When I was five years old, the year after our family trip to Italy, my parents gave me a children’s book on the destruction of Pompeii by Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Because my preschool teacher clearly needed a child in her charge capable of explaining pyroclastic flow and who Pliny the Younger was this book was my absolute favorite, narrowly edging out other fascinating topics in my library such as the pop-up book explaining how the brain works and the cartoon one focusing on Newton’s Laws.
Yeah, I don’t know how I turned out the way I did either. But long story short ever since I have always had a fondness of volcanoes, ancient Romans, and volcanoes destroying ancient Romans, so keeping all that in mind it was time to visit Pompeii again.
Me in the impressive ancient Pompeii forum, with Vesuvius poking up in the background. It might sound odd saying this about a mountain, but Vesuvius is pretty badass. It’s erupted quite a few times since the Pompeii-destroying eruption but the last one was in 1944- the longest dormancy period since 79 A.D. If that wasn’t enough, the area around Vesuvius is estimated to have about 3 million people living there, meaning I am adding Naples to my “stupidest place to build a city because you know it’s going to be destroyed by volcanic activity soon” list (the first entry being Auckland, New Zealand, of course).
With that burst of optimistic sunshine, let us continue.
This is a storeroom just off the forum for the archaeological finds that have yet to be cataloged. They also have a few of the infamous plaster casts here of people who died in the eruption. These casts exist because of a stroke of genius in my opinion- after the bodies were covered with volcanic ash they decayed, leaving a space in the rock, and someone realized if you poured plaster of Paris in when finding one of these depressions you’d find the shape of the person as they died (or, in the case of another morbidly interesting cast, a dog who was left tied up to his chain).
This is Pompeii’s genius moment number two- they restored all the old fountains so water still comes out of them. Heck, there are still depressions on either side from where people rested their jars when collecting water! The particular gent in this picture was a construction worker in Pompeii (restoration is a never-ending task around here) who was cleaning his espresso maker. This juxtaposition of old vs new culture seemed just perfect to me.
A typical street in Pompeii- most are like this, and it actually takes about a half hour to just walk from one side to the other! I also love the raised stones you can see in the street before the fence- in short the road at that time was no place to step, what with all the sewage and nastiness running in it, so they put stones in that were low enough for the carts to go over but high enough that you can step across. A built-in zebra crossing! You can see lots of the wheel ruts in the stones on the road as well, which are pretty neat to see.
The old Colosseum in Pompeii with a shot of some of the ten million schoolchildren there on field trips (trust me, you don’t have to imagine what ancient Pompeii sounds like thanks to these kids!). I liked this place because it’s the most vivid Pompeii memory I have from when I was four years old- I remember running up and down the steps of the Colosseum with energy I’m not certain how I possessed considering this time around I needed to sit in the grass for a break. You can’t go up into the steps anymore either though, so good thing I remember the last time!
As a teaser though, I’m not done with Pompeii. You see, one advantage of no longer being four is how I could now go to the ancient brothel filled these days primarily by giggling Japanese tourists, and I’m not sure what to do with those pictures yet. Probably combine them with the ones from the “Secret Room” at the Archaeological Museum in Naples when I get to it, but until then I will tell you that the ancient Romans definitely weren’t prudes!