A rare treasure of ancient Roman frescoes comparable to Pompeii has been unearthed in France

A rare treasure of ancient Roman frescoes comparable to Pompeii has been unearthed in France

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Archaeologists have excavated an ancient Roman villa in Arles, France, with fresco murals depicting a musician playing a harp, Dionysus and the entourage of Bacchus. Researchers say it is rare to find such fresco paintings from the ancient Roman era outside of Italy, and in France these frescoes are unique. Though these frescoes are broken and fragmentary, researchers will be able to piece them together.

The most recent dig in the villa, in the state room, followed one in which a bedroom or cubiculum was excavated. Archaeologists also uncovered murals in the bedroom, but the ones in the state room were particularly fine. They were painted between 70 and 20 BC in expensive vermilion and purple pigments from Egypt, a fact that points to the wealth of the owners of the villa. The Arles Museum of Antiques says an extremely skilled Italian workshop probably produced the paintings. The depiction of the people and their clothing and the quality of the presentation are very well done, says a press release from the museum .

It is rare to find even fragments of ancient Roman frescoes outside Italy, but to find these relatively well-preserved murals in France is unique and offers a great scientific and museological opportunity, the museum said. It calls them an archaeological treasure and compares them to the spectacular frescoes of Pompeii. Some years from now, the museum says it will display these murals, made for the most elite of ancient Romans in Arles. It could take up to 10 years to restore the murals because they are in so many fragments.

  • The Roman god Bacchus as a Christian icon
  • Ancient Greek Theater and the Monumental Amphitheaters in Honor of Dionysus
  • The Houses of Pleasure in Ancient Pompeii

A more complete view of the woman playing the harp (Photo by Arles Museum of Antiques)

The frescoes recall those of the ancient city of Pompeii, researchers said. Much of Pompeii, including buildings, people in their final moments, and the Villa of Mysteries frescoes, was frozen in time by a volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried the city in ash and pumice in 79 AD.

A fresco from the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii, Italy (Photo by MatthiasKabel/ Wikimedia Commons )

In Arles, the ruins of the Roman villa have been under excavation since 2014, but this find in the state room was unexpected.

The Independent reported:

“The use of such luxurious colours underlines the wealth of the area during Roman times, experts said. The villa no doubt belonged either to rich tradesmen or the political elite of the city… the quality of the works suggested the fresco artists had been dispatched from Italy to paint them. The mural also comprises false columns imitating marble and several figures painted against a vermillion background at half or three quarters life size. After this excavation, the scientists will have over 12,000 boxes of the fresco fragments stored in black sand. These still need to be painstakingly pieced together like a giant puzzle.”

Fresco painting is a style of applying pigments in solution to a newly plastered wall or other surface. Pigments are ground in water and then applied while the plaster is wet. The pigments become a part of the wall. The painter must be extremely skilled because once the pigments and plaster dry, the painting cannot be changed. Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel in frescoes, which is considered one of the greatest feats in the history of art.

The temptation of Eve and expulsion of Adam and Even from Eden, a fresco of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Featured image: The mural shows a woman plucking a harp. (Photo by the Arles Museum of Antiques)

By Mark Miller

    Pompeii: Its Discovery and Preservation

    The buried buildings of Pompeii were designed to last only a few decades - but are still standing after nearly 2000 years. Dr Salvatore Ciro tells how the little town was rough-handled when it was first uncovered, but has survived to show us in amazing detail what town-life was like under Roman rule.


    Pompeii in Latin is a second declension masculine plural noun (Pompeiī, -ōrum). According to Theodor Kraus, "The root of the word Pompeii would appear to be the Oscan word for the number five, pompe, which suggests that either the community consisted of five hamlets or perhaps it was settled by a family group (gens Pompeia)." [8]

    Pompeii was built about 40 metres (130 ft) above sea level on a coastal lava plateau created by earlier eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, (8 km (5.0 mi) distant). The plateau fell steeply to the south and partly the west and into the sea. Three sheets of sediment from large landslides lie on top of the lava, perhaps triggered by extended rainfall. [9] The city bordered the coastline, though today it is 700 metres (2,300 ft) away. The mouth of the navigable Sarno River, adjacent to the city, was protected by lagoons and served early Greek and Phoenician sailors as a safe haven and port which was developed further by the Romans.

    Pompeii covered a total of 64 to 67 hectares (160 to 170 acres) and was home to 11,000 to 11,500 people, based on household counts. [10]

    Although best known for its Roman remains visible today, dating from AD 79, it was built upon a substantial city dating from much earlier times. Expansion of the city from an early nucleus (the old town) accelerated already from 450 BC under the Greeks after the battle of Cumae. [11]

    Early history

    The first stable settlements on the site date back to the 8th century BC when the Oscans, [12] a population of central Italy, founded five villages in the area.

    With the arrival of the Greeks in Campania from around 740 BC, Pompeii entered the orbit of the Hellenic people and the most important building of this period is the Doric Temple, built away from the centre in what would later become the Triangular Forum. [13] : 62 At the same time the cult of Apollo was introduced. [14] Greek and Phoenician sailors used the location as a safe port.

    In the early 6th century BC, the settlement merged into a single community centred on the important crossroad between Cumae, Nola, and Stabiae and was surrounded by a tufa city wall (the pappamonte wall). [15] [16] The first wall (which was also used as a base for the later wall) unusually enclosed a much greater area than the early town together with much agricultural land. [17] That such an impressive wall was built at this time indicates that the settlement was already important and wealthy. The city began to flourish, and maritime trade started with the construction of a small port near the mouth of the river. [13] The earliest settlement was focused in regions VII and VIII of the town (the old town) as identified from stratigraphy below the Samnite and Roman buildings, as well as from the different and irregular street plan.

    In 524 BC, the Etruscans arrived and settled in the area, including Pompeii, finding in the River Sarno a communication route between the sea and the interior. Like the Greeks, the Etruscans did not conquer the city militarily, but simply controlled it and Pompeii enjoyed a sort of autonomy. [13] : 63 Nevertheless, Pompeii became a member of the Etruscan League of cities. [18] Excavations in 1980–1981 have shown the presence of Etruscan inscriptions and a 6th-century BC necropolis. [19] Under the Etruscans a primitive forum or simple market square was built, as well as the Temple of Apollo, in both of which objects including fragments of bucchero were found by Maiuri. [20] Several houses were built with the so-called Tuscan atrium, typical of this people. [13] : 64

    The city wall was strengthened in the early-5th century BC with two façades of relatively thin, vertically set, slabs of Sarno limestone some four metres apart filled with earth (the orthostate wall). [21]

    In 474 BC, the Greek city of Cumae, allied with Syracuse, defeated the Etruscans at the Battle of Cumae and gained control of the area.

    The Samnite period

    The period between about 450–375 BC witnessed large areas of the city being abandoned while important sanctuaries such as the Temple of Apollo show a sudden lack of votive material remains. [22]

    The Samnites, people from the areas of Abruzzo and Molise, and allies of the Romans, conquered Greek Cumae between 423 and 420 BC and it is likely that all the surrounding territory, including Pompeii, was already conquered around 424 BC. The new rulers gradually imposed their architecture and enlarged the town.

    From 343–341 BC in the Samnite Wars, the first Roman army entered the Campanian plain bringing with it the customs and traditions of Rome, and in the Roman Latin War from 340 BC the Samnites were faithful to Rome. Pompeii, although governed by the Samnites, entered the Roman orbit, to which it remained faithful even during the third Samnite war and in the war against Pyrrhus. In the late 4th century BC, the city began to expand from its nucleus and into the open walled area. The street plan of the new areas was more regular and more conformal to Hippodamus's street plan. The city walls were reinforced in Sarno stone in the early 3rd century BC (the limestone enceinte, or the "first Samnite wall"). It formed the basis for the currently visible walls with an outer wall of rectangular limestone blocks as a terrace wall supporting a large agger, or earth embankment, behind it.

    After the Samnite Wars from 290 BC, Pompeii was forced to accept the status of socii of Rome, maintaining, however, linguistic and administrative autonomy.

    From the outbreak of the Second Punic War (218–201 BC) in which Pompeii remained faithful to Rome, an additional internal wall was built of tufa and the internal agger and outer façade raised resulting in a double parapet with wider wall-walk. [13] Despite the political uncertainty of these events and the progressive migration of wealthy men to quieter cities in the eastern Mediterranean, Pompeii continued to flourish due to the production and trade of wine and oil with places like Provence and Spain, [23] as well as to intensive agriculture on farms around the city.

