One of the best known ancient sites in the world
Pompeii is in Campania, Italy, not far from Naples. Its major attraction is the ruined ancient Roman city of the same name. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and an ancient Roman city founded in the 6th to 7th century BC famously destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The people of Pompeii were completely unprepared for this disaster and its impact, which covered Pompeii in 6-7 metres of ash.
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Today, Pompeii is one of the world’s most famous archeological sites. It is a ghost town filled with the bodies of its tragic citizens, many of whom died from asphyxiation and who were preserved by the ash and cinders which buried them. The most intriguing aspect of Pompeii and what makes it such a popular site to visit is the extent to which its homes, buildings and artifacts have remained intact. Essentially, walking through Pompeii is treading in the footsteps of ancient Roman life, with its houses, shops, walkways, pedestrian stones and carriage tracks.
Amongst Pompeii’s most interesting sites are; the public marketplace or ’Forum’, a large home known as the House of the Vettii and the Basilica, which was a central building in the city. The artifacts found at the site are also fascinating, with many domestic objects and even the preserved bodies of people who perished in the eruption.
Pompeii Amphitheatre is also staggeringly impressive, it being a 20,000 seat structure and the first ever stone amphitheatre. In 59AD, the Emperor Nero banned games in this sports venue for a whole ten years, after a giant brawl between fans of Pompeii and those of neighbouring Nuceria. Pompeii is quite a maze, so ensure you have a map, available for free at information desk at the entrance, where you can also buy audio guides. During the summer, the Pompeii Archeological Superintendence organises evening tours.
Pompeii’s close neighbor Herculaneum ranks among the very best remnants of ancient Rome in existence. Also nearby is the Greco-Roman city of Paestum and the Roman villas at Oplontis and Boscoreale.
Romans took control of Pompeii around 200 BC. On August 24, 79 AD, Vesuvius erupted, burying the nearby town of Pompeii in ash and soot, killing around 3,000 people, the rest of the population of 20,000 people having already fled, and preserving the city in its state from that fateful day. Pompeii is an excavation site and outdoor museum of the ancient Roman settlement. This site is considered to be one of the few sites where an ancient city has been preserved in detail – everything from jars and tables, to paintings and people were frozen in time, yielding, together with neighbouring Herculaneum which suffered the same fate, an unprecedented opportunity to see how the people lived two thousand years ago.
Photos – Thomas Möllmann, Carole Raddato, Elgaard, Glen Scarborough, Mentnafunangann.
The Roman Empire • Locations & Activities