In 1549, a group of people digging to re-direct the river Sarno were halted by their finding of a wall and on the wall, some paintings. As they began to uncover more, they eventually realised they had stumbled upon something quite special: Pompeii. Covered by ash from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD, Pompeii’s buildings, artwork, streets and essentially, life was preserved beautifully and in many cases, pristinely.
In June 2016 I had the privilege of visiting Pompeii. The first half of the day, I have to admit felt a little slow. We had a guide who knew lots about Pompeii and was really kind, but unfortunately was incredibly dull and managed to numb my excitement for being in this beautiful lost city. So eventually we thanked her for her time and went our separate ways.
Wandering around Pompeii was like going back in time. The standard of preservation on so many of the artefacts was so good that it felt like we were experiencing a brand new masterpiece. The deep colours and detail in the artwork was still there. There is so much to take in, the buildings, the streets, even the way the city is laid out. We saw how fast-food was served in open-fronted shops. There was clever placement of water fountains every few hundred metres to make sure all Pompeiians were well hydrated. The amphitheatre was stunning with the gymnasium opposite, where Gladiators would train before performing to the crowds.
Streets still displayed grooves in the roads where the wheels of horse-drawn chariots and carts would have worn the stone down. Phallic engravings in stone walls directed us to the Pompeiian red light district which, for some reason, seemed very popular with older-lady-German tourists!
Pompeii was an affluent city with large city walls and gates that would close at night time to keep the city safe. Towards the far edge of the city we could see the view of Vesuvius: the volcano that spelled Pompeii’s end. There was a display of a family that was found under all the ash. They hadn’t managed to escape the suffocating ash that fell on Pompeii in the wake of the eruption. It was quite a harrowing display. There were children who were still positioned covering their faces, adults mid-crawl as they tried to escape death.
It was a huge city of 10,000 inhabitants. In fact, they have only been able to uncover about 1/3 of the city so far and it was evident that more discoveries were being made while I was there.