    In the 2nd century BC, Pompeii enriched itself by taking part in Rome's conquest of the east as shown by a statue of Apollo in the Forum erected by Lucius Mummius in gratitude for their support in the sack of Corinth and the eastern campaigns. These riches enabled Pompeii to bloom and expand to its ultimate limits. The forum and many public and private buildings of high architectural quality were built, including Teatro Grande, the Temple of Jupiter, the Basilica, the Comitium, the Stabian Baths and a new two-story portico. [24]

    The Roman period

    Pompeii was one of the towns of Campania that rebelled against Rome in the Social Wars and in 89 BC it was besieged by Sulla, who targeted the strategically vulnerable Porta Ercolano with his artillery as can still be seen by the impact craters of thousands of ballista shots in the walls. Many nearby buildings inside the walls were also destroyed. [25] Although the battle-hardened troops of the Social League, headed by Lucius Cluentius, helped in resisting the Romans, Pompeii was forced to surrender after the conquest of Nola.

    The result was that Pompeii became a Roman colony with the name of Colonia Cornelia Veneria Pompeianorum. Many of Sulla's veterans were given land and property in and around the city, while many of those who opposed Rome were dispossessed of their property. Despite this, the Pompeians were granted Roman citizenship and they were quickly assimilated into the Roman world. The main language in the city became Latin, [26] and many of Pompeii's old aristocratic families Latinized their names as a sign of assimilation. [27]

    The area around Pompeii became very prosperous due to the desirabilty of living on the bay of Naples for rich Romans and due to the rich agricultural land. [ citation needed ] Many farms and villas were built nearby, outside the city and many have been excavated. These include the Villa of the Mysteries, Villa of Diomedes, several at Boscoreale, Boscotrecase, Oplontis, Terzigno, and Civita Guiliana. [28]

    The city became an important passage for goods that arrived by sea and had to be sent toward Rome or Southern Italy along the nearby Appian Way. Many public buildings were built or refurbished and improved under the new order new buildings included the Amphitheatre of Pompeii in 70 BC, the Forum Baths, and the Odeon, while the forum was embellished with the colonnade of Popidius before 80 BC. [29] These buildings raised the status of Pompeii as a cultural centre in the region as it outshone its neighbours in the number of places for entertainment which significantly enhanced the social and economic development of the city.

    Under Augustus, from about 30 BC a major expansion in new public buildings, as in the rest of the empire, included the Eumachia Building, the Sanctuary of Augustus and the Macellum. From about 20 BC, Pompeii was fed with running water by a spur from the Serino Aqueduct, built by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.

    In AD 59, there was a serious riot and bloodshed in the amphitheatre between Pompeians and Nucerians (which is recorded in a fresco) and which led the Roman senate to send the Praetorian Guard to restore order and to ban further events for a period of ten years. [30] [31]

    AD 62–79

    The inhabitants of Pompeii had long been used to minor earthquakes (indeed, the writer Pliny the Younger wrote that earth tremors "were not particularly alarming because they are frequent in Campania"), but on 5 February 62 [32] a severe earthquake did considerable damage around the bay, and particularly to Pompeii. It is believed that the earthquake would have registered between about 5 and 6 on the Richter magnitude scale. [33]

    On that day in Pompeii, there were to be two sacrifices, as it was the anniversary of Augustus being named "Father of the Nation" and also a feast day to honour the guardian spirits of the city. Chaos followed the earthquake fires caused by oil lamps that had fallen during the quake added to the panic. The nearby cities of Herculaneum and Nuceria were also affected. [33]

    Between 62 and the eruption in 79 most rebuilding was done in the private sector and older, damaged frescoes were often covered with newer ones, for example. In the public sector the opportunity was taken to improve buildings and the city plan e.g. in the forum. [34]

    An important field of current research concerns structures that were restored between the earthquake of 62 and the eruption. It was thought until recently that some of the damage had still not been repaired at the time of the eruption, but this has been shown to be doubtful as the evidence of missing forum statues and marble wall-veneers are most likely due to robbers after the city's burial. [35] [36] The public buildings on the east side of the forum were largely restored and were even enhanced by beautiful marble veneers and other modifications to the architecture. [37]

    Some buildings like the Central Baths were only started after the earthquake and were built to enhance the city with modern developments in their architecture, as had been done in Rome, in terms of wall-heating and window glass, and with well-lit spacious rooms. The new baths took over a whole insula by demolishing houses, which may have been made easier by the earthquake that had damaged these houses. This shows that the city was still flourishing rather than struggling to recover from the earthquake. [38]

    In about 64, Nero and his wife Poppaea visited Pompeii and made gifts to the temple of Venus (the city's patron deity), [39] probably when he performed in the theatre of Naples. [40]

    By 79, Pompeii had a population of 20,000, [41] which had prospered from the region's renowned agricultural fertility and favourable location.

    Eruption of Vesuvius

    The eruption lasted for two days. [42] The first phase was of pumice rain (lapilli) lasting about 18 hours, allowing most inhabitants to escape. That only approximately 1,150 bodies [43] have so far been found on site seems to confirm this theory and most escapees probably managed to salvage some of their most valuable belongings many skeletons were found with jewellery, coins and silverware.

    At some time in the night or early the next day, pyroclastic flows began near the volcano, consisting of high speed, dense, and very hot ash clouds, knocking down wholly or partly all structures in their path, incinerating or suffocating the remaining population and altering the landscape, including the coastline. By evening of the second day, the eruption was over, leaving only haze in the atmosphere through which the sun shone weakly.

    A multidisciplinary volcanological and bio-anthropological study [44] of the eruption products and victims, merged with numerical simulations and experiments, indicates that at Pompeii and surrounding towns heat was the main cause of death of people, previously believed to have died by ash suffocation. The results of the study, published in 2010, show that exposure to at least 250 °C (480 °F) hot pyroclastic flows at a distance of 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the vent was sufficient to cause instant death, even if people were sheltered within buildings. The people and buildings of Pompeii were covered in up to twelve different layers of tephra, in total up to 6 metres (19.7 ft) deep.

    Pliny the Younger provided a first-hand account of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius from his position across the Bay of Naples at Misenum but written 25 years after the event. [45] His uncle, Pliny the Elder, with whom he had a close relationship, died while attempting to rescue stranded victims. As admiral of the fleet, Pliny the Elder had ordered the ships of the Imperial Navy stationed at Misenum to cross the bay to assist evacuation attempts. Volcanologists have recognised the importance of Pliny the Younger's account of the eruption by calling similar events "Plinian". It had long been thought that the eruption was an August event based on one version of the letter but another version [46] gives a date of the eruption as late as 23 November. A later date is consistent with a charcoal inscription at the site, discovered in 2018, which includes the date of 17 October and which must have been recently written. [47]

    Clear support for an October/November eruption is found in the fact that people buried in the ash appear to have been wearing heavier clothing than the light summer clothes typical of August. The fresh fruit and vegetables in the shops are typical of October – and conversely the summer fruit typical of August was already being sold in dried, or conserved form. Nuts from chestnut trees were found at Oplontis which would not have been mature before mid-September. [48] Wine fermenting jars had been sealed, which would have happened around the end of October. Coins found in the purse of a woman buried in the ash include one with a 15th imperatorial acclamation among the emperor's titles. These coins could not have been minted before the second week of September. [46]

    Rediscovery and excavations

    Titus appointed two ex-consuls to organise a relief effort, while donating large amounts of money from the imperial treasury to aid the victims of the volcano. [49] He visited Pompeii once after the eruption and again the following year [50] but no work was done on recovery.

    Soon after the burial of the city, survivors and possibly thieves came to salvage valuables, including the marble statues from the forum and other precious materials from buildings. There is wide evidence of post-eruption disturbance, including holes made through walls. The city was not completely buried, and tops of larger buildings would have been visible above the ash making it obvious where to dig or salvage building material. [51] The robbers left traces of their passage, as in a house where modern archaeologists found a wall graffito saying "house dug". [52]

    Over the following centuries, its name and location were forgotten, though it still appeared on the Tabula Peutingeriana of the 4th century. Further eruptions particularly in 471–473 and 512 covered the remains more deeply. The area became known as the La Civita (the city) due to the features in the ground. [53]

    The next known date that any part was unearthed was in 1592, when architect Domenico Fontana while digging an underground aqueduct to the mills of Torre Annunziata ran into ancient walls covered with paintings and inscriptions. His aqueduct passed through and under a large part of the city [54] and would have had to pass though many buildings and foundations, as still can be seen in many places today, but he kept quiet and nothing more came of the discovery.

