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Roman Europe

Gallery: The Ruins of Pompeii

by Peter Kessler, 21 July 2007

 

 

Most visitors to Pompeii enter via the Marine (or Marina) Gate

Most visitors to Pompeii enter via the Marine (or Marina) Gate, one of several portals to the city. The gates were named according to where they would lead you. For instance, the Marina Gate faced the sea, while the Vesuvio Gate faced Mt Vesuvius.

Not on the map, this unidentified street typifies those in Pompeii

Not on the map, this unidentified street typifies those in Pompeii, with excavated ruins on either side, and a well-preserved Roman stone road, which would have been fairly heavily filled with household waste during its lifetime.

Overlooking the ruins of the Temple of Apollo and the Forum beyond it

Overlooking the ruins of the Temple of Apollo and the Forum beyond it, Pompeii lies under dark skies in this view towards the east.

The Forum can be accessed via an archway

The Forum, the central public space for most Roman cities and still to be found in Italy in the form of a piazza, can be accessed via an archway.

Mount Vesuvius looms threateningly in the background behind the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter

In the grassy area of the Forum (Foro) itself, Mount Vesuvius looms threateningly in the background behind the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter (Tempio di Giove) at the Forum's northern end, which was built during the second century BC. The Marcellum, a covered market used for the sale of food, is on the right.

The road leading from the forum to the northern walls of the city has two arches

The road leading from the forum to the northern walls of the city has two arches. The first, to the east of the Temple of Jupiter, is the Honorary Arch, dedicated to Nero.

The Arch of Caligula faces the city's main road, the Via della Fortuna

Passing under the first leads to the second, which is the Arch of Caligula, facing the city's main road, the Via della Fortuna, and which still looks very impressive and well-preserved.

A little way north of the Forum lie the remains of a typical bakery on the Via della Terme

A little way north of the Forum lie the remains of a typical bakery on the Via della Terme.

Further along is the House of Faun, built at the height of the Samnite civilization

Further along is the House of Faun, built at the height of the Samnite civilization and considered the most beautiful example of a private house from ancient times because of its size, decorations, and architectural importance. This house provides an incredible example of mosaic art which includes the Battle of Alexander The Great, and Darius, which is now in the National Museum of Naples.

The House of the Vettii (the Bachelor Brothers) best illustrates the wealth of the merchants

The House of the Vettii (the Bachelor Brothers) best illustrates the wealth of the merchants who lived during the last ten years of Pompeii's existence. Great wealth is shown by the luxurious wall decorations and in the layout of the garden.

The Villa of Mysteries is built around a central peristyle court and surrounded by terraces

The Villa of Mysteries, built around a central peristyle court and surrounded by terraces, is much like other large villas at Pompeii. However, it contains one very unusual feature; a room decorated with beautiful and strange scenes.

The Initiation Chamber measures 15 by 25 feet (4.5m by 7.62m)

This room, known to us as the "The Initiation Chamber," measures 15 by 25 feet (4.5m by 7.62m) and is located in the front right portion of the villa.

In the room of the Large Painting a cycle of frescoes was dedicated to the Dionysiac ceremonies

In the room of the Large Painting a cycle of frescoes was dedicated to the Dionysiac ceremonies. The frescoes, known as "trompe l'oeil," were created in the Second Style.

The Forum Baths were excavated in 1823

Heading back into the city, the Forum Baths were excavated in 1823, and are located at the intersection of the Via della Foro and the Via di Nola. The baths had a communal central heating plant and were divided into two sections, one each for males and females.

The Temple of Isis is the best preserved temple in Pompeii

The Temple of Isis is the best preserved temple in Pompeii. It is pre-Roman and was almost entirely rebuilt after the earthquake of AD 62 at the expense of Popidius Celsinus. An inscription above the door mentions that he was only six years old when he was elected decurion. The sacred water of the Nile was kept in an underground passage. A large room used as a meeting room for the initiates of Isis is behind the temple.

The Large Theatre amphitheatre possessed a good audience capacity

Immediately south of the Temple of Isis, the Large Theatre amphitheatre possessed a good audience capacity, and lay next to the Little Theatre.

The view from the top of the large theatre overlooks the Gladiator Barracks

The view from the top of the large theatre overlooks the Gladiator Barracks.

The Gladiator Barracks lies on the southern edge of Pompeii

The Gladiator Barracks (Quadriportico), lying on the southern edge of Pompeii, was only altered to become such after AD 62, having previously been an arcaded court. Weapons were discovered in at least ten rooms, some of which were quite splendid and were undoubtedly intended to be used on parade.

This painting, a mural from Pompeii, is believed to be based on Apelles' Venus Anadyomene

This painting, a mural from Pompeii, is believed to be based on Apelles' Venus Anadyomene, brought to Rome by Augustus. It is considered to be the most famous painting in all of Pompeii, being situated in the "House of Venus."

This is the Palaestra Grande, which is in a poor state of repair

This is the Palaestra Grande, which like many buildings in Pompeii - and to an even greater degree neighbouring Herculaneum - is in a poor state of repair, with funds not being available to maintain it properly. The situation is becoming more and more urgent.

At the city's south-eastern corner is the entrance to the amphitheatre

At the city's south-eastern corner is the entrance to the amphitheatre, which was the first Roman stone amphitheatre, built around 80 BC, probably soon after Sulla imposed a colonia on the ancient city. It was called spectacula by its builders.

This passageway leads into the amphitheatre

This passageway leads into the amphitheatre which seated around 20,000 people. It was closed by the Senate in AD 59 after a riot...

Tacitus reports on the violence which erupted in Pompeii

Tacitus, in Annals 14.17 reports: "About the same time a trifling beginning led to frightful bloodshed between the inhabitants of Nuceria and Pompeii, at a gladiatorial show exhibited by Livineius Regulus, who had been... expelled from the Senate. With the unruly spirit of townsfolk, they began with abusive language of each other; then they took up stones and at last weapons, the advantage resting with the populace of Pompeii, where the show was being exhibited.

Not to be forgotten are the human victims of Vesuvius' eruption

Finally, not to be forgotten are the human victims of Vesuvius' eruption: an estimated 2,000 of the city's 20,000 inhabitants. This male victim perished where he fell. Notice his skull and teeth still in a near-perfect condition.

Map of Pompeii

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Text copyright P L Kessler with contributions by Dave Sedivy. An original feature for the History Files.