Visiting the Ruins of Pompeii
Few civilizations have had as fascinating -- and as tragic -- a history as that of the ancient town of Pompeii. Once a multi-cultural hub with a multi-lingual population that engaged, just like today, in parties, official ceremonies, sports and politics, today the term ‘Pompeii’ is instead synonymous with catastrophe and destruction.
Over the centuries, Pompeii has been hit by several natural and man-made disasters, including bombings by the Allied Forces, and of course, the infamous volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius, back in 79 AD. Visit what is known today as the ruins of Pompeii to discover the preserved remains of an old town steeped in history.
History of Pompeii
Like any other town, Pompeii, too, had a bustling life. Citizens across wealth classes hustled about on their day-to-day activities, influenced by a myriad of cultures of the Greeks and Romans among others. Excavation efforts began in the 19th Century and their findings reveal quite a bit about Pompeii’s culture and lifestyle. Daily lives varied between the wealthy and the poor. The rich set-up elaborate banquets for various official and unofficial ceremonies, while slaves were tasked with menial routine activities; the rich organized brutal gladiator fights that went on for days, while the middle class dealt with a variety of issues from famine and riots to art and schooling.
Mount Vesuvius’ Eruption
In 79 AD, Pompeii, along with other smaller towns like Herculaneum, was covered under a blanket of ash and debris due to the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It is considered one of the most destructive volcanic eruptions in history not just due to the scale of casualties, but the amount of thermal energy it sent up, more than 30 km into the air; it is considered to be several times more deadlier than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings of World War II. The tragedy and its aftermath was covered extensively by Pliny the Younger in a series of letters he wrote to the historian Tacitus. The rapid pace at which volcanic ash, pumice and other deposits traveled through the town led to mass casualties by instant incineration or suffocation and complete flattening of its structures.
When excavation efforts began during the 18th and 19th Centuries, historians were surprised to find the town almost entirely preserved under a blanket of ash. To prevent unsystematic excavation and loss of potentially-important evidence, the entire process was carefully charted out and documented. The bodies of the deceased were carefully converted into casts, former homes were marked region-wise for efficient identification and immense effort was put into the preservation and restoration of classic structures like the amphitheater, town forum and the wealthy’s massive villas. Various bouts of excavation over the years provide great insight into the local culture that was; from politics, economy and religion to art, architecture, various occupations and even food habits.
Visiting Pompeii Ruins Today
As one of the oldest preservation sites in the world, the ruins of Pompeii have long been an object of fascination. Historians, archaeologists, geologists and other academics have poured years into uncovering the town. This led to an increasing interest in tourism opportunities; today, millions of visitors flock to the lost city of Pompeii to explore its ruins first-hand. Visitors can visit gems like the Villa of Mysteries, Pompeii Archaeological Park, The Temple of Isis, Temple of Apollo and House of Vetti amongst many others.
Visiting these ruins provide a deep insight into the locals’ lifestyle. Historians have discovered that citizens would frequently dine out at cafe-like establishments, lovers and children have left inscriptions on walls and stones; along with running businesses, citizens also engaged in various blue-collar jobs like stonework, gem cutting, garment designing, lamp making, sculpting and more. Visitors will also learn about how the city was planned; the town forum and the amphitheater, places of worship, a brothel, farms, gardens and vineyards.
Mount Vesuvius, the fearsome destroyer of Pompeii, looms over the city, still active and a grim reminder of the power of nature. You can now climb to the top of the volcano and witness breathtaking views of Pompeii and even the craters formed in the volcano.