    In 1689, Francesco Picchetti saw a wall inscription mentioning decurio Pompeiis ("town councillor of Pompeii"), but he associated it with a villa of Pompey. Franceso Bianchini pointed out the true meaning and he was supported by Giuseppe Macrini, who in 1693 excavated some walls and wrote that Pompeii lay beneath La Civita. [55]

    Herculaneum itself was rediscovered in 1738 by workmen digging for the foundations of a summer palace for the King of Naples, Charles of Bourbon. Due to the spectacular quality of the finds, the Spanish military engineer Roque Joaquín de Alcubierre made excavations to find further remains at the site of Pompeii in 1748, even if the city was not identified. [56] Charles of Bourbon took great interest in the finds, even after leaving to become king of Spain, because the display of antiquities reinforced the political and cultural prestige of Naples. [57] On 20 August 1763, an inscription [. ] Rei Publicae Pompeianorum [. ] was found and the city was identified as Pompeii. [58]

    Karl Weber directed the first scientific excavations. [59] He was followed in 1764 by military engineer Franscisco la Vega, who was succeeded by his brother, Pietro, in 1804. [60]

    There was much progress in exploration when the French occupied Naples in 1799 and ruled over Italy from 1806 to 1815. The land on which Pompeii lies was expropriated and up to 700 workers were used in the excavations. The excavated areas in the north and south were connected. Parts of the Via dell'Abbondanza were also exposed in west–east direction and for the first time an impression of the size and appearance of the ancient town could be appreciated. In the following years, the excavators struggled with lack of money and excavations progressed slowly, but with significant finds such as the houses of the Faun, of Menandro, of the Tragic Poet and of the Surgeon.

    Giuseppe Fiorelli took charge of the excavations in 1863 and made greater progress. [61] During early excavations of the site, occasional voids in the ash layer had been found that contained human remains. It was Fiorelli who realised these were spaces left by the decomposed bodies and so devised the technique of injecting plaster into them to recreate the forms of Vesuvius's victims. This technique is still in use today, with a clear resin now used instead of plaster because it is more durable, and does not destroy the bones, allowing further analysis. [62]

    Fiorelli also introduced scientific documentation. He divided the city into the present nine areas (regiones) and blocks (insulae) and numbered the entrances of the individual houses (domus), so that each is identified by these three numbers. Fiorelli also published the first periodical with excavation reports. Under Fiorelli's successors the entire west of the city was exposed.

    Modern archaeology

    Excavations conducted by Gennaro Matrone at Torre Annunziata between July 1899 and February 1901 uncovered a portion of Pompeii which had been situated on the seashore. Discoveries included a row of shops, a large amount of jewelry, vases, statuettes, coins of gold, silver, and bronze, and more than 70 skeletons. [63]

    Antonio Sogliano was Director of Archeological Works at Pompeii from 1905 until 1910. [64] During this time, he was also curator at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples and Professor of Antiquities at the University of Naples Federico II. He oversaw the restoration of the House of the Vettii during that time.

    In the 1920s, Amedeo Maiuri excavated for the first time in older layers than that of 79 AD in order to learn about the settlement history. Maiuri made the last excavations on a grand scale in the 1950s, and the area south of the Via dell'Abbondanza and the city wall was almost completely uncovered, but they were poorly documented scientifically. Preservation was haphazard and presents today's archaeologists with great difficulty. Questionable reconstruction was done in the 1980s and 1990s after the severe earthquake of 1980, which caused great destruction. Since then, except for targeted soundings and excavations, work was confined to the excavated areas. Further excavations on a large scale are not planned and today archaeologists are engaged in reconstructing, documenting and slowing the decay of the ruins.

    In December 2018, archaeologists headed by Massimo Osanna, director of the Pompeii archaeological site, discovered the fossilized remains of a harnessed horse with the remains of other horses in the Villa of the Mysteries. According to Osanna, the horse was probably ready to go to save people from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. [65] [66] [67]

    Under the 'Great Pompeii Project' over 2.5 km of ancient walls are being relieved of danger of collapse by treating the unexcavated areas behind the street fronts in order to increase drainage and reduce the pressure of groundwater and earth on the walls, a problem especially in the rainy season. As of August 2019, these excavations have resumed on unexcavated areas of Regio V. [68]

    Archaeological park officials said on 21 November 2020 that the remains of two men — thought to be a rich man and his slave — were found in a two-meter-thick layer of ash. They appeared to have escaped the first eruption but were killed by a second blast the next day. A study of the bones showed that one was younger and appeared to have done manual labour, and the other was older. [69]

    Pompeiian thermopolium, containing eight dolia (terracotta containers), was completely unearthed in the archaeological park's Regio V site in December 2020. In addition to brightly colored frescoes,archaeologists revealed about 2,000-year-old foods available in some of the deep terra cotta jars, drink shop, a decorated bronze drinking bowl known as a patera, wine flasks, amphora, ceramic jars used for cooking stews and soups. One fresco depicts a dog with a collar on a leash, possibly a reminder for customers to leash their pets. The complete skeleton of an "extremely small" adult dog was also discovered, which attests that selective breeding in the Roman epoch to obtain such a result had occurred. [70] [71] [72]

    In January 2021 a well-preserved "large, four-wheel ceremonial chariot" was uncovered by archaeologists headed by Massimo Osanna at a villa north of Pompeii in Civita Giuliana, where a stable had previously been discovered in 2018. The carriage is made of bronze and black and red wooden panels, with stories engraved onto metal medallions at the back. [73] [74] [75]


    Objects buried beneath Pompeii were well-preserved for almost 2,000 years as the lack of air and moisture allowed little to no deterioration. However, once exposed, Pompeii has been subject to both natural and man-made forces, which have rapidly increased deterioration.

    Weathering, erosion, light exposure, water damage, poor methods of excavation and reconstruction, introduced plants and animals, tourism, vandalism and theft have all damaged the site in some way. The lack of adequate weather protection of all but the most interesting and important buildings has allowed original interior decoration to fade or be lost. Two-thirds of the city has been excavated, but the remnants of the city are rapidly deteriorating. [76]

    Furthermore, during World War II many buildings were badly damaged or destroyed by bombs dropped in several raids by the Allied forces. [77]

    The concern for conservation has continually troubled archaeologists. The ancient city was included in the 1996 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund, and again in 1998 and in 2000. In 1996 the organisation claimed that Pompeii "desperately need[ed] repair" and called for the drafting of a general plan of restoration and interpretation. [78] The organisation supported conservation at Pompeii with funding from American Express and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. [79]

    Today, funding is mostly directed into conservation of the site however, due to the expanse of Pompeii and the scale of the problems, this is inadequate in halting the slow decay of the materials. A 2012 study recommended an improved strategy for interpretation and presentation of the site as a cost-effective method of improving its conservation and preservation in the short term. [80]

    In June 2013, UNESCO warned that if restoration and preservation works "fail to deliver substantial progress in the next two years," Pompeii could be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. [81] A "Grande Progetto Pompei" project of about five years had begun in 2012 with the European Union and included stabilization and conservation of buildings in the highest risk areas. In 2014, UNESCO headquarters received a new management plan intended to help integrate management, conservation, and maintenance programs at the property. [82]

    House of the Gladiators collapse

    The 2,000-year-old Schola Armatorum ('House of the Gladiators') collapsed on 6 November 2010. The structure was not open to visitors, but the outside was visible to tourists. There was no immediate determination as to what caused the building to collapse, although reports suggested water infiltration following heavy rains might have been responsible. [83] There has been fierce controversy after the collapse, with accusations of neglect. [84] [85]

    Under the Romans after the conquest by Sulla in 89 BC, Pompeii underwent a process of urban development which accelerated in the Augustan period from about 30 BC. New public buildings include the amphitheatre with palaestra or gymnasium with a central natatorium (cella natatoria) or swimming pool, two theatres, the Eumachia Building and at least four public baths. The amphitheatre has been cited by scholars as a model of sophisticated design, particularly in the area of crowd control. [86]

    Other service buildings were the Macellum ("meat market") the Pistrinum ("mill") the Thermopolium (a fast-food place that served hot and cold dishes and beverages), and cauponae ("cafes" or "dives" with a seedy reputation as hangouts for thieves and prostitutes). At least one building, the Lupanar, was dedicated to prostitution. [87] A large hotel or hospitium (of 1,000 square metres) was found at Murecine, a short distance from Pompeii, when the Naples-Salerno motorway was being built, and the Murecine Silver Treasure and the Tablets providing a unique record of business transactions were discovered. [88] [89]

    An aqueduct provided water to the public baths, to more than 25 street fountains, and to many private houses (domūs) and businesses. The aqueduct was a branch of the great Serino Aqueduct built to serve the other large towns in the Bay of Naples region and the important naval base at Misenum. The castellum aquae is well preserved and includes many details of the distribution network and its controls. [90]

    Modern archaeologists have excavated garden sites and urban domains to reveal the agricultural staples of Pompeii's economy. Pompeii was fortunate to have had fertile soil for crop cultivation. The soils surrounding Mount Vesuvius preceding its eruption have been revealed to have had good water-retention capabilities, implying productive agriculture. The Tyrrhenian Sea's airflow provided hydration to the soil despite the hot, dry climate. [91] Barley, wheat, and millet were all produced along with wine and olive oil, in abundance for export to other regions. [92]

    Evidence of wine imported nationally from Pompeii in its most prosperous years can be found from recovered artefacts such as wine bottles in Rome. [92] For this reason, vineyards were of utmost importance to Pompeii's economy. Agricultural policymaker Columella suggested that each vineyard in Rome produced a quota of three cullei of wine per jugerum, otherwise the vineyard would be uprooted. The nutrient-rich lands near Pompeii were extremely efficient at this and were often able to exceed these requirements by a steep margin, therefore providing the incentive for local wineries to establish themselves. [92] While wine was exported for Pompeii's economy, the majority of the other agricultural goods were likely produced in quantities sufficient for the city's consumption.

