Archaeological Park of Pompeii

Conservation at an iconic site

UNESCO World Heritage

History of the excavations(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

History of Pompeii

Pompeii is located on a plateau about 30m above sea level, formed by a flow of Vesuvian lava, overlooking the valley of the River Sarno. In the late 7th century BC and in the first half of the 6th century BC, a mixed population of Etruscans, Greeks and indigenous people led to the development of the city and the construction of a fortified limestone wall. Towards the end of the 4th century BC, the Samnite population, descending from the Appenines, conquered Pompeii. From this period there was a strong urbanization and new fortifications.

Pompeii then joined the political organisation of Rome and in 90-89 BC the city rebelled. Pompeii was besieged by the troops of Lucius Cornelius Sulla and the city surrendered, becoming a Roman colony with the name of Cornelia Veneria Pompeianorum (80 BC). Once the colony was founded, Pompeii was enriched with private and public buildings. A violent earthquake struck in 62 AD; reconstruction works were still on going at the moment of the terrible eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD that buried the city under ash and lapilli.

History of the excavations(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

History of the excavations

The excavations officially started in 1748 under the King of Naples, Charles III of Bourbon, and continued systematically throughout the 19th century. Giuseppe Fiorelli, in 1863, made the first casts of the victims, introduced ticketing to enter the excavations and divided the city into regiones (neighbourhoods) and insulae (blocks).

History of the excavations(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

During the second decade of the 20th century, Spinazzola excavated Via dell’Abbondanza with new techniques that permitted the preservation of the second floors of the buildings. From 1924 to 1961 the excavations were supervised by Amedeo Maiuri, who oversaw a period of intense activity that included the discovery of prestigious buildings, such as the Villa of Mysteries and the House of the Menander. The city was hit by 150 bombs in 1943 during the Second World War, leading to serious damage to the Antiquarium and many houses.

History of the excavations(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

In 2017 new excavations began to mitigate the hydro-geological risks bringing to light new wealthy houses.

The Pompeian houses(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

The Pompeian houses

Most of the urban area in Pompeii consisted of private households so it provides an excellent starting point to learn more about Roman housing. The upper classes mainly lived in domus, large houses based on the same plan with a front door leading into the atrium, a large central hall open at the roof. 

The Pompeian houses(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

Around the atrium the other rooms were located: the bedrooms (cubicula), the dining rooms (triclinia) and living rooms.

The Pompeian houses(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

From the 2nd century BC, due to the increasing Hellenistic influence, the number of rooms increased and a porch formed by a row of columns (peristyle) was built.

Public entertainment(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

Public entertainment

Theatrical performances were a form of popular entertainment that took place in the Grand Theatre built in the second century BC. Comedies and rustic farces were performed there, while mimed re-enactments were housed in the Odeion which was an additional venue for musical entertainment.

The amphitheatre is the oldest among those known from the Roman times and was built in 70 BC. It could hold up to 20,000 spectators and here the gladiators’ game took place. In 59 AD there was a bloody fight between the people from Pompeii and those from Nocera. 
As a result, the Senate of Rome decided to close the arena in Pompeii for ten years.

Everyday life(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

Everyday life

Pompeii provides an unparalleled record of daily life in the Roman Empire. The eruption was so sudden it immediately halted the life of the city. 

Everyday life(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

It was possible to find bread in the oven that was baked at the moment of the eruption, pots and pans in the kitchen still with food waiting to be consumed. From this we know that garum, a fish sauce, was largely used together with legumes, onions, olives and dates, also imported from the Eastern Mediterranean. 

Everyday life(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

Transport containers tell us that the Pompeians imported goods from all over the Mediterranean: wine from Crete, Greece and Turkey, fish sauces from Spain, oil from Africa.

The religious life(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

The religious life

The Temple of Jupiter was the main temple of the city with three cult statues of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, visible to whoever passed in the Forum square. 

The religious life(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

The Sanctuary of Apollo is one of the oldest places of worship in Pompeii, built in a strategic point next to the public heart of the city. 

Temple of Isis(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

In Pompeii the Egyptian cults were also very popular, as highlighted by the Temple of Isis, built on a high podium at the centre of a courtyard with a staircase that leads to the basin from which water was drawn for the offerings, which was said to derive directly from the Nile. 

The public administration(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

The public administration

The Forum is the core of the daily life of the city and is the focal point of all the main public buildings for city administration, justice, business management, markets, as well as the main places of citizen worship.

The axis of the square is the façade of the Temple of Jupiter, aligned with Mount Vesuvius. The Basilica was used to carry out business and for the administration of justice; it is one of the oldest examples of this type of building in the entire Roman world. The Macellum had shops and a hall for the worship of the Emperor.

Bathing in Pompeii(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

Bathing in Pompeii

Pompeii had many baths: The Forum baths, the Stabian baths, the Central baths and the Suburban ones. These buildings offered hot baths, swimming pools, saunas and open spaces with porches.

Bathing in Pompeii(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

Men and women usually had separate sections; apart for the more modern Central baths and Suburban baths there was no separation between women and men. Usually they had an apodyterium (dressing room) used also as a tepidarium (for medium temperature baths), a frigidarium (for cold baths) and calidarium (for hot baths). The heating was guaranteed by a piping system in the walls and double floors and from mobile braziers.

Electoral inscriptions(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

Writing on the walls: electoral inscriptions

The inscriptions on the walls give us information about electoral campaigns!
The names of the candidates are painted in large red and black letters on the walls along the streets, with slogans or promises to administrate the city well if elected. Candidates sought the support of the ‘power brokers’, of the trade guilds, and of the inhabitants of the wards in the city, in a play of exchanges and favours that involved the whole town. The inscriptions were the work of professional writers, who preferred to work at night and sometimes signed their handiwork.

Living in the suburbs: the villas(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

Living in the suburbs: the villas

Outside the city, in the countryside and along the coasts, there were many different villas. Some, like the Villa of Oplontis, were built on artificial terraces overlooking the sea and offering a panoramic view. It boasted magnificent décor, some exceptional traces of which are still preserved today.

Living in the suburbs: the villas(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

On the contrary, country villas (villa rustica) were more similar to modern farms. They had a simple plan, with a central portico surrounded by rooms, including quarters for the production of agricultural products. 

Living in the suburbs: the villas(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

More often, however, the same villa fulfilled both purposes: rich residential quarters coexisted with large areas dedicated to agricultural production, like the Villa of the Mysteries.

The eruption(1997) - 作者: Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre AnnunziataUNESCO World Heritage

The eruption

During the morning of 24th August or October 79 AD, a mushroom-shaped cloud of gas and volcanic rock rose high in the air. A shower of burning cinders and rock fragments covered Pompeii. The Pompeians tried to take shelter in the houses or hoped to escape by walking on top of the layers of pumice stones. At the dawn of the following day, a high-temperature pyroclastic flow hit the city at high speed and filled all the spots not yet engulfed by other volcanic materials, so that anybody still in the city died at once of thermal shock. The bodies of these victims remained in the same position as when the pyroclastic flow hit them and, being covered by calcified layers of ash, the form of their bodies was preserved even after the biological material decomposed. Thanks to the method perfected by Giuseppe Fiorelli, since 1863 a little over a hundred casts have been made.

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This exhibit was created by Archaeological Park of Pompeii: http://pompeiisites.org/en/
More on Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata and World Heritage: whc.unesco.org/en/list/829 
Photos: Archaeological Park of Pompeii

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