November 8th
2009
written by Bullet-Point Ben

As you may have learned in elementary school, Pompeii is a Roman city that was covered in ash and preserved when Mount Vesuvius erupted 2,000 years ago.  In terms of ancient sites, Pompeii really stands out because of how it’s preserved.  It’s not like ancient sites that have been discovered in tumbled ruins and restored – like Machu Picchu – or ancient sites that have been handed down through the ages – like the Parthenon – Pompeii is an entire ancient city that has simply been frozen in time.  The difference is in the tiny details of everyday life that are visible everywhere. One-way streets and a pedestrian-only boulevard.  Takeout restaurants and beware-of-dog murals – some of them helpfully labeled “CAVE CANEM”.  It’s hard to believe that all of this was 2,000 years ago.

Beware of Dog

Beware of Dog

Pompeii fast food

Pompeii’s answer to Panda Express

When you walk through Pompeii you’re stepping on the actual paving stones as they were placed thousands of years ago.  The stones were old even when Vesuvius erupted, with ruts from chariot wheels that were worn over centuries.

Pompeii street with ruts

Think of the big stones in the road as “crosswalks”

Some other interesting facts about life in Pompeii

  • They didn’t just have running water, they had 3 separate water lines running throughout the city – one each for public fountains, private residence, and public baths so that they could prioritize water shutoffs in the case of a shortage.  But the pipes were made of lead.
  • Every morning they would flood the streets of Pompeii with water to clean up horse crap.  The sidewalks are elevated for this reason, and there are large stepping stones in the middle of the streets for pedestrians (chariots could pass right over these).  One stepping stone means one-way street, two means two-way street.
    Chariot Ruts
  • They loved to paint faux windows on interior walls, generally showing some garden scene or some people gathered around a statue or something of that nature.
    Outdoor scene wall mosaic
  • To save money, columns in less important buildings were “faux marble” – brick covered by stucco covered by a thin layer of ground marble stucco.
    Faux marble

After Pompeii we also visited Herculaneum – a city that was buried in lava instead of ash – and the Italy National Archeological Museum, which has most of the best sculptures, mosaics, and frescoes from Pompeii and Herculaneum.  Some pictures from all 3:

1 Comment

  1. Eric Lipari
    11/08/2009

    Pompeii was so cool. Enjoyed walking around and exploring the city.
    Never was able to get to Naples to see all of the artifacts though, next time I will.
    Learn something new everyday, didn’t know about the faux marble brick columns.