    Remains of large formations of constructed wineries were found in the Forum Boarium, covered by cemented casts from the eruption of Vesuvius. [92] It is speculated that these historical vineyards are strikingly similar in structure to the modern day vineyards across Italy.

    Carbonised food plant remains, roots, seeds and pollens, have been found from gardens in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and from the Roman villa at Torre Annunziata. They revealed that emmer wheat, Italian millet, common millet, walnuts, pine nuts, chestnuts, hazel nuts, chickpeas, bitter vetch, broad beans, olives, figs, pears, onions, garlic, peaches, carob, grapes, and dates were consumed. All but the dates could have been produced locally. [93]


    Erotic art

    The discovery of erotic art in Pompeii and Herculaneum left the archaeologists with a dilemma stemming from the clash of cultures between the mores of sexuality in ancient Rome and in Counter-Reformation Europe. An unknown number of discoveries were hidden away again. A wall fresco depicting Priapus, the ancient god of sex and fertility, with his grotesquely enlarged penis, was covered with plaster. An older reproduction was locked away "out of prudishness" and opened only on request – and only rediscovered in 1998 due to rainfall. [94] In 2018, an ancient fresco depicting an erotic scene of "Leda and the Swan" was discovered at Pompeii. [95]

    Many artefacts from the buried cities are preserved in the Naples National Archaeological Museum. In 1819, when King Francis visited the Pompeii exhibition there with his wife and daughter, he was so embarrassed by the erotic artwork that he had it locked away in a "secret cabinet" (gabinetto segreto), a gallery within the museum accessible only to "people of mature age and respected morals". Re-opened, closed, re-opened again and then closed again for nearly 100 years, the Naples "Secret Museum" was briefly made accessible again at the end of the 1960s (the time of the sexual revolution) and was finally re-opened for viewing in 2000. Minors are still allowed entry only in the presence of a guardian or with written permission. [96]

    Pompeii has been a popular tourist destination for over 250 years [97] it was on the Grand Tour. By 2008, it was attracting almost 2.6 million visitors per year, making it one of the most popular tourist sites in Italy. [98] It is part of a larger Vesuvius National Park and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. To combat problems associated with tourism, the governing body for Pompeii, the 'Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei', have begun issuing new tickets that allow tourists to visit cities such as Herculaneum and Stabiae as well as the Villa Poppaea, to encourage visitors to see these sites and reduce pressure on Pompeii.

    Pompeii is a driving force behind the economy of the nearby town of Pompei. Many residents are employed in the tourism and hospitality industry, serving as taxi or bus drivers, waiters, or hotel staff. [ citation needed ]

    Excavations at the site have generally ceased due to a moratorium imposed by the superintendent of the site, Professor Pietro Giovanni Guzzo. The site is generally less accessible to tourists than in the past, with less than a third of all buildings open in the 1960s being available for public viewing today.

    Antiquarium of Pompeii

    Originally built by Giuseppe Fiorelli between 1873 and 1874, the Antiquarium of Pompeii began as an exhibition venue displaying archaeological finds that represented the daily life of the Ancient city.

    The building suffered extensive damage in 1943 during the World War II bombings and again in 1980 due to an earthquake. The museum was closed to the public for 36 years before being reopened in 2016 as a space for temporary exhibitions. [99]

    The museum was re-opened on the 25 January 2021 as a permanent exhibition venue. Visitors can see archaeological discoveries from the excavations, casts of the victims of the Mount Vesuvius eruption as well as displays documenting Pompeii's settlement history prior to becoming a thriving Roman city. [100]

    The 1954 film Journey to Italy, starring George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman, includes a scene at Pompeii in which they witness the excavation of a cast of a couple who perished in the eruption.

    Pompeii was the setting for the British comedy television series Up Pompeii! and the movie of the series. Pompeii also featured in the second episode of the fourth season of revived BBC science fiction series Doctor Who, named "The Fires of Pompeii", [101] which featured Caecilius as a character.

    The rock band Pink Floyd filmed a 1971 live concert, Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii, in which they performed six songs in the city's ancient Roman amphitheatre. The audience consisted only of the film's production crew and some local children.

    Siouxsie and the Banshees wrote and recorded the punk-inflected dance song "Cities in Dust", which describes the disaster that befell Pompeii and Herculaneum in AD 79. The song appears on their album 1985 Tinderbox. The jacket of the single remix of the song features the plaster cast of a chained dog killed in Pompeii.

    Pompeii is a 2003 Robert Harris novel featuring an account of the aquarius's race to fix the broken aqueduct in the days before the eruption of Vesuvius. The novel was inspired by actual events and people.

    "Pompeii" is a 2013 song by the British band Bastille. The lyrics refer to the city and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

    Pompeii is a 2014 German-Canadian historical disaster film produced and directed by Paul W. S. Anderson. [102]

    45 years after the Pink Floyd recordings, guitarist David Gilmour returned to the Pompeii amphitheatre in 2016 to perform a live concert for his Rattle That Lock Tour. This event was considered the first in the amphitheatre to feature an audience since the AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius. [103] [104]

    • In Search of. ' s episode No. 82 focuses entirely on Pompeii it premiered on 29 November 1979.
    • The National Geographic special In the Shadow of Vesuvius (1987) explores the sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum, interviews (then) leading archaeologists, and examines the events leading up to the eruption of Vesuvius. [105]
    • Ancient Mysteries: Pompeii: Buried Alive (1996), an A&E television documentary narrated by Leonard Nimoy. [106]
    • Pompeii: The Last Day (2003), an hour-long drama produced for the BBC that portrays several characters (with historically attested names, but fictional life-stories) living in Pompeii, Herculaneum and around the Bay of Naples, and their last hours, including a fuller and his wife, two gladiators, and Pliny the Elder. It also portrays the facts of the eruption.
    • Pompeii and the AD 79 eruption (2004), a two-hour Tokyo Broadcasting System documentary.
    • Pompeii Live (28 June 2006), a Channel 5 production featuring a live archaeological dig at Pompeii and Herculaneum [107][108]
    • Pompeii: The Mystery of the People Frozen in Time (2013), a BBC One drama documentary presented by Dr. Margaret Mountford. [109]
    • The Riddle of Pompeii (23 May 2014), Discovery Channel. [110]
    • Pompeii: The Dead Speak (8 August 2016), Smithsonian Channel. [111]
    • Pompeii's People (3 September 2017), a CBC Gem documentary presented by David Suzuki. [112]

    Entrance to the Basilica in the Forum

    View of the Forum from the Basilica

    Young woman with wax tablets and stylus (so-called "Sappho"), fresco on gesso

    A new era

    One of the first items on the agenda was to protect what had already been excavated. (Today, one third of the site remains underground.) Workers stabilized stone walls and buildings, restored frescoes, and installed new drainage systems to divert rainwater. They also affixed surveillance cameras throughout the ancient city to keep watch over Pompeii’s thousands of daily visitors.

    The project has also led to archaeological discoveries: a treasure trove of amulets a horse still wearing its bronze-plated saddle a fresco of Narcissus staring at himself in a pool. A newly unearthed bit of charcoal graffiti has even shed light on the date of the famous disaster. Scientists now conclude that Vesuvius probably erupted on Oct. 24 — not Aug. 24, as long believed.

    All told, the project has allowed more than 130,000 square feet of the ancient city to be restored and opened (or reopened) to visitors, including the estate of Julia Felix and some three dozen other buildings. Sidewalks have been built along some of the major routes, opening up parts of the ancient city to people in wheelchairs or pushing strollers. The Antiquarium — a small, informative museum near Pompeii’s Porta Marina Gate — opened in 2016 after more than three decades of closure.

