History of Pompeii

Introduction

One of the most interesting archeological sites in the world, Pompeii was an ancient Roman city which was lost for centuries after the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. Located just 14 miles southeast of Naples, at the base of Mount Vesuvius, the historic settlement was built on a spur formed by a lava flow to the north of the mouth of river Sarnus. 

At the time of the volcanic eruption, Pompeii was home to anywhere between 10,000 to 20,000 people who faced the brunt of nature. After the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii and the neighboring Herculaneum were buried in 13 to 20 feet of volcanic ash and pumice! While all the ash covered the city for a good period, it also helped preserve most of the structures of the city. The now excavated city offers a brilliantly unique look at ancient life in the city and more importantly, at the life of the ill-fated residents of Pompeii. For this reason alone, Pompeii is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Italy, with over 2.5 million visitors annually. In 1997, Pompeii, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Often described as the stuff of legends, Pompeii's tragic tale has spawned countless books, movies and documentaries and a trip to this archeological marvel is nothing short of extraordinary.

The History of Pompeii & Vesuvius

According to historic records, Pompeii, Herculaneum and other neighboring towns were settled by descendants of the Neolithic inhabitants of Campania. Soon after Pompeii was occupied, it came under the influence of the Greeks who were settled across the bay. In the centuries that followed, Etruscans, Greeks and finally the warlike Samnites all influenced Pompeii with the latter finally conquering Campania. As a result, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae became Samnite towns. At the end of the Samnite wars, Campania became a part of the Roman confederation. Then came the Social War during which Pompeii aided the Italians in their revolt against Rome, but to no avail. Post the war, Pompeii officially received Roman citizenship. In 62 CE, an earthquake caused massive damage to both Pompeii and Herculaneum, almost 17 years before the fateful volcanic eruption.

On August 24th, 79 CE, Mount Vesuvius erupted, obliterating and burying several Roman settlements underneath ashfall deposits and pyroclastic surges. Considered one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions in human history, Mount Vesuvius expelled a deadly and violent cloud of extremely hot tephra and gases to a height of 33 km! Molten rock, hot ash, and pulverized pumice were ejected at a destructive 1.5 million tons per second. Based on the archeological findings at the site of Pompeii, it's estimated that almost 100,000 times the thermal energy of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings was released during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Pompeii Today

Much of Pompeii was restored during the excavation process, thanks to the same ash which made it uninhabitable in the first place. This lends your visit to the tragic settlement an air of time travel since everything is almost exactly like it was all those centuries back. In fact, since most of the city was quickly covered with ash post the volcanic eruption, there wasn't a whole lot of structural damage and you will also find graffiti work done centuries ago still intact. Another reason why a trip to Pompeii is something special is that through your tour of the site, you'll get a genuine look at what life during the Roman Empire was like, with everything from what people ate to their hobbies, on display. What sets a Pompeii tour apart from other historical tours is that you won't just see revered artifacts but objects which were used every day by the inhabitants of Pompeii, including stoves, crockery, and tools!

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.

Select Your Tickets

Pompeii Skip The Line Entry Tickets
Pompeii Skip The Line 2.5 Hours Small Group Guided Tour
Pompeii Half-Day Guided Tour with Transfers from Naples
Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius Full Day Tour with Lunch from Naples
Pompeii and Herculaneum Full Day Archaeological Excursion