Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

  entries  2002-2023, map graphic added late Oct. 2022              

ompeii- Consolidated page

illustration credit: M.Violante
this map is repeated at various places on this page

The Ancient Amphitheater of Pompeii

Few archeological sites are as impressive as Pompeii. Without engaging in a silly popular poll on archeological sites, we can all agree that the ruins of Pompeii are worth seeing. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and the Roman city was frozen in time. We are still thawing it out. The city itself is vast, and the amphitheater (or stadium) sticks out. It's off in a corner but you can't miss it. It is believed to be the oldest permanent stone amphitheater of the Roman world (previously, they were built of wood). Compared to the history of Rome, itself, the stadium in Pompeii is much younger and, indeed, did not last long. It was but 100 years old when it was buried by Vesuvius and had been built around a century earlier, in 70 BC, just before the colony was founded. For around 10 years of its history, it was closed after a bloody brawl in 59 AD (modern sports fans know what that's like!) Emperor Nero closed the place down for 10 years. When it was active, it was very, very active: gladiatorial games, public executions, wild animal fights, and the blood sports the Romans loved. The stadium lay buried for a long time and was not dug out until 1823. The statistics on the stadium are impressive: it could hold up to 20,000 spectators; the oval structure was 136 by 104 meters (445 by 341 feet); the arena (or pit or "playing field") was 67 x 35 meters and set 6 meters below ground level.                   My thanks to Peter H. of Wash. DC for this image.
This page consolidates all entries having to do with the archaeological site of Pompeii. There are currently (Feb. 14, 2023), 25 entries going back to 2002 and are in chronological order, below. Most entries are also still in the site pages separately, but may not be linked from the general index. As of Nov, 2018, many entries, below, are just links to other pages on the site separately. The earlier items are only on this page. The latest entry is for Feb. 14, 2023.

entry Dec. 2002

The National Archaeological Museum is planning a major exhibit for January on the great eruption of Vesuvius in 79 a.d. that destroyed Pompeii. Unexpectedly, they will have something new for the exhibit —the skeletal remains, uncovered the other day, of a slave. 

Archaeologists from the Japan Institute of Paleological Studies in Kyoto were working in the area of the presumed location of an ancient gate that led out from the city of Pompeii in the direction of Capua. The exact location is uncertain and has been the object of archaeological speculation for some time. 

In the course of digging around, the team came across the remains of a male skeleton with a metal ring on the leg, showing where he had been chained at the calf. It was a common Roman punishment to keep unruly slaves chained at night so they couldn't flee. The skull shows evidence of having been crushed. Presumably, then, he was not suffocated by noxious fumes or overwhelmed by the flow of volcanic debris; he was probably struck by a heavier projectile thrown up by the eruption. The eruption occurred just after dawn. Still chained in place, he couldn't run. 

Here, one thinks of Mark Twain's grand paragraph from The Innocents Abroad:

But perhaps the most poetical thing Pompeii has yielded to modern research, was that grand figure of a Roman soldier, clad in complete armor; who, true to his duty, true to his proud name of a soldier of Rome, and full of the stern courage which had given to that name its glory, stood to his post by the city gate, erect and unflinching, till the hell that raged around him burned out the dauntless spirit it could not conquer.

[Read MT's complete passage about Naples from The Innocents Abroad.]

Courage is a function of choice, and, certainly, the soldier so described was courageous— heroically so. Our recently-found slave, of course, had no choice. Yet, there is no way to know how he behaved at the end, even chained as he was. "Unruliness" —especially in a slave— is not necessarily a defect of character. There was a second skeleton, that of a woman, found close by. Who knows if or how he might have tried to shelter her? Or she him.

entry Dec. 2002            

Mummies, Evil Spirits & Pompeii

In 1932, Universal studios released a prototypical horror film called The Mummy. It starred Boris Karloff and was magnificently eerie, much better than the slew of potboiler imitations that followed. It was a film loosely generated by popular buzz of the day surrounding the curse supposedly attached to the tomb of King Tuthankhamen ('Tut', for the tongue-tied), discovered (or desecrated, depending on whether you are an archaeologist or an ancient Egyptian) in 1922 by two Englishmen, Howard Carter and George E.S.M. Herbert, fifth Earl of Carnarvon. In the antechamber of the tomb they found a plain clay tablet on which were inscribed hieroglyphics reading, "Death will slay with his wings whoever disturbs the peace of the pharaoh." Within seven years, 22 persons involved with the discovery and excavation of the tomb had died untimely deaths. 

