Friday, November 6, 2015

Travels with Shirley (Part II)

When I first heard about Pompeii as a child, I was intrigued, and I have wanted to see it ever since. Sorrento made an ideal base for exploring the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as the museum in Naples that includes most of the artifacts. (Many of the mosaics, sculptures, and frescoes at Pompeii are reproductions. The originals are in the museum. Herculaneum has more items left in situ.)

We were amazed at the size of Pompeii! We had planned to do a quick tour on our own, using the self-guided tour from the Rick Steves' guidebook. We should have booked a guide from the start, because it was warm. By the time we did the overview, we were too tired to go on. Still, we saw the highlights of that famous city, destroyed by an eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

The Roman theater is still used for some performances.

The streets had stepping stones for pedestrians to cross the street without getting their feet wet when it rained. The spaces allowed carts to roll through unimpeded.

Pompeii and Herculaneum had some large villas and many apartments. The apartment-dwellers took most of their meals outside, because they lacked cooking facilities. Each neighborhood had its own "cafeteria," like this one with holes for jars of food.

The inhabitants, like citizens of Rome throughout the empire, enjoyed their public baths. With fresh water brought  by aqueduct from the mountains, heated floors, and pleasing decorations, the baths were a comfortable place to socialize.

The small channels on the side of the dome are to capture condensed water that then
runs down the side to be collected.
This fountain includes an inscription identifying how much it cost and the officials who had it installed. A sort of "your tax dollars at work" sign.  (I was reminded of my father who, when seeing road repairs for long-standing potholes, would remark,  "I'll bet Benton Bangs [the county commissioner] is up for re-election this year.")

When we visited the archeological museum in Naples and viewed some of the artworks, we began to appreciate the luxury that some of the wealthier inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaneum enjoyed nearly 2000 years ago.

I loved the two fawn statues!

Imagine having mosaics like this in your floors.

This figure and several others, including the fawns, were from a single villa.
 Maybe the owner was the Bill Gates of Pompeii?
Herculaneum was also destroyed by the eruption. For years, it was thought the citizens had all left by sea. But in the 20th Century, several bodies were discovered, where they had cowered in the port's warehouses. Overcome quickly, by toxic vapors, they had not chance. In Pompeii, where ash was the biggest problem, more people had time to escape.

The sad fate of the people who sheltered together in the warehouses.

A week or so later in Rome, Kevin and I saw a Henry Moore exhibit, which included a couple of his prints of people huddled in the London Underground during the Blitz. I was struck by the similarity--two different disasters, separated by time, one natural, one man-made. But one thing doesn't change: human beings cling to one another in times of danger, sometimes with a happy resolution and sometimes in vain.

Are we really so different from the people who lived in Herculaneum and Pompeii?

Note: After several changes, this template seems to have been corrupted, There are 
line-spacing and centering issues that I was not able to fix. I'll try later.


  1. Wow! What beautiful pictures. The people of Pompeii were so advanced, it's amazing.

  2. I love the painting of the man standing in the building. Was that painted on a wall?