    “Now we are out of the emergency,” Francesco Muscolino, an archaeologist with the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, said in his office on the edge of the ancient city. He added that the park became an autonomous entity a few years ago, which means that it can now keep all of the revenues from ticket sales (adult entry costs 15 euros, roughly $16.50). In the past, Dr. Muscolino said, that income went directly to Italy’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, which would then pay back a portion of the revenue to the park.


    • Felch, Jason & Ralph Frammolino. 2011. Chasing Aphrodite. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
    • Harris, Robert. 2002. “The unknown treasures of the Villa of the Papyri”. The Telegraph, 26 March.
    • Harry, Tim. 2009. Ancient towns: Herculaneum. Andover, Mass: Humanities 360 (online).
    • Mastrolorenzo, G., P.P. Petrone, M. Pagano, A. Incoronato, P.J. Baxter, A. Canzanella & L. Fattore. 2001. “Herculaneum Victims of Vesuvius in AD 79”. Nature 410: 769-770.
    • Moore, Malcolm. 2007. “Greek ‘treasures’ expected from Herculaneum”. The Telegraph, 24 October.
    • Stronk, Jan P. & Oude Geschiedenis. 2011. Review of Mantha Zarmakoupi (ed.), The Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum: Archaeology, Reception, and Digital Reconstruction. Sozomena: Studies in the Recovery of Ancient Texts, edited on behalf of the Herculaneum Society, 1. Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2011.10.58.
    • “Pompeii Exhibition: A History of Pompeii and Herculaneum in Numbers”. 2013. The Telegraph, 3 March.
    • Wallace-hadrill, Andrew. 2011. Herculaneum: Past and Future. London: Frances Lincoln Ltd., with the Packard Humanities Institute, Los Altos, California.

    A Pompeiian Pub Lunch:

    (Serves two.)

    Sprigs of oregano garnish the dish. Farrell Monaco

    In his cookbook De Re Coquinaria, the first-century gourmand Marcus Gavius Apicius prepares duck or crane in broth in the following manner. It may seem a bit upmarket for a corner popina, but it is simple by Apician standards and features some of the commonly used ingredients and flavor enhancers of the time.

    Wash and dress (the bird) and put in a large cooking pot add water, salt, dill cook it until it is firm, halfway through the cooking process take it out and put it in another pan with oil and liquamen and with a bundle of oregano and coriander. When it is almost cooked add a little defrutum to add colour. Pound pepper, lovage, cumin, coriander, laser root, rue, caroenum, honey, pour on some of the cooking liquor, flavour with vinegar. Pour this back into the pan so that it warms through. Thicken with starch. Put the bird on a serving dish and pour the sauce over.

    To accompany the main dish, I chose to include mensae, a flatbread that was once thought to be used as both a plate and a utensil. Virgil describes enjoying mensae this way in The Aeneid: After Aeneas and his men eat their meals off the flatbread, they remark, “Oh, look! we are eating our tables too!”

    Broth boiling in an olla over a foculus (terracotta brazier). Farrell Monaco


    I decided to use my terracotta foculus (portable brazier) and ollae (cooking pots) for this recipe in order to simulate the original cooking technologies and the “reek and fume” of Cicero’s stew-houses to the best of my ability. But my portable kitchen may actually be more suited to one of the slaves in Juvenal’s Satires than as a substitute for a fixed hearth in a popina. Home cooks can use a clay pot and tripod over barbecue coals or wood, or regular cookware on their conventional stoves to achieve a similar result.

    I baked some of my flatbreads sub testu—beneath a ceramic testum or clibanus—and some were prepared on a griddle, a technique referenced by Athenaeus in the Deipnosophistae. Part of understanding the working and sensory environment inside a popina involves using the same cooking technologies and the same fuels. Home cooks using modern technologies, however, will have little difficulty making this recipe at home on a stovetop or grill, but you won’t come away from it smelling of woodsmoke and duck fat, as I did.

    The bread baking sub testu. Farrell Monaco


    For the braised duck:
    2 duck breasts or duck legs
    A small bunch of dill or 1 teaspoon (2 grams) of dried dill
    Pinch of salt
    2 tablespoons (20 grams) of olive oil
    2 teaspoons (6 grams) of colatura d’alici or Red Boat fish sauce
    A small bunch of fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon (2 grams) of dried oregano
    A small bunch of fresh coriander or 1 teaspoon (2 grams) of dried coriander
    3 tablespoons (60 grams) defrutum/caroenum (which you can make with this recipe) or store-bought grape molasses
    1 tablespoon (20 grams) red wine vinegar
    1 teaspoon (5 grams) honey
    1 teaspoon (5 grams) diced dandelion greens (cicoria, in Italian) to substitute for rue (which is potentially toxic in high volumes)
    ½ teaspoon (2 grams) each of dried ground black pepper lovage cumin coriander asafoetida (also known as hing and available at most Asian and Indian markets or health-food stores) to substitute for laser (silphium)
    1 tablespoon (15 grams) flour
    1 tablespoon (15 grams) duck fat, lard, or unsalted butter
    Sprigs of fresh oregano (for garnish)

    For the mensae:
    2 cups (250 grams) of stone-ground whole wheat flour
    1/4 cup (60 grams) of sourdough bread starter
    ¾ cup (160 grams) of water
    ½ teaspoon (2 grams) salt
    Olive oil (if frying and not grilling)

    No starter on hand? Make a small sponge composed of equal parts flour and water with 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of commercial baker’s yeast. Use ¼ cup or 60 grams of this sponge for the recipe.

    The duck gets seared with oil, fish sauce, and herbs. Farrell Monaco


    1. Prepare the dough for the mensae: Dissolve the starter in the water, combine with the flour and salt, then knead the dough, cover it, and let it rest for one hour in a warm place.
    2. Place the duck in a pot, submerge it in water, add the dill and pinch of salt, and bring it to a boil. Cover and simmer on medium-low for 45 minutes to create a light broth. If you’re feeling brave, add a few snail shells, goat bones, and pork bones to the broth for added flavor.
    3. After the mensae dough has rested, cut the dough in half, and fold each half into a ball. Using a rolling pin or the palm of your hand, flatten each ball into a disk. Cover with a damp tea towel and let the dough rest for another 30 minutes.
    4. In a pan, combine the olive oil and fish sauce with the oregano and coriander, then heat on medium-high.
    5. Remove the duck from the broth pot and sear it in the pan along with the oil, fish sauce, and herbs. Drizzle with half of the defrutum (or grape molasses). Once the duck has browned, remove it from the pan and set it aside. Keep the drippings in the pan.
    6. In a bowl, combine the remaining defrutum (or grape molasses) with the red wine vinegar, honey, diced dandelion greens (or cicoria), ground black pepper, lovage, cumin, coriander, and asafoetida and whisk it all together.
    7. In the pan, add the flour and duck fat (or lard or unsalted butter) to the drippings and make a roux by dissolving the flour and fat together on low heat. Use a whisk to prevent clumping.
    8. Combine the mixture of honey, vinegar, and spices with 1 cup (215 grams) of the duck broth and slowly add the liquid to the roux in the pan, on low heat, whisking it together until it begins to thicken into a sauce.
    9. Cook both mensae by either heating a grill or a frying pan with olive oil, on medium-high. Place each mensa onto the hot grill or pan and grill it until it starts to inflate. Then flip it over and grill the other side until golden brown. Lower your heat if the mensae are browning too quickly before inflating.
    10. Place a large dollop of the sauce on each serving dish. Slice the duck meat into bite-size morsels and place them on top of the sauce. Drizzle with additional broth to surround the duck morsels and garnish with sprigs of fresh oregano.
    11. Slice the grilled mensae into wedges and serve them alongside the sliced duck to soak up the sauce and the broth.

    Now take your bowl of braised duck and your bread, and imagine you’re in a Pompeiian popina. Find a stool where there’s enough light to see the food in front of you. You may have to sidle up next to a stranger so make sure your coin purse is secure. Best make this your last cup of wine. The ground always trembles beneath your feet when you’ve had too much and it’s doing so right now. Not to worry, the broth and bread will sober you up just enough to stagger out the front door past that dog that won’t stop barking at something off in the distance. Scratch his head to distract him, then say goodbye. Time to go while there’s still daylight. Is it daylight? The air outside has a strange yellow hue to it, and an acrid smell, and the earth feels as if it’s still trembling periodically as you steady yourself on the edge of a fountain. It’s probably just the wine but you’d better get home quickly. A dark cloud is forming above Vesuvio and it looks as if a storm is on its way.

    * Correction: This article originally stated that Pliny wrote the letter in 79 AD. It was several decades after the eruption, around 106 AD.

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    One of Pompeii’s most action-packed frescoes has regained some of its colours after lasers removed centuries-old stains and restorers touched up worn paint.

