Monday, 27 August 2012

Exploring Ancient Pompeii

Planning to visit Pompeii properly as opposed to making the usual touristy fly in fly out visit, Mum and I decided to station ourselves in the little town of Pompeii instead of the nearby city of Naples. 
Partially it was because we planned to enter as the gates opened and leave with the gates closing being us, so having our bed closer was more sensible. 
Mainly though it was because nothing we have ever heard about Naples was favourable. It was a crime ridden city where two female travellers were not expected to feel safe, and so we didn't even contemplate it as an option (particularly in summer when female attire is smaller than neck to ankle feather coats). 

Unfortunately, our afternoon trip to the city to visit the Archaeological museum ensured the city lived up to this reputation. 

So instead we stayed in a little hotel just off the main square of the little town of Pompeii, and only about 200 metres from the gates of the archaeological site. We entered through the gate near the amphitheatre where not only were there fewer tourists, but we were greeted by the sight of the imposing theatre and sports arena. 

The Amphitheatre

Looking down one of the corridors of the Palaestra.

The building was out of bounds during our visit, but camera lenses can always squeeze through chicken wire to get an unobstructed shot.
Rectangular in shape it has 48 columns down its length and 35 across its width.
The fenced off area in the centre was once a pool.
As sports were closely linked to imperial ideology the building also had some political significance.

A beautifully vibrant house, The House of Venus in the Shell is named from the fresco on the back wall of the peristyle.

Having entered Pompeii at the 'wrong' end, we were fortunate that for the most part there weren't too many other tourists with us, enabling us to get a proper look at the beauty of the buildings.

A street scape (with drinking fountain).
Pompeii was full of drinking fountains, a large number of which were still operational providing the hot and dusty tourists with the necessary hydration.

House of the Four Styles
This name relates to the four styles of painting that exist across Roman buildings, all of which are present in this house. This in itself is not unique though as several Pompeian buildings also possess all four styles.

The Termopolium
This was a fast food outlet/cafe of the time. A marble counter with containers built into the work bench faces directly onto the street. Three kilos of small change was found  in one of the containers, supposedly stashed at the last minute for safekeeping, supporting the idea of this being a public food venue with the money being the day's income.

A yellow panelled wall with a central medallion of Dionysus and Silenus in the House of Maximus,  otherwise known as the House of Venus in a Bikini. 

Programmata on the walls on Abundance St

Including an impressive mosaic of a guard dog in the entrance hall, the House of Paquius Proculus contains beautiful mosaic floors throughout, in addition to a detailed selection of wall paintings.

One of the many proofs that the the Romans were not quite so puritanical as the Victorians would have us believe.

A marble table tripod displayed in the atrium of the House of P. Casca Longus, even though it was discovered in the garden of a neighbouring garden (it was deemed to be too grand for that property and therefore had to have belonged to this one).

House of the Ceii

The House of Menander is perhaps one of the biggest private houses at Pompeii, it's rooms touching all four sides of the block in which it is built. It is also one of the more superbly decorated, with many of the rooms being brightly coloured with fine detailed paintings. This house was named after a painting of the poet on one of the walls.

Built after the Greek model in the second century BC, the Big Theatre was well used enough to be refurbished and enlarged during the Augustan period. This enabled it to seat about 5,000 spectators.

Alongside it is a smaller enclosed theatre (known as the Odeion) probably designated for music and the declamation of verse, and a Quadriporticus. This later building, pictured below, was used as a promenade by theatre goers and by the gladiators who performed in Pompeii.

House of the Diadumeni
From the unusual triple door in the front vestibule, set back and up from the street, you step into a room, decorated on all sides by impressive columns. Though the decorations of the house are reduced to a few flecks of plaster, the impressive dimensions of this atrium provide the feel of a courtyard rather than a simple house hall.

Although we visited this House of the Figured Capitals, it is disappointing to realise that you didn't even see the features that gave the house its name. Existing graffiti supports the idea that the peristyle of this building was being used as a weaver's workshop (officina textrinum) at the time of the explosion. Again, we failed to notice the evidence of this. 

One of the largest and most decorative of the villas currently known within Pompeii, this was named the House of the Faun after the statuette discovered in the Atrium fountain.It is in this house that some of the famous mosaics have been discovered.

Forum Thermal Baths.
The Tepidarium: a room heated to tepid by a bronze brazier. Used as an antechamber for the warm bath of the Calidarium. 


Located past the cemetery, 300 metres outside of the Herculaneum Gate, is this Villa of the Mysteries, intricately decorated in vibrant rich colours.

In the residential part of the house, the majority of the rooms are intricately decorated, however it is one room in particular, lined with a tableau of figures that gives the house its name. Possibly a copy of a Greek painting, it is generally believed to represent a mystery ritual, with an air of mystery to the expressions, look and movement of the various characters. While many are in favour of an Bacchanalian ritual, another interpretation is that of a marriage ritual.

House of the Small Fountain, named from the mosaic decorated fountain located against the back wall.

The Arch of Caligola

After an exhausting day roaming around the hard stone streets of Pompeii, my feet eventually died and we were forced to call it a day (as the town was closing for the night). Unfortunately my camera batteries died first and so I was unable to capture the Forum and temples completely or the infamous brothel.

Next time...

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