In Naples, we may have material for another film. It is not uncommon for the superintendent of the archaeological site at Pompeii to come to work and find envelopes and small packages containing bits and pieces of antiquity, items from the ruins of Pompeii, pilfered and then sent back by sticky-fingered tourists haunted by remorse.

But are they haunted by something else? Could be, because sometimes letters accompany the booty. Some time ago, a package arrived full of objects stolen from Pompeii. It was from Valencia in Spain. The penitent thief claimed to have had nothing but terrible luck ever since he swiped the objects. He lost his job and was then plagued by family problems; the sender was convinced that he was the victim of a curse put on the objects two thousand years ago by devious citizens of Pompeii who wanted to protect their belongings down through the ages.

The superintendent has had goods returned from as near as Castellammare and as far away as Poland. The senders' names and addresses are usually bogus, but a number of them contain letters with the same general message: "Bad luck ever since I took the stuff. Please take it  back. Release me from the curse." The good superintendent, of course, refuses to pronounce judgment on such things as ancient curses, but if it gets his stuff back, who is he to tell you what you should or shouldn't believe? 

Personally, I think that the people who sell tissues, wash your windshields and hustle cigarettes at traffic lights in Naples are missing a golden opportunity. In a city where astrologers and soothsayers openly advertise, and where everyone in my family, including me, believes in the evil-eye, why not put curses on personal property? Cars, for example. It would be a symbolic way of saying, "Death will slay with his wings whoever touches my wheels." Maybe a brief incantation at the stoplight, then a quick exchange of a euro or two for an amulet, possibly in the image of Boris Karloff, with an adhesive backing so you can slap him up there on the dashboard right next to whatever other medallions you happen to have protecting you. Sort of a double-whammy.

Added bonus: if your car is tampered with in the middle of the night, ancient curses don't go off with that annoying waah-waah-waah burglar-alarm siren that keeps you awake all night. There's just this single, long, blood-curdling scream. It might be a pleasant change.

Other items on good & bad luck, superstitions, magicians, fortune tellers, etc:   (1)  (2)  (3)  (4)  (5)  (6)

(Dec 11, 2011 ) I'm not sure why anyone would think this is a good idea; that is, to build a theme park replica of the ruins of Pompeii in the eastern part of the urban sprawl that is Naples. That was the plan being oohed-and-aahed over the other day at a conference held in the Gambrinus café. It would create 50,000 jobs what with all the construction of "PompeiWorld" (the asinine name being proposed —I'm holding out for Pompeii Two or Pompeiissimo! ) plus all the secondary facilities such as new hotels and so forth. There are some precedents for constructing replicas of ancient and historical sites: for example, to keep tourists from damaging the Lascaux Cave in France, an accurate replica for visitors was built; also, the Getty Villa museum in California is a replica of an ancient Roman villa excavated in Herculaneum. (I'm not counting The Venetian hotel casino in Vegas where you can take gondola rides, poled along by some California surfer-dude singing Neapolitan folk-songs!) But, still, "PompeiWorld" would be only a few miles from the real thing! Since there is no plan to close the real Pompeii to protect it from mass tourism, what's the point? Yes, they say, but the theme park will also provide educational facilities for archaeology and vulcanology (which, of course, they could build anyway at the real Pompeii). And speaking of things Vulcan, are they going to build a replica of the Great Ruin Maker, Vesuvius, himself, maybe half-scale, but timed to erupt for the tourists, covering them with styrofoam pumice and ash? Maybe I'm missing the big picture. (My thanks to Larry Ray for pointing this item out to me.)