    Featuring a lion chasing a bull, wild boar bearing down on deer and a leopard pouncing on sheep, the large fresco adorned the garden wall of the Pompeiian magistrate Lucius Ceius Secundus. Vegetation runs along the foot of the fresco, while the owner’s passion for Egypt is revealed by images on a sidewall of sacred Egyptian buildings and African pygmies hunting hippopotamuses and crocodiles.

    The artwork — of hunting scenes — was painted in the so-called ‘Third’ or ‘Ornate’ Pompeii style, which was popular around 20–10 BC and featured vibrant colours.

    In 79 AD, however, the house and the rest of the Pompeii was submerged beneath pyroclastic flows of searing gas and volcanic matter from the eruption of Vesuvius. Poor maintenance since the house was dug up in 1913–14 saw the hunting fresco and others deteriorate, particularly at the bottom, which is more vulnerable to humidity.

    The main section of the fresco depicts a lion pursuing a bull, a leopard pouncing on sheep and a wild boar charging towards some deer. Frescos commonly adorned the perimeter walls of Pompeiian gardens and were intended to evoke an atmosphere — often one of tranquillity — while also creating the illusion that the area was larger than in reality, much as we use mirrors today.

    A stunning fresco in the garden of Pompeii’s Casa dei Ceii (House of the Ceii) has been painstakingly laser-cleaned and touched up with fresh paint by expert restorers

    ‘What makes this fresco so special is that it is complete — something which is rare for such a large fresco at Pompeii,’ site director Massimo Osanna told The Times.

    Alongside the haunting imagery of the now restored fresco, with its wild animals, the sidewalls of the garden featured Egyptian-themed landscapes, with beasts of the Nile delta-like crocodiles and hippopotamuses hunted by African pygmies and a ship shown transporting amphorae.

    Experts believe the owner of the townhouse, or ‘domus’, had a connection or fascination with Egypt and potentially also the cult of Isis, that of the wife of the Egyptian god of the afterlife, which was popular in Pompeii in its final years.

    In fact, the residence has been associated with one Lucius Ceius Secundus, a magistrate — based on an electoral inscription found on the building’s exterior — and it is after him that it takes its name, ‘Casa dei Ceii’.

    The property, which stood for some two centuries before the eruption, is one of the rare examples of a Domus in the somewhat severe style of the late Samnite period of the second century BC.

    The house’s front façade sports an imitation ‘opus quadratum’ (cut stone block) design in white stucco and a high entranceway set between two rectangular pilasters capped with cube-shaped capitals.

    Casa dei Ceii’s footprint covered some 3,100 square feet (288 sq. m) and contained an unusual tetrastyle (four-pillared) atrium and a rainwater-collecting impluvium basin in a Grecian style, one rare for Pompeii, lined with cut amphora fragments.

    The artwork — of hunting scenes — was painted in the so-called ‘Third’ or ‘Ornate’ Pompeii style, which was popular around 20–10 BC and featured vibrant colours, as pictured The property, which stood for some two centuries before the eruption, is one of the rare examples of a domus in the somewhat severe style of the late Samnite period of the second century BC. The house’s front façade sports an imitation ‘opus quadratum’ (cut stone block) design in white stucco and a high entranceway set between two rectangular pilasters capped with cube-shaped capitals, as pictured

    Other rooms found inside the property included a triclinium, where lunch would have been taken, two storage rooms, a tablinum which the master of the house would have used as an office and reception room and a kitchen with a latrine.

    An upper floor, which partially collapsed during the eruption, would have been used by the household servants and appeared to be in the process of being renovated or constructed at the time of the catastrophe.

    The garden on whose back wall was adorned by the hunting fresco, meanwhile, featured a canal and two fountains, one of a nymph and the other a sphynx.

    During the excavation of the townhouse, archaeologists found the skeleton of a turtle preserved in the garden. The recent restoration work saw the paint film of much of the fresco — particularly a section featuring botanical decoration — carefully cleaned with a special laser.

    The recent restoration work saw the paint film of much of the fresco — particularly a section featuring botanical decoration — carefully cleaned with a special laser. Experts also carefully retouched the paint in areas of the fresco that had been abraded over time, as well as instigating protective measures to help prevent the future infiltration of rainwater

    ‘What makes this fresco so special is that it is complete — something which is rare for such a large fresco at Pompeii,’ site director Massimo Osanna told The Times

    Experts also carefully retouched the paint in areas of the fresco that had been abraded over time, protective measures have also been taken to help prevent the future infiltration of rainwater that could damage the artwork.

    Experts believe the owner of the town house, or ‘domus’, had a connection or fascination with Egypt and perhaps the cult of Isis, that of the wife of the Egyptian god of the afterlife, which was popular in Pompeii in its final years. Pictured: the bull on the bottom right of the fresco. Casa dei Ceii’s footprint covered some 3,100 square feet (288 sq. m) and contained an unusual tetrastyle (four-pillared) atrium and a rainwater-collecting impluvium basin in a Grecian style, one rare for Pompeii, lined with cut amphora fragments

    The First Pompeian Style

    The first Pompeian style, or “Incrustation Style” (ca. 200–60 BC), consisted mainly of imitations of colored marble. Plaster was molded and painted to look like blocks or panels of colored stones. The First Style originated in the Hellenistic world in the late fourth century BC and was used in Roman homes in the last two centuries of the Republic. There is almost nothing left of the masterpieces of Greek painting but one painted wall panel dating to the 2nd century BC was found in the so-called House of the Plaster, in the Macedonian’s capital of Pella. In Pompeii, significant examples of this fist Pompeian style are found in the House of Sallust and in the House of the Faun.

    The first style is hardly present in Gaul. This is not surprising since this old style gave way to a more fashionable and stylish type of frescoes. Only a few stucco fragments have been found at Île Sainte-Marguerite near Cannes which can be seen at the exhibition.

    Ancient Roman frescos ‘worthy of Pompeii’ found in southern France

    Archaeologists have unearthed extremely rare ancient Roman frescoes, comparable to those found in the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii, in the southern city of Arles.

    The unexpected discovery was made during a dig on the remains of a Roman villa near a car park in the Trinquetaille district of the historic French city, which began last year.

    To their astonishment, archaeologists from the National Institute of Preventive Archaeological research (Inrap) uncovered the state room of the wealthy Roman villa to find one of the only full murals ever found outside Italy – others have simply been fragments. The frescoes were painted between 20 and 70 BC.

    Archaeologists have compared the frescoes to those found in the villa of Boscoreale and the famous Villa of Misteryes in Pompeii, the ancient Roman town near Naples that was preserved under lava from an eruption of the Mt Vesuvius volcano.

    After collecting several parts of a mural in a cubiculum (bedroom) composed of an antichamber and alcove last year, experts moved on to the state room of the Roman domus.

    Among 11 images released on Friday by the Museum of Ancient Arles is one of a beautiful woman plucking the strings of a harp in rich Egyptian blues and red vermilion pigments, and whose pink lips and upturned face demonstrate “astonishing expressivity”. The fresco was only unearthed three weeks ago after spending 2,000 years in the dark.

    The use of such luxurious colours underlines the wealth of the area during Roman times, experts said. The villa no doubt belonged either to rich tradesmen or the political elite of the city.

    This part of Arles was a “sort of Beverly Hills” until the area was abandoned after a fire in the year 260, archaeologist Alain Genot told Le Monde newspaper. He said the quality of the works suggested the fresco artists had been dispatched from Italy to paint them.

    Until now, only fragments of such Pompeii-style frescoes have been found in France. The mural also comprises false columns imitating marble and several figures painted against a vermillion background at half or three quarters life size. Experts said they were excellently preserved in earth and constituted a “veritable archaeological treasure”.

    A new dig is planned for 2016 on a third villa.

    After this excavation, the scientists will have over 12,000 boxes of the fresco fragments stored in black sand. These still need to be painstakingly pieced together like a giant puzzle. “There will be gaps, missing pieces in these frescoes that will be reborn,” said Marie-Pierre Rothé, scientific head of the operation. But she said the overall result will be “unique”.

    She said it appears that other figures in the mural include the Greek god Pan and the entourage of Bacchus.

    Because of the number of fragments, it could be as long as 10 years before the full fresco is completed.

    However, Alain Charron, head curator at the Museum of Ancient Arles, said that parts of the mural could be exhibited temporarily before then to show off this incredible find.

    The frescoes will be displayed alongside another major discovery of recent years – the oldest life-sized bust of Julius Caesar ever discovered.

    Depicting the Roman emperor at an advanced age, with wrinkles and hollows in his face, the bust was discovered by divers in 2008 along with a collection of other finds in the Rhone near Arles, which Caesar founded.

