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
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.
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
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)
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
- 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
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
- 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.
SHOWS THAT BOTH VETTII & FAUN OWNERS WERE WEALTHY & INTERESTED IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY. WANTED TO LOOK INTELLIGENT.
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:
Duties & Responsibilities of: decurions, duovirs, aediles
Other Important Points
- Guildes & Elections-
- Political Graffiti-
- Election Posters-