The Extraordinary Ruins of Pompeii12/10/2010
I mention in previous posts that I’m not a big fan of guided tours. Let’s make an exception for the ancient city of Pompeii. Pompeii is so big and vast, I highly recommend a guide to show you around the place. You won’t be disappointed!
Pompeii was buried by the catastrophic, volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. The ancient Italian city located outside of Naples, Italy instantly became frozen in time. Roman buildings and architecture remain completely intact. Thus, visitors get a unique view of Roman life as it was almost 2000 years ago, at the height of the Roman empire!
Discovered by a farmer in 1599, the ruins of Pompeii are still being excavated by archeologists to this day. Pompeii is the most well preserved, biggest archeological site in the world! However, about 90% of the city still remains underground!
I arrived in Pompeii on a day trip from Naples. The weather was absolutely perfect for sightseeing, 70 degrees on a sunny late March afternoon. There were about 10 other eager sightseers on my tour.
One of our first stops was to the theater. Again, let me reiterate how well preserved the ruins are. Everywhere I look I can see great detail and craftsmanship on the buildings.
Here is a short video of the theater
The amphitheater looks very similar to modern day theaters. The steps progressively extend higher to allow the person sitting behind to have an excellent view of the show. The higher ranking officials received the closest spots, while the commoners held most of the back seats.
The streets of Pompeii were extremely well crafted. Pompeii had its own plumbing system and water was readily available for the 50,000+ people living inside the city.
Like the amphitheater, housing locations had their own social system. The wealthy lived at the top, the poor at the bottom. Water was always flowing through the streets allowing easy disposal of human waste. I really liked the stones in the middle of the road which allowed the people to easily get across without stepping in the water.
Here’s an example
Pompeii was filled with services that helped the people to relax. Massage parlors, baths, and whore houses ensured the people of Pompeii could unwind after a stressful day.
I’ll never forget our guide explaining how the people used the brothels.
Our guide explained that brothels were the first businesses in the world. Men would pay for a 15 – 20 minute rendezvous with the woman of his choice. The cost, equivalent to buying a pack of cigarettes today! My how things have changed!
Inside, the brothels were decorated with erotic art and other sexual decorations. As you enter the building, you encounter a long rectangular hallway filled with cubicles on each side. Privacy was very important during this time for the men and women.
The whore houses played a big part of Pompeii society in early AD. Entering a brothel back then was like a trip to the gym, something you did almost everyday. (Well, I’m sure more people would go to the gym everyday if these services were around!)
The most interesting part of the adventure for me was the mummies.
You are able to witness the person’s final pose as the volcanic ash buried him almost instantly. A sad, yet mesmerizing view of that person’s final moment in time.
Most of the remains can be found at the Naples National Archeological Museum. The two pictures above were taken at Pompeii.
Exploring Pompeii was like living during the Roman Empire. You get a first hand view of what life was like during this ancient, prosperous time. You have everything there that you’d have in a modern day society, schools, organized housing, shops, entertainment, centralized plumbing and heating, and the strong backbone of a community working to together to make the city a better place.
I highly recommend you circle Pompeii on your Naples to do list. You can literally spend all day exploring the ins and outs of the city. This is one trip where I do encourage a tour guide for one unforgettable experience!