  • April 6, 2014 - Pompei is the second most visited archaeological site in Italy after the Colosseum in Rome. As such, it is subject to quite a pounding, all in addition to the natural ravages of time. The site is, quite naturally, on the UNESCO World Heritage List and last year received 50 million euros from the European Union to help finance a conservation project. None of that has helped in recent weeks as there has been an almost daily rash of crumbling of various bits and pieces, large and small. Now, the Italian aerospace firm, Finmeccanica, which provides advanced electronics to the military, has said it will donate technology for a project called "Pompeii: Give it a Future." The technology includes upgrades to security systems and satellite monitoring in order to assess "risks of hydrogeological instability" at the 44-hectare site (108 acres); the project is expected to last three years.    (There is a map of Pompeii here.)

May 6, 2015  - Word comes from various sources on the successful restoration and presentation of some frescoes and mosaics in the Villa of the Mysteries at the archaeological site of the ancient Roman site of Pompeii. The treatment involved the use of the antibiotic amoxicillin to treat a strain of streptococcus bacteria that was gradually destroying the original pigment of the frescoes. Restoration also involved the use of lasers to remove dirt from surfaces soiled from the old excavation of the site in the early 1900s. The restoration began in 2008 and some of the results were displayed in March of this year. Additional work continues on a portion of the site that collapsed in 2012 during a rainstorm. The Villa of the Mysteries probably derives its name from what some scholars says are representations of the rites of female initiation to marriage. The villa is one of more than 100 such structures discovered in area of Vesuvius. They were built beginning in the second century BC up to the mid-first century AD and are in what is called the "second style".

May 24, 2015 - At Pompei work is almost completed on the restoration of 86 plaster casts of the remains of persons who perished in the famous eruption of Vesuvius of 79 AD. Some of them are already known since they were uncovered in the 1800s. This display, however, will be part of an exhibit set to open on May 26 as "Pompeii and Europe 1748-1943." The first date is of the initial re-discovery of the buried city under the Bourbons and king Charles III —the beginning of the scientific rediscovery of Roman antiquity in the area. The second date is the year before the last eruption of the volcano, which took place in the middle of WWII. The victims were swiftly buried in hot ash and apparently died almost instantly. Modern X-ray techniques, indeed, reveal intact skeletal structures preserved within a natural case of pyroclastic materials through the centuries, thus making it possible to make plaster molds.
(photo, la Repubblica)                                                                

July 25, 2015- One Small Step for a Bow-Bow. Pompeii is second only to the Colosseum in Rome as the most popular tourist site in Italy, year in and year out. I don't know how the tourists do it. Both sites are on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and both are worth seeing, but I can think of no other place in the nation that ambushes cash-laden clients with such an array of inefficiency, chicanery and corruption as does Pompeii. Barely a day goes by that you don't read of this-or-that many hundred tourists waiting in vain for the place to open, or even of being locked inside while the staff goes on strike —or to lunch— which is pretty much the same thing. It usually takes a threat by UNESCO or other European holders of the euro-strings that the whole damned place will be removed from the list unless it shapes up. Then, maybe, something gets done. That is what happened here, and it seems to have done some good.

In this case they have restored and reopened for public view the famous mosaic of a dog on the premises of the House of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii. The mosaic bears the inscription cave canem—beware of the dog. Astute paleo-bowserologists are divided over whether this meant, Pwease don't step on widdle poopsum or, possibly, Amicus, if you step on Lothar, the Wonder Shredder, you will never believe that you ever owned a leg. In any event, the mosaic has somehow become iconic of the Pompeii site, and you now can get in to see it again.

The House of the Tragic Poet was discovered in November of 1824 and has interested scholars and writers for generations. The size of the house itself is not remarkable but the interior decorations of scenes from Greek mythology are numerous and of high quality. They are remarkable. They have inspired poetry and fiction, among which is Lord Edward Bulwer Lytton's The Last Days of Pompeii (O he of "It was a dark and stormy night." Talk about tragic.) 
-thanks to Jeff Miller for bringing this item to my attention.  

