Topics covered:

The Original Site
The Earthquake
The Rediscovery
The Forum
The Theatre
The Baths
The Amphitheatre

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The Original Site

Pompeii wasn't always Roman. Had various other settlements (e.g. Greeks) of people before Rome took full control of the town.

  • Was built on a lava spur = excellent natural defencive position
  • Near the River Sarno = Pompeiians controlled water traffic & had access to clean water to contribute to the fertility of the land
  • Was a harbour town so had good access to trade = made Pompeii wealthy
  • Was built near Mt Vesuvius = fertile lands for growing food & supporting livestock which led back into being profitable for the town
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The Earthquake

The Pompeiians had no clue that M.V. was a volcano.

In 62AD there was a huge earthquake that shook Pompeii.

The earthquake collapsed houses & temples. In the aftermath, Pompeii took the opportunity to rebuild & improve their town. 
e.g. Old houses were replaced with newer, more splendid constructions.

Some people saw this as a sign that the gods were angry so they made smaller offerings to the gods, for example in the house of Caecilius there is a small frieze dedicated to the gods in which we can see the temple of Jupiter so shaken it's completely tilted.

Pompeii was still being rebuilt during 72AD

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We have a full account of the destruction of Pompeii by Pliny the Younger. It was written in a letter to the famous Roman historian, Tacitus. However, the account was written about 15 years later...

  • Mt Vesuvius (M.V.) began erupting on the 24th of August, 79AD
  • Morning: fine grained ash settles around M.V
                   earth tremors warn of impending eruption (Pompeiians used to tremors- ignored them)
  • 1pm:       M.V. violently erupts- plume rises above M.V. approx. 27km high
                  pumice & ash fall- approx. 15cm per hour
  • Late noon: plume causes complete darkness
                   roofs begin to collapse under weight of pumice & ash
  • 8pm:       1.3m of ash has settled
                   eruption becomes more violent- plume rises to 33km high
  • 25th August
  • 1am:       2.5m of pumice & ash has settled
                   column of plume collapses (change inside M.V.), loses energy
                   first pyroclastic flow 
  •  7:30am: pyroclastic flow overwhelms Pompeii- 2,000 people die from heat & suffocation (fumes)
  • 8am:      6th surge spreads over greater distance (30km+ away) Pliny the Younger just escapes
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Pompeii was hidden from the world, buried, for centuries until it was rediscovered in the middle of the 18th century.
Early excavators were very careless & often did great damage to the buildings. Also, the valuable artifacts that were found were removed & taken to private collectors.

In the 19th century a proper approach to the excavations was developed. The key person in this development was Giuseppe Fiorelli, an Italian who brought a more scientific approach to the excavation of Pompeii.

Fiorelli is most famous for his plaster casts, produced by a process now called Fiorelli's Process.

  • He realised the corpse had been buried in ash, over time it had rotted away- leaving a cavity
  • Wherever a cavity was discovered, plaster of Paris was poured in & left to set
  • The ash around the plaster cast was carefully removed so the figure at moment of death remained

This gives us info about how people died in the eruption. But a definite death toll is impossible to find.

Fiorelli is also to be credited for: numbering (of islands), records (of finds), and protection (of site)

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Houses (House of the Vettii)

Owned by two brothers- both merchants & freedmen (ex-slaves):

  • Evidence: 2 signet rings found & electoral propaganda
  • Villa is well preserved & famous for its frescoes (wall paintings)
  • Prime example of a house owned by the commercial middle class.
  • They rebuilt after the earthquake.
  • House is in two parts (where the family lived & where the slaves lived)
  • Unusual features: no shops, no tablinum, 2 atria

Other features:

  • Entrance: Painting of Priapus (symbol of fertility) weighing huge phallus on a set of scales with a bag of money as it's counterweight, also a painting of sheep/Mars (symbol of wealth)
  • Main Atrium: Compluvium with lion head rainwater funnels, 2 arca (strong boxes- ostentatious show of wealth), frescoes of children making sacrifices, cupids riding horses/chariots, & ornate candelabras 
  • Small Atrium: Lararium, wooden steps to the second floor (for women)
  • Kitchen: Found complete with stove and bronze pots, small cubicle with ****** paintings next door
  • Garden: Peristyle, elaborate decorations- lots of statues & fountains in bronze and marble
  • Dining Room: CUPIDS MOSAIC
  • Room A: Daedalus & Pasiphae, Ixion frescoes
  • Room B: Hercules killing the serpent, Torture of Dirce, Death of Pentheus frescoes
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Houses (House of the Faun)

Named after the small bronze statue of a dancing faun which stood in the atrium.

  • House has both Greek & Italian influences
  • House is particularly famous for its mosaics
  • Greeting on the floor in the entrance of the house= HAVE (silent "h" = ave) meaning "welcome"
  • Did have shops along the front
  • Owners bodies were found in the tablium, trying to escape with their riches.
  • Unusual features: large size- takes up whole insula, had baths, had a stable, 2 atria

Other features:

  • Did have a tablinum, linked into the first atrium
  • Second atrium was for more private family affairs
  • Had two peristylia, separated by a "summer room"
  • SUMMER ROOM: has the Alexander Mosaic- most famous mosaic & isn't too damaged
  • Had two lararia, they were high up & stucco
  • House had lots of decorative friezes & mosaics (including 3-D mosaic)
  • Baths had a hypocaust system all of this shows off the wealth of the owners.


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The Forum

The Forum was the heart of Pompeii, situated in the SW of the town (near the harbour gate). The whole area was a pedestrian precinct (there were blocking stones- stopped vehicle access).

  • Commercial Buildings
  • Macellum: a covered market selling meat & fish. Had a circular building in the middle holding a pool of water (possibly fish in the pool?)
  • Eumachia: a building funded by a woman called Eumachia (a wealthy Pompeiian priestess). Believed to have been a guildhall for the fullers (cloth-manufacturing).
  • Weights & Measures: accurately checked measures from traders.
  • Granaries (horrea): used to store grain and cereal to be sold in the forum.
  • Religious Buildings
  • Temple of Jupiter: most important temple in the city, also dedicated to Juno & Minerva
  • Temple of Apollo: one of the earliest temples in the town. Had a statue of each of the twins
  • Temple of Emperor: where the Pompeians worshipped the Roman emperor- emperors=gods
  • Temple of Lares: where the Pompeians worshipped their ancestors, the protective spirits
  • Political Buildings
  • Office of Aediles: 
  • Office of Duovirs:
  • Basillica:
  • Comitium:
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Town Council
Duties & Responsibilities of: decurions, duovirs, aediles

Other Important Points

  • Guildes & Elections-
  • Graffiti-
  • Political Graffiti-
  • Election Posters-
  • Statues-
  • Porticoes-
  • Stalls-
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The Baths

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The Theatre

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The Amphitheatre

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david mejia


finish it



was quite good till you left it blank

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