads, just a long ways away. You can also see that the crosswalk stones were always spaced the same amount apart, so carts were built around those specific dimensions. There was a wall around the city, and all the entry gates were like a tunnel to ensure carts fit around these stones. Up close between the crosswalk stones, many of them had little ruts from the wheels of the carts grinding the stones into grooves.
This is the area where the streets are slightly different. It's the high-rent neighborhood, so the streets are wider, the sidewalks are wider, the sidewalks aren't as high, the stones in the sidewalks are bigger for smoother cart pulling, and the homes around here are larger.
This is Greg proud of himself that he had done well at the various guessing games of where were we; for instance, he knew the shopping street and the high rent area. So proud!
They had a set schedule that everyone did, where they woke up around 5 am to massive bells throughout the city, breakfast, work until about 1 pm, lunch, nap during the hottest part of the day, work a couple more house, go to the gym (pictured here), and then across the grass to the bath and spa.
I forget the Latin translation (sorry, it was starting to get exceedingly hot and people were getting wilty) but spa comes from a phrase that means life through water. This is inside the bath area in the spa. Pretty fancy spa ceiling, even back in the day.
This is one of the plastic-like-material-used-in-the-1800's-to-form-a-mold of a person who died in the spa.
To make it less depressing, close up of the ceiling's plaster decorations.
There was an order to the baths, where everyone had to go in a super hot sauna like room first, then into a medium warmth bath, and then into a room temperature bath. They did this partly for cleanliness, because everyone in our tour group was sure sweaty and they must have been also, and partly for their health, since they thought it was good for circulation. This is me in the hot room, with the bottom part of the photo showing where they ran steamy hot water through, essentially like plumbing, to release steam into the room.
Since brothels were a completely accepted part of their city, we visited a brothel. Yes, Greg and I have now visited a brothel together. Oy, things that could so get taken out of context and spread over the interwebs. In any case, this is one of the beds in said brothel. Very short, and very hard. It's a phrase used by someone in our tour group that they found could have an amusing double meaning. Also, anyone can go take pictures on the beds. We did not, but others in our group did.
But to keep this slightly educational, the brothels were used mostly by out of town sailors and travelers who often didn't speak the language, so they had pictures up showing what was available (females are the lighter figure), and then pictures of the girls available. All the traveler did was point to who and what, and pay and no words needed to be spoken. There were four pictures of services still in the ruins, but many more (including the much racier ones) have been removed and put in a museum in Naples.
And after touring the brothel, Greg wanted me to take a picture of our tour group walking out and call it "another satisfied customer." This is what happens when you take people touring a brothel: our minds go to all sorts of not so witty catch phrases.
Given the language barrier in who was typically looking for the brothels, rather than them having to try to ask strangers on the street via pantomime for directions, all across the city are "arrows" pointing the way. They are in the street, on the sides of buildings, literally everywhere. When they first started the excavations, the king told the historians to remove them, because he didn't want Christian society at the time to think their ancestors were so heathen. Nowadays, it makes for an amusing tour stop.
One of the first water fountains. Much fancier than what we have in parks nowadays.
This is the open square that had been surrounded by all the most important government buildings, with temples to the gods in front of, but not blocking, the view to Vesuvius.
One of the few remains that shows how things would have been two stories tall, at least.
To get a sense of Vesuvius pre-eruption, picture the two sides of this went up to form a typical mountain peak that overlooked the square.
The temple to the gods survived the eruption mostly intact, but most of the statues didn't fare so well, hence this creepy head.
In one of the buildings off the main square, they have gathered some of the archaeological finds. There were many stalls of pottery, a cart, statues, and a ship anchor as pictured here.
The temple to Apollo, complete with a statue of Apollo. It is on the side of the temple to Diana, who had a bigger temple, since she was the patron goddess for Pompeii. Unfortunately, all that remains is her temple not any statues of her.
As a reward for scrolling all the way to the end, here is the photo of the cheesy tourist. In case you can't tell, he is holding an iPad, which he used as a camera. He was a much funnier end to our tour than the girl who fainted from the heat.