Aug 8, 2015 - The July/August on-line edition of Smithsonian Magazine contains a fine article by Joshua Hammer entitled "The Rise and Fall of Pompei". The lead is

"The famous archaeological treasure is falling into scandalous decline, even as its sister city Herculaneum is rising from the ashes [...] On a sweltering summer afternoon, Antonio Irlando leads me down the Via dell'Abbondanza, the main thoroughfare in first-century Pompeii. The architect and conservation activist gingerly makes his way over huge, uneven paving stones that once bore the weight of horse-drawn chariots. We pass stone houses richly decorated with interior mosaics and frescoes, and a two-millennial-old snack bar, or Thermopolium, where workmen long ago stopped for lunchtime pick-me-ups of cheese and honey. Abruptly, we reach an orange-mesh barricade. "Vietato L'Ingresso," the sign says-entry forbidden. It marks the end of the road for visitors to this storied corner of ancient Rome."

"Just down the street lies what Turin's newspaper La Stampa called Italy's "shame": the shattered remains of the Schola Armaturarum Juventus Pompeiani, a Roman gladiators' headquarters with magnificent paintings depicting a series of Winged Victories-goddesses carrying weapons and shields. Five years ago, following several days of heavy rains, the 2,000-year-old structure collapsed into rubble, generating international headlines and embarrassing the government of then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The catastrophe renewed concern about one of the world's greatest vestiges of antiquity. "I almost had a heart attack," the site's archaeological director, Grete Stefani, later confided to me."
The entire article is available here.

(There is a map of Pompeii here.)

Sept 22, 2015 - Pre-Roman era tomb discovered at Pompeii. In spite of the difficulties of doing archaeology at Pompeii (noted here and here in two recent entries), this second most visited archaeological site in Italy (after the Colosseum, in Rome) continues to reward researchers. With most attention going deservedly to preserving Roman Pompeii, we forget the layers that lie beneath, from the days before mighty Rome existed. The Jean Berard Center in Naples has now announced the discovery of a well-preserved Samnite tomb at Pompeii. It contains a woman's skeleton and many amphorae. The Samnites were ferocious enemies of the Romans; they fought each other for centuries for control of central Italy, with the Samnites eventually succumbing in 100 BC. At one time, Samnite influence extended from the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenean and included the area where Roman Pompeii would later stand. This particular tomb is from the fourth century BC. The Jean Berard Center in Naples has served since 1966 as a "Documentation Center of historical research on Southern Italy", "a research platform for French and Italian teams working in Southern Italy and Sicily with a focus on Magna Grecia generally the Greek colonization in the West. The center's current facilities in Naples include equipment depots, specialized laboratories,  a library and as reception space for visiting researchers.  
[Thanks to Jeff Miller for calling my attention to this.] 

Mar 23, 2016 -
New Itinerary at Pompeii
- Myths and Nature: from Greece to Pompeii is the name of a new joint exhibit now open at the Naples Archaeological museum and the archaeological site at Pompeii, itself. The museum side will host 100 archaeological finds at the Sala della Meridiana (the Hall of the Sun-Dial) and focus on landscapes, gardens, and the semiotics of nature—that is, the signs and symbols in nature. The itinerary at Pompeii will present five newly restored Domus (that's the plural but also the singular). In ancient Rome, the domus was the type of house lived in by the upper classes. We might just call it a villa, except that a true villa was outside the city walls or limits and was much larger. The domus was a luxury home within the walls or city, itself. The emphasis is on the green spaces, the gardens that residents created for their domus as well as on the frescoes and objects that decorated the interiors.