    Gritty Naples and Ill Fated Pompeii

    There can’t be many places in Italy or even Europe that can match the grittiness and cultural richness of Naples. Add to this concoction a menacing volcano and two ill-fated ancient cities in the neighboring towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii and you will have a recipe for one of the most fascinating places you will ever visit.

    We are visiting this region by motorhome and we have already been staying at the Agricamping Stone Vesuvius not far from the ruins of Herculaneum (blog post here). After already being in the area for two nights we have finally made it to the ruins of Pompeii. This UNESCO World Heritage archeological site is famous worldwide and one of the most visited in Europe.

    We left our motorhome site in Ercolano soon after breakfast and made our way to the Ercolano Scavi train station, it was very easy and cheap to purchase a ticket to ride the Circumvesuviana to Pompeii Scavi. The ruins are a very short walk from the train station. We had already bought the tickets for the ruins of Pompeii online the day before (due to the recent Covid-19 and limits on tourist numbers the sale of tickets is now online).

    Our visit to Pompeii being on a Saturday, we had expected it to be a lot busier, but we were pleasantly surprised at how quiet it was. There were a couple of medium-size group excursions with a guide, but otherwise, there were just a few other independent travelers.

    The Ruins of Pompeii

    This haunting Roman city has been frozen in time for almost two thousand years, preserved under volcanic rocks and ash. Before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, Pompeii was an important port town controlled by the Ancient Roman Empire. A bustling city with hotels, restaurants, bars, bakers, some humble roman homes, as well as wealthy homes, and even a brothel. There was also a Basilica and even a large Anfiteatro, which is the oldest known Roman Amphitheater in existence.

    The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius started just after midday on August 24th AD 79, captured in a vivid eye witness report preserved in two letters written by Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus. Volcanic ash, pumice, and debris began falling down on Pompeii, covering the city to a depth of more than 9 feet/3 meters and causing the roofs of houses to cave in. By the early morning of August 25th surges, of pyroclastic material and hot gases killed the remaining residents. More volcanic ash and pyroclastic flows further buried the city under another at least 9 feet of debris.

    The city remained sealed and protected from the effects of the weather, the rise and fall of empires, vandalizing and looting for hundreds of years until it was discovered by the architect Domenico Fontana in the 16th Century during his aqueduct tunneling work. But proper excavations only started in 1748, although early excavations did not follow a proper system and were often carried out by treasure seekers or workers not properly trained in the preservation of ancient sites, therefore causing more harm than good.

    It is a large site and there are many highlights so having a guide could be useful… although not cheap. We downloaded an app and proceeded under our own steam, wandering the streets and entering some of the houses (not all houses are open to the public).

    We entered the site via the Porta Marina/Sea Gate, which is the main entrance. Originally, the gate would have connected the town with the nearby harbor since Ancient Pompeii stood on the shores of the Mediterraneum. But the Mt. Vesuvius eruptions extended the shorelines far from the walls of the city. This is the most impressive of the seven gates of Pompeii, providing access to the West of the city.

    We entered via the Porta Marina/Sea Gate.

    The gate/porta had two thick arches with the main one being higher, intended for the passage of carts and horses, and the other for people.

    Built during the second century BC, the gate has two thick arches with the main one being higher, intended for the passage of carts and horses, the smaller one was for pedestrian passage. We walked past the Basilica and entered the open-air “Foro” which would have been the main hub of the city.

    The Forum or “Foro” was the hub of all activity. See here the columns of the Temple of Jupiter with Mt. Vesuvius looking ominous in the distance.

    Brian next to some of the restored columns of the Forum.

    Altar of the Temple to Vespasian.

    The main hub of activity of the city was the Forum, like the main Piazza, situated at an intersection of some of Pompeii’s main streets. There were many commercial and civic buildings, major temples, and statues here. For example, the Temple of Apollo and also the Temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva (the three gods that were worshiped on the Capitol Hill in Rome) are situated here. There are lots to see, so we took our time exploring. Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic tourist numbers were greatly reduced and we found it to be nothing like the photos we have seen of a usually very busy site.

    Granai del Foro – Forum Granary

    A Granary market in Ancient times, it is nowadays used to store many of the artifacts found on the site. Located in the North-West end of the Forum, this place is a must-visit. Although you can’t enter it, you can look through the iron bars for a peek into the essence of life in this city.

    Hundreds of amphorae at the Forum Granary, also plaster casts showing how the bodies were positioned in their final moments.

    There are tools, pottery, many ancient Roman jars ( amphorae), and a few plaster casts of the volcano eruption victims. The casts were made in the late 19th century by Giuseppe Fiorelli who thought of pouring plaster into hollows left by the disintegrating bodies of Pompeii’s ancient residents, showing how the bodies were positioned in their final moments.

    Casa Del Fauno – House of Faun

    The House of Faun was Pompeii’s largest and most impressive private house, built during the second century BC, it covered 3000 square meters of an entire city block, some of the early excavations (1830) found many of the greatest mosaics (many now housed at the museum in Naples – Museo Archeologico Nazionale), including the Alexander Mosaic, depicting Alexander The Great in battle.

    The house of Faun was Pompeii’s largest and most impressive private house.

    Although the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius was devastating, the layers of ash following the eruption preserved the mosaics and artwork. The House of the Faun was so named because of the small bronze statue of the Danzante Fauno/Dancing Faun (Fauns were spirits of untamed woodland) which was found during the excavations of this site. There is a copy of it here, but the original is at the National Archeological Museum in Naples.

    The House of Menander

    One of the richest and most magnificent houses in ancient Pompeii. The owner was likely to have been an aristocrat with a taste for the beautiful and fine things in life. Many of the house walls were covered in beautiful ancient frescoes and there were intricate mosaic floors.

    There are many other interesting houses to explore in these ruins of Ancient Pompeii and we wandered around mesmerized by the intimate insight into the homes and lives of influential people as well as the more ordinary citizens. From modest homes to large magnificent villas of the noble class built with large rooms, inner courtyards, sumptuous decorations, mosaics, and paintings.

    Thermopolium of Pompeii

    The Thermopolium was like a fast-food bar for the residents, who would perch up to the counter to purchase hot food and drinks. There were around 150 of these long bar-like restaurants around the city, where people could grab a quick meal. Most residents didn’t actually cook for themselves, eating out was predominant since many residents could not afford their own private kitchen. Many of the houses of ordinary Pompeii citizens would have been too small to house a kitchen.

    ‘Thermopolium’ would have served hot food and drinks from its deep jars.

    As we wandered around we could almost visualize and piece together their ways of life, tastes in art, love, lust, religion, and politics.

    Anfiteatro- Theater Area

    Built-in 70 BC it is the oldest surviving Roman amphitheater known to have been built of stone. Many gladiatorial battles would have taken place here to entertain locals as well as visitors.

    Fancy watching a show here?

    It continues to be used nowadays for various shows, including a summer season of classical theatre. Amazingly Frank Sinatra and also Pink Floyd have performed here.

    Pompeii Streets

    Some of the ancient Pompeii streets were cleverly designed with large, elevated stepping block stones, allowing people to cross the street without getting their feet wet during a rainstorm and also avoiding stepping into animal waste in places that did not have a good sewage system.

    Fascinating Pompeii streets.

    The large cobblestoned streets had raised curbs on either side that would have been lined with shops and houses. The horse-pulled carts and chariots would travel up and down the streets transporting people and goods around. We walked around the many empty streets of Pompeii imagining it bursting with life back in ancient times.

    The “Large Palaestra”

    Situated near the amphitheater, the “Large Palaestra” consists of a large open-air courtyard area, surrounded by porticoes and enclosed by a high wall with battlements in which there are 10 doors. It was built at the beginning of the 1st century AD and was intended for the physical and intellectual training of young citizens…in other words, brainwashing them (just speculating). Apparently many victims of the Mt. Vesuvius eruption looked for refuge here but perished and their remains were found during the excavations.

    Fascinating artifacts found during the excavations.

    The cast of a victim of the eruption.

    Nowadays the Palaestra hosts the permanent exhibition of the grand frescoes and artifacts found in the Complex of the Moregine Triclinia, a distinguished building situated about 600 meters away from the site of Pompeii, at the river port and also other temporary exhibits. It was fascinating to spend some time here exploring the many exhibits.

    Igor Mitoraj Sculptures at Pompeii

    It is not just ancient history here at the ruins of Pompeii. The amazing bronze sculptures by the late Polish artist Igor Mitoraj have been placed in different areas of the ancient site. There are 30 sculptures being exhibited. According to Massimo Osanna, Director-General of Pompeii Superintendency “Mitoraj sculptures remind us with their immanence, of the profound value classical antiquity has in contemporary culture”.

    The Centauro, bronze sculpture by Igor Mitoraj (1994).

