Pompeii is a city which made a huge impression on me. Well-preserved ruins of the city are undoubtedly one of the most remarkable architectural monuments over the world. The disaster that buried the city along with thousands of lives, at the same time perfectly preserved buildings and objects. It allows us, the present generation, to know the appearance of the Roman city and a way of life of its inhabitants.
Ancient Pompeii in the shadow of the volcano
Pompeii are situated south of Naples, near the shoreline of the Gulf of Naples (now slightly more distant). Over a landscape dominated by tall cone of Vesuvius – as it turned out, the mountain cursed for the residents of the city. The explosion of the vulcano in 79r. AD eradicating all traces of life covering the city by 6-meters of dust, debris rocks and chunks of lava. It was one of the most destructive natural disasters in history.
According to historic sources already a few days before the eruption all the surrounding water sources were dried up and there had been several smaller tremors of the earth but no one recognized the symptoms of imminent danger. The first explosion occurred on August 24 at lunchtime – smoke, ash and pyroclastic material lifted to a height of up to 30km covering the sun. In the darkness and the rain of boiling ash and fragments of rock fell on the city. Most fled the city but still remained several thousand people. The next day the sun didn?t even raised. This day the hot pyroclastic flow of toxic substances strangled all other on-site. 5 thousand people from the 20-thousandth of the population were killed – all those who decided to stay in their homes. When the third day the sun raised, it came out the scale of destruction: the city no longer existed and only stumps of higher buildings stuck up from the ashes. Vesuvius, so far covered with greenery, olive groves and vineyards, turned into a ragged cone covered with ash, pumice and rock fragments.
The city freezing it in time for 18 centuries till now has been preserved in a state that hasn’t equal: the urban structure and buildings remained practically unchanged. For centuries, the remains of the victims disappeared but left in ashes incredible petrified negative – in this moulds are made concrete castings reconstituting lifeless figures. It really makes a big impression!
Walk around the city
Pompeii came into the political orbit of Rome in IVw. BC. The city was one of the richest in the Roman Empire with its public buildings – during excavations unveiled the forum with basilica, theaters, temples, public baths, the amphitheater with barracks for gladiators and many other objects of public use (such as brothel). Homes of the rich, as well as municipal fountains, were supplied with water through aqueducts, there was also a kind of drainage system.
City base on a regular grid of perpendicular streets with paved road. Its center, as in every Roman town, was called forum, which, unlike the Greek agora with trade functions, had a representation function ? here was the monumental Temple of Jupiter, the basilica (court), the municipal government building, one of the city’s term. The city had an irregular oval and was surrounded by a 3-km long fortification with 8 gates. In the last period of the history of the city “spilled” outside the walls – flourished and gerew. The first serious tragedy fell upon the inhabitants of the time of Nero when in year 62 earthquake destroyed a large part of the city. Not finished renovations yet when came the ill-fated year 79 …
Entering in the city, we can move in time wandering around the cobbled streets between the buildings, peering into houses and public buildings, walking around the forums and looking at preserved details decorating the buildings. In the city you do should find its most important buildings:
– Forum – spacious square (38x157m) surrounded by public edifices and minor squares, being the center of political, economic and religious activity,
– Basilica (courthouse) – built in the 120-78.BC, destroyed during the earthquake in 62., not fully recover yet;
– Well-preserved great theater III BC, using natural cavity; can accommodate up to 5 thousand viewers,
– Amphitheater – from 80. BC (much older than the Roman Colosseum) could accommodate up to 20 thousand audience (!), here held the Olympic sport and spectacle of gladiators? performances, with fights with wild animals; the games were very popular: the crowds slid down on them from surrounding towns;
– Public baths – equipped with all facilities to enable use of the bath (cloakroom, bath of cold water – frigidarium, the summer one – tepidarium and the hot one – calidarium) in two separate sectors: male and female; each room was heated by hot air circulating under the floor (hypocaustum) and between the double partition walls (concameratio).
To explore there are also open private homes – often extensive and comfortable. Te typical Pompeian house extended perpendicularly to the street. The narrow corridor led to the main hall of the representative household (atrium) with a swimming pool surrounded by pillars. Gardens (tablinium) with fountains, statues and alcoves were on the back ? from here there were entrances to residential and business rooms. Only the kitchen positioned in the front. In part located directly on the street were located shops and workshops. Also private baths were in richer homes. Today, entering the room, we really feel like at the time – preserved walls, ceilings, decorating, even paintings. It’s a real trip back in time!
Pompeii – red alarm
Preserved for hundreds of years the city for several years has, unfortunately, serious problems – only relevant maintenance work may protect against its degradation. In 2010, the famous Portico of Gladiators was destroyed, which was a cause of dismissal of the Italian Minister of Culture. This year in March, after heavy rains, collapsed next valuable objects – the arch of the temple of Venus, the wall of one of the tombs and wall on Via di Nola. After the accident the Minister of Culture (this time without resign) convened emergency meeting to assess the damage and verify the progress of the EU-Project called Great Pompeii Project, launched after the alarm of 2010.
Although the EU has earmarked to rescue the ancient city 105million euros, maintenance work began only last year and only around 10 million euros is spent till the end of 2013. It is really worrying: if by the end of 2015 work isn?t completed, designated for this purpose funds are lost. Certainly it isn?t an easy task because, as experts estimate, urgent maintenance needs almost half of the objects. In addition, some irregularities in a reallocation of funds were found in the office of Commissioner responsible for the Project. According to investigators the Commissioner spent a part of money, destined for stopping of the degradation?s process, on furniture for the local theater scene.
Also inspectors of UNESCO have highlighted the dramatic situation of Pompeii. After their inspection in January 2013., during the Committee meetings last year there are pointed requirements that Italians must complete to maintain Pompeii in a group of objects on the UNESCO list. The most important points are: the completion of the new management plan, the creation of a buffer zone, detailed monitoring of a progress of the Project. The first report of plan for the implementation of these guidelines was to be submitted by 1 February 2014. and a summary of their implementation until 1 February 2015. On this basis the UNESCO Committee decides to leave or remove Pompeii from the list of UNESCO (http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/5091/).
By choosing to Pompeii you have to remember that this is a very touristic place so as to avoid the crowds is recommended to go there except for holidays. You can buy tickets online – opting for just Pompeii or (slightly more expensive option) for all five spots: Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplotis, Stabia, Boscoreale. At the entrance you can buy a guide (pretty cool, and pictures ;)) in all kinds of languages.
Getting there is relatively simple because it is close to the railway station Circumvesuviana Napoli – Sorrento. By car even easier: exit the motorway A3 Napoli-Salerno in Pompei ovest, then turn left and literally a few hundred meters you can already see the entrance on the left. Parking are paid, out of season you can leave the car a little further in front of Carrefour.
As the area to explore is huge it?s worth to dedicate at least 4 hours for it – you have to prepare for a walk in the hills in the area of 30ha (!). In the last year, unfortunately you cannot get to all the places – they are closed due to maintenance work. Of course, from the point of view of town it?s only in plus. We keep our fingers crossed for the success of the Project of a protection of monuments.
Hope that Pompeii preserved for centuries underground now won?t fall within a few years…