Apr 10, 2016 - The Pompeii Antiquarium (pictured) has reopened. Many archaeological sites are giant outdoor museums, themselves, but many of them also have indoor museums to go along with them. Pompeii was one of those. It opened the Antiquarium in 1861 and for many years it was renowned for its displays, including the plaster molds of victims from the eruption that destroyed the city in 79 a.d. The museum was destroyed by bombing in WWII but managed to reopen in 1948. It was then closed in the wake of the Irpinia earthquake of 1980 east of Naples, which rendered a great number of buildings well beyond the immediate area unsafe. (The earthquake was centered 80 km/50 miles to the east.) The museum has reopened with the latest in modern audio-visual displays, a bookshop, and all the amenities for those who are tired of slogging through the site in the summer heat. It features a permanent exhibition dedicated to the places of worship in pre-Roman Pompeii.

Apr 12, 2016 - Giuseppe Fiorelli (pictured) (Naples 1823- Naples 1896) is best remembered as the inventor of the process for making plaster casts of the victims of the famous eruption. That process was to pour plaster of Paris into the cavities left after the corpses of the victims covered in ash had rotted away, thus producing plaster replicas of their positions at their final moment. That revolutionized archaeology at Pompeii because you can use the same process for any organic object, such as pets and even wooden tables and chairs. You can build up a picture of the way the people lived. It strengthened the position of those who felt that sites should not be broken up and items simply moved away for study (which had been the norm) but studied as much as possible on-site, now the accepted approach. Fiorelli did the first large-scale precise mapping of the Pompeii site, cataloging and ordering everything and is responsible for eventually opening the site to visitors. He held various posts in his lifetime: Professor of Archaeology at the University of Naples, Director of the Archaeological Museum, Director of the excavations at Pompeii; as well, he founded the Archaeology School at Pompeii, which then became the Italian School of Archaeology. He founded archaeological journals and also founded the San Martino Museum in 1866.

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Aug 21, 2018

I am indebted to Jeff Miller for reminding me that “In Search of Stabia” is the name of an exhibition at the Antiquarium of Pompeii and will be on display through January 31, 2019. In their words,

...the exhibit presents a voyage of discovery through the history of Ancient Stabiae, using evidence left to us by the finds from the Necropolis of Madonna delle Grazie, with its numerous burials, as well as...with the votive offerings found there which were connected to women, and the protection of fertility and of giving birth... Together they are of great importance in the reconstruction...of the Stabian pre-Roman times.
To clear up confusion, Stabiae is the ancient name for Stabia. The name probably comes from Stabilum the Latin and Oscan word for a stable, animal shed. You can use whatever you want. The exhibit says In Search of Stabia and goes on to talk about Stabiae. The same thing happens in Baiae/Baia across the gulf of Naples to the west.

Stabia and other cities affected by the eruption of Vesuvius. The black cloud represents the general distribution of ash and cinder. Modern coast lines are shown.   credit: MapMaster, Wikipedia.

With that, Albert Einstein and I remind casual visitors to the area around Mt. Vesuvius to take advantage of the fourth dimension, Time, and remember that as you wander from, say, Herculaneum over to Pompeii and up the coast to Stabiae, you are moving up and down the valleys and peaks of time that all got pretty much time-flattened by a single great volcanic eruption in 79 AD. The towns you see in the image (right) were just blanked out into an anonymous dimensionless grey.  But remember that the Romans did not found Pompeii; they just found it and took it over. Between the end of the 7th century and the beginning of the 6th century BC, changes in settlement dynamics were triggered by the arrival of new peoples onto the coast, such as the Opicians, Greeks, Oscans, and Etruscans, all different peoples living at different times, but sequentially in the same places. Then came the Romans. They were late-comers. Not last-comers, just late. (Remember that the 7th century runs from 699 down to 600. It runs backwards, I know, but you're traveling in time, anyway, so what do you care? Also, the "end", that is, the "second half" of the 7th century BC is 650 down to 600. The last half is logically the one that comes later in time. I use BC and not BCE (Before Common Era) because it's important to our cultural history to acknowledge why we have the calendar we have. I mean, no one actually says "Bee Cee Ee", right?

o, there are two ways to learn about Stabiae. One is to go to the display in Pompeii of the necropolis of the Madonna delle Grazie. It offers us information on the inhabitants of the ancient centers which surrounded Pompeii, one of which was Stabiae. These are largely ceramic finds (image) from around 300 tombs spread out over an area of around 15,000m2 (around 4 acres). They span a period from the second half of the 7th century BC (650-600) until the end of the 3rd century (450-401 BC); they are pit grave, stone coffin or tile-covered burials.