    After at least four hours of exploring the ruins of Pompeii, we grabbed some coffee and cakes at the cafe and sat down for a while to relax and take stock of the day. Afterward, we felt ready to be heading back to our home-on-wheels.

    Leaving Pompeii under the gaze of the large bronze statue of Daedalus (Dedalo) by Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj.

    We walked out via the same gate we have entered earlier, the”Porta Marina” towards the Pompei Scavi train station. We noticed “Campsite Zeus”, right next door the Pompeii ruins, and thought that if we ever returned here by motorhome we would probably stay at this site since it is so convenient. But the Circumvesuviana train to Ercolano Scavi soon deposited us back to where we had first started earlier on in the day and we then just walked uphill to our campsite.

    After a good night of rest, we were ready for our last full day of exploring this area from our current campsite in Ercolano ( we still had more to explore in this region, but we would be moving to another campsite). Unfortunately, the weather the next day was not great and we had rain showers throughout our day of exploring Naples.


    We were looking forward to exploring this gritty and chaotic city, often described as the “soul” of Italy. Naples is Italy’s third-largest city, after Rome and Milan. We visited on a Sunday in October/2020 when the infection rates of Covid-19 were just starting to rise again in Italy. But the city was eerily quiet, most people were wearing face-masks when walking around and it was compulsory inside buildings and restaurants (apart from when eating).

    From our campsite, we walked down to the Ercolano Scavi train station and caught the Circumvesuviana train to Piazza Garibaldi train station. Since it was raining we decided to take the underground (Metro) from Piazza Garibaldi to Piazza Cavour, which was the nearest train station for our visit to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. We bought the train ticket at the train station, from one of the machines, with help from one of the Station assistants who spoke very good English and was doing a great job of helping out tourists like ourselves.

    Piazza Garibaldi Metro Station was virtually empty on a Sunday morning.

    Naples Metro/Underground train line. We took the black line from Piazza Garibaldi to Piazza Cavour.

    The train was virtually empty and everyone wore a face-mask. From Piazza Cavour, we walked a short distance to the Museum. There were lockers for leaving our backpacks and umbrellas at the museum entrance.

    Museo Archeologico Nazionale – This Museum houses a huge collection of Greek and Roman ancient art and artifacts. We were particularly interested in seeing many of the frescos, mosaics, and other artifacts from the Herculaneum and Pompeii excavations.

    The ground floor has some magnificent sculptures with the stars of the show being the two large sculptures: The “Toro Farnese” and Hercules.

    The Farnese Bull (Toro Farnese), mentioned in the Natural History of Pliny the Elder is huge. Sculpted from a single block of marble, this masterpiece was unearthed in Rome in 1545 and restored by Michelangelo, before brought to Naples in 1788. Widely considered the largest single sculpture ever recovered from antiquity.

    Toro Farnese marble sculpture.

    The mighty statue of Hercules was also discovered in Rome, minus his legs. Therefore, the sculptor Guglielmo Della Porta, commissioned by Michelangelo managed to sculpt a new pair of legs for him. The original legs were later discovered and re-instated.

    Perhaps the museum’s most spectacular room is the Hall of Sundial (Salone Della Meridiana) featuring a vault fresco by Pietro Bardellino honoring King Ferdinand IV and Maria Carolina of Austria.

    Hall of Sundial (Salone della Meridiana).

    The museum is a treasure trove of precious mosaics, ancient frescoes, pottery, glassware, sculptures. Many of the articles were found during the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum. On the Mezzanine floor, there were some exquisite mosaics and quite a lot of ancient erotica. Some of the large floor mosaics from the House of Faun are being kept here for preservation since some are considered the most important works of art from antiquity. Such as the mural of Alexander the Great in the battle against the Persian king Darius III.

    Brian inspecting the mural of Alexander the Great in the battle against the Persian king Darius III, found in Pompeii’s House of Faun.

    “Beware of the dog” mosaic, would have been a “welcome” sign at a Pompeii home.

    The mezzanine had some sort of “secret chamber” a room housing some of the more risque erotically themed collection of artworks and objects. They were quite obsessed with phallic symbols in Roman homes, considered symbols of good fortune, success, and fertility. This room was kept under lock and key during the censorship years after the revolution of 1848 and the monarchy and government at the time were keen for the lot to be destroyed.

    Gabinetto Secreto/ Secret Chamber

    Limiting viewership and censorship have always been part of the history of the collection and since being rebuilt a few years ago with some new regulations, the collection was finally opened to the public in April 2000. Visitors under the age of 14 can tour the exhibit only with an adult. The room was closed during our visit, so we just managed a quick glance through the glass door.

    The first floor has a huge collection of frescoes, pottery, and sculptures found during the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum. There was also a model of Pompeii showing a 1:100 scale from the beginning of excavations to after WWII.

    Model of Pompeii showing a 1:100 scale.

    It was dismantled during WWII in order to be kept protected from the war events, finally, it was reassembled and placed in the Museum in 1950. The large model was designed on the initiative of Giuseppe Fiorelli, supervisor of the excavations of Pompeii from 1861and curator of the Museum from1863 to 1875.

    It was really good to visit the museum after visiting the ruins, although it does not matter in what order you visit, I would certainly recommend a visit to this museum. History and culture made us hungry, so we went in search of another Naples experience.

    Pizza in Naples – The pizza in Naples can arguably claim to be the best in the world since Naples is its birthplace. The pizza Napoletana originated in Naples and is prepared with simple and fresh ingredients, such as a basic dough, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and olive oil. Apparently fancy toppings are NOT allowed! It is cooked at high temperature and it will consist of a thin and soft crust.

    We did eat every morsel of our giant pizzas.

    We also felt that a lot of care was taken regarding Covid-19 safety, inside the restaurant.

    Naples is one of Italy’s gastronomic meccas, with many trattorias serving some delicious meals. We chose Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo and we would certainly recommend this place. There was no queuing when we arrived around midday, but there was a huge queue when we left later on.

    The heart of the city is the “Centro Storico”, in itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for anyone staying overnight in Naples, the Historic Centre would make the perfect location.

    Naples Underground/Napoli Sotterranea – This tour will take visitors to about forty feet beneath the surface of Naples, and introduce them to a dark and bleak world underground.

    Very interesting tour of Naples Underground.

    There is quite a bit of walking up and downstairs and narrow passages. It can at times feel quite claustrophobic. There are shelters here that were used during WWII.

    World War II shelter in Napoli Soterranea.

    The most impressive part of the tour is when you each take a battery-operated candle, and squeeze yourself through the tight, claustrophobic passages of the ancient cisterns, marveling at the aqueduct through which water still runs today. After the tour of underground Naples, we went back to the current day street level.

    Roman Theather discovered under the city of Naples.

    Our guide then led us to a family house where they discovered part of a Roman Theater in the wine cellar. We were not able to see much of this old theater, but it was fascinating to hear about this history and particularly to imagine that there is a whole ancient city buried underground. Unfortunately, it can’t be excavated, since it would be too expensive to buy the properties of all the people who live here in the modern Naples above.

    Christmas Alleway of Naples– The Via San Gregorio Armeno in Naples Centro Storico is a must-visit.

    Christmas is an all-year-round event here.

    Recognize any of these famous faces?

    The pedestrian street is filled with artisan workshops and hundreds of handcrafted nativity scenes and figurines, which have been here since the 17th Century. It is the ultimate place to find elaborately crafted and quite unique nativity scenes. Interestingly there are also more modern figurines of politicians and celebrities, alongside the biblical characters of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. We really enjoyed browsing around here, some of the nativity scenes can be quite expensive, but they are hand-made and look so intricate.

    The historic center is quite compact and easy to explore on foot, although doing a Vespa/bike tour could also be a good way of exploring, we left “Little Bill” (our scooter) at home and used the public transport instead, which was probably a wise idea since the traffic in Naples is totally chaotic.

    Naples receives millions of visitors every year and it is not surprising why it would be so popular. There are enough things to do in this city to keep anyone occupied for a very long time, but with only one day to explore Naples, we barely scratched the surface. There is stunning architecture, gorgeous Piazzas and one is never far from a beautiful church or two. Unfortunately, the weather was not great for our visit, although it did not stop us from enjoying ourselves and falling in love with Naples. We returned home later in the evening, catching the Circumvesuviana again back to Ercolano Scavi.

    Our motorhome trip did not end here, since there are plenty more things to see and explore in this region of Italy, but we decided to move campsites and left Ercolano the following day bound for Sorrento, from where we explored the Amalfi Coast and the Island of Capri. I will be writing about our stay in Sorrent in my next blog post.

    Watch the video: BUNDLES OF YAMASHITA TREASURE RECOVERED IN THE PHILIPPINES 2021 #YAMASHITA #yashashree clarice (June 2022).

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