Villa San Marco, peristyle, that is, a continuous
porch formed by a row of columns, often around
a courtyard.
     Photo credit: mentnafunangann

Or you can actually go to Stabiae and look at the archeological digs of the villas and rustic farmhouses. Stabiae was an ancient city on its own, a port well before Roman times, but became a Roman port and town. It was the ancient version of the modern town, Castellammare di Stabia, about 4.5 km (2-3 mi) southwest of Pompeii. The Romans built magnificent villas and solid farms there. They were on a headland overlooking the Gulf of Naples, only 16 km (10 mi) from Vesuvius. In short, it was a seaside resort. Even in later times, the area was called Stabiae (later, Stabia). That changed symbolically in 1086, when a castle is first mentioned on the site, a Castrum ad Mare, modern Castellammare. That ancient ager Stabianus (area under the influence of Stabiae) covered what is now Castellammare di Stabia, Casola di Napoli, Gragnano, Lettere, Santa Maria la Carità and Sant'Antonio Abate. This is where Pliny the Elder "bought the farm" (plus villa and beach) during the eruption.

The archaeological remains of Stabiae were originally discovered in 1749 by an engineer working for king Charles III of Naples. The ruins were partially excavated, but then reburied and forgotten about until shorty after WWII. The site was declared an archaeological protected area in 1957, and by 1962 many of the ruins had again been uncovered. Much of the work is recent and has come to light by construction to lay a second set of underground tracks in order to "double" the Torre Annunziata-Sorrento line of the Circumvesuviana railway. Archeology has uncovered only a small part of the villas and farms that are there. You can visit at least Villa San Marco, Villa Arianna (both sections), and a few others.
Entrance to the city of Stabiae.
photo credit: mentnafunangann

There is an NPO (non-profit organization, called an ONLUS in Italian) by the English name of RAS, for Restoring Ancient Stabiae where you can donate to adopt a fresco, adopt a project, adopt an ancient Stabian, whatever. These non-profit organizations have a patchy track-record, though, and one gets the impression that there is an atmosphere of "Let's hurry before all this goes away again." They had some successful "Stabiae Nights" tours this month but are up against the BPOs (big profit organizations! My term!) of illegal building right where they want to uncover the past. But, they have to try.

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added Sept 26, 2018 
Pompeii and Delos, Sister Cities

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added Oct 10, 2018
Spectacular Fresco Finds at Pompeii

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added Oct 23, 2018
Date of Famous Vesuvius Eruption is Wrong!

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added Nov 11, 2018  
off-site Wine and food gardens in Pompeii
by Jason Urbanus,  Archaeology Magazine April/May 2018

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added Nov 20, 2018
Leda and the Swan

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Apr 3, 2019 - Jeff Miller, our roving New World correspondent, tells me they have discovered yet another thermopolium in Pompeii. (How he knows that from way over Beyond the Great Pond beats me, since the Romans had no internet.) A thermopolium was a place that prepared hot food, ready to eat -- a restaurant, a fast-food place, and since there were about 80 of these places in Pompeii, you might think that the discovery of yet another one is no big deal. This one is significant in that it was found in the area of Pompeii currently being explored, an area that has lain untouched for, oh, about 2000 years. It has yielded some other interesting finds, some of which are mentioned above on this consolidate Pompeii.  The Romans were big on benevolence, brothels, and burger joints, a pleasant, pain-free way to build a great empire. A discussion of this most recent find is on the archaeology news network blogspot here.

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Aug 16, 2019 -

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Dec.7 , 2019 -

Archaeology News Network reports on the recent digs in Pompeii in a section that still has not been completely
excavated and continues to amaze us. This time the case in point is the large bathhouse, grander and more
opulent than Emperor Nero's thermal baths in Rome, itself. It was destroyed by the great eruption of 79 AD
before it was ever used. Much of this still hidden part of Pompeii is in an area restored under the Great Pompeii Project, launched in 2012 to save the historical site after the collapse of the 2000-year-old "House of the Gladiators."
This discovery was emotional, as well. They found the skeleton of a young child who obviously had been seeking refuge from the eruption. The site is open to visitors. There are currently 50 people restorers, archaeologists, architects, engineers on the Pompeii site permanently. With four million visitors (in 2019) Pompeii is the second most visited tourist site in Italy, after the Colosseum in Rome.
Thanks to Jeff Miller for pointing this out to me. Photo: Rex Features
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 Jan. 3 , 2021
Ancient Roman Snack Bar Discovered in Pompeii

It is easy to overlook the fact that much of what was buried by the famous eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD
such as the major Roman towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii is still buried and, indeed, will remain buried because, as in the case of Herculaeum, a modern town (Ercolano) has been built on top of the old one, and you don't just march in and tear down the homes of tens of thousands of residents just to uncover the marvels of antiquity. In the case of Pompeii what you see as you go through the ruins is, indeed impressive, as you can check by going to the top of this page and scrolling down. Much of the recent work has been in a section that is currently being excavated for the first time. The new discovery is of a Thermopolium, essentially a snack bar serving hot fast-food and beverages to seated customers in a hurry to grab a bite and then rush off to build an empire. The site was buried in volcanic ash, and is exceptionally well preserved. Massimo Osanna, director general of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii spoke with news media about
the new discovery: “As well as bearing witness to daily life in Pompeii, the possibilities to analyze this thermopolium are exceptional because for the first time we have excavated a site in its entirety."

The volcanic ash meant that many items and even human remains were perfectly preserved for thousands of years. Some of the detail preserved by the volcanic ash is, indeed, almost uncomfortably personal — human remains, of course, including those of a person fleeing the eruption who was, said the director, “surprised by the burning vapors just as he had his hand on the lid of the pot he had opened”. This snack bar or stall is one of many that have been found by archaeologists in ancient Pompeii, however this one, is the first to be fully excavated. The service counter was decorated with polychrome patterns and pictures of animals that were probably on the menu, such as ducks and roosters. In some of the food pots there were tiny pieces of duck bone as well as bones from pigs, goats, fish and even snail shells. The site was partially uncovered last year and now has been revealed in its entirety. The word, itself, thermopolium — is from the Greek “thermos” for hot and “poleo” to sell. These eateries were very popular in the Roman world. Pompeii alone had around 80 of them.

Oct. 3, 2021
                                        Greek in Ancient Pompeii

In August, 2021, he director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, announced the discovery of a remarkably well-preserved skeleton during excavations of a tomb that shed light on the cultural life of the city before it was destroyed by the volcanic eruption in AD 79. A skull bearing tufts of white hair and part of an ear, as well as bones and fabric fragments, were found in the tomb in the necropolis of Porta Sarno, an area not yet open to the public in the east of Pompeii’s urban center. The discovery is unusual since most adults were cremated at the time. An inscription in the tomb suggests that its owner, a freed slave named Marcus Venerius Secundio, helped organize performances in Greek in Pompeii. It is the first confirmation that Greek, the language of culture in the Mediterranean, was used alongside Latin. “Performances in Greek are evidence of the lively and open cultural climate that characterized ancient Pompeii,” said the director, adding that Marcus Venerius clearly had been able to make a living after he was freed as a slave, given the “monumental” size of his  tomb. “Maybe not super rich, but he reached a considerable level of wealth."

Nov. 8, 2021   A similar discovery, a recent find of slave quarters, is at this link.

Feb. 13, 2023
                                    HOUSE OF THE "SILVER WEDDING "

The name has nothing to do with ancient Pompeii. It was named in honor of the Italian royal couple, Umberto and Margherita of Savoy, on their silver wedding anniversary in 1893, the same year the house was discovered. It's on the last side street off Via Vesuvio, next to an area which has yet (2023) to be excavated. It was built in the 2nd century B.C. and features a high atrium (central court or main room) with four large columns that support the roof. It is a fine examples of a gentleman's residence: the architecture is sober and classical, the decoration magnificent. The house was renovated in the early 1st century A.D. There are two gardens. The first is in line with the atrium and has its own private bath-house and open-air swimming pool. There is a large kitchen and garden and an elegant living room decorated with a mosaic floor and has four octagonal imitation porphyry columns. They support a barrel-vaulted ceiling that is higher on the side which receives most sunlight, providing a pleasant area to sit on winter days. The second garden is much larger and completely surrounded by a wall. This garden has a pool in the center and an outdoor triclinium, i.e., a couch on three sides of the rectangular garden.

Feb. 14, 2023

Director Zuchtriegel has announced his plan to set up a "new system of monitoring" the archeological site of Pompeii.It will consolidate the state of conservation of the site and keep track of the maintenance. He hopes to involve volunteer university students to run cameras and catalogue information. Ideally, this will lead to a point where you, the interested researcher or teacher or tourist will be able to stop anywhere in the ancient city and ask, What was this building? When was it built? Who lived here? -- and get an answer thanks to the running stream of new information and tabulations fed into the system. It goes without saying that this a very ambitious project.
May 2, 2023

The Instant and Eternity: exhibit from 4 May to 30 July 2023, National Roman Museum, Rome.
Display to include this bridal chariot, found and restored in Pompeii
The first time in the world that a "pilentum" has been rebuilt and studied.

The exhibit has 300 pieces of Greek, Roman, Etruscan and Italic, medieval, modern and contemporary works and explores the complex relationship we have with the ancients. Some of the Great Halls of the Baths of Diocletian are reopening to the public. The exhibit is promoted by the Italian Ministry of Culture and the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sport. The event is curated by, among many others, Massimo Osanna, Director General of Museums with the help of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. They bring with them this magnificent, recently restored, bridal carriage (called a pilentum in Latin) as an example of how important Pompeii still is. The vehicle was restored in the workshop of the Pompeii Park. 

Indeed, for a city destroyed by fire and ash 2,000 years ago, Pompeii still has a lot to teach us about the ancients. Maybe 2,000 years isn't really... well, maybe we can bridge the gap a bit. This pilentum was found in Villa Civita Giuliana a wealthy suburb of Pompeii located about 700 meters (2300 ft.) northwest of the city walls. A pilentum was used chiefly by women of the upper classes and was furnished with cushions. It had a covered top but open sides. Besides being a traveling vehicle, the pilentum was also used on state occasions by Roman matrons, priests and vestal virgins. This particular pilentum was found in 2021.

Mr. Osanna says the restoration has been remarkable and "has recovered an artifact unique in the world...a vehicle shining anew with bronze and silver". The underlying wood of the undercarriage has been rebuilt with some plexiglass to indicate the missing parts. "What we find before our eyes is to all effects a vehicle of 2,000 years ago, marvelous, complex and delicate." The work encompassed the large wheels, the iron rims, the truncated wooden hubs, and even the long iron linchpin that ensured the movement of the front wheels and made steering possible.

There is a painted wooden seat, made for two persons, adorned with shiny medallions with erotic scenes of both male and female figures doing what you think they'd be doing on their wedding night. Maybe this was a moveable users' manual. The back of the seat still had the iron frame but it's easy to imagine with leather and comfortable cushions, with the two arm-rests to make the ride of the bride and her companion easier. Yet the bride's companion
this gets complicated can't be her husband, at least not yet, because if she is going to her wedding in this thing...hmmm, maybe she weds and they both ride off together. Beforehand, was there anyone else? A bodyguard? "Who knows, maybe her mother," says Osanna, [to explain all those pornographic pictures?] Ludovica Alesse and Paola Sabbatucci, the restorers of the archaeological park of Pompeii park said, "We were there when the carriage came out, impressed into the cinerite [volcanic-ash rock]. There were still traces of the ropes, the fabrics, and the wood."

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