Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ruins of the World: Pompeii

I love ruins.  There is nothing more exciting than scrambling all over an ancient site where a once great civilization lived and ruled.  There is so much you can tell about them and how advanced they were just by what is still left behind today.  But usually ruins are just that:  ruins.  You can tell where a wall or a roof might have been, but in many cases, there’s just not much left.  Not so with one of our favorite sites:  Pompeii.   

Pompeii was covered with ash back in 79 AD by an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius which is still an active volcano today near Naples, Italy.  That ash buried Pompeii, but at the same time it preserved it.  The ancient city was completely forgotten until accidentally discovered again in the 18th century.   

In recent history, archeologists have worked to uncover it and what they have found is a city frozen in time. The cobblestone streets appear as they did when Roman chariots rode them.   

There’s a large beautiful ampitheater where shows are still held today. 
There’s a roman bath where you can still see what’s left of the beautiful fountains and artwork on the ceilings.  

On one well-preserved street there is a bakery with a large stone that was used to grind the wheat for bread.   

What is really unique about Pompeii is that the homes were preserved.  Most world-renowned ruins are of temples or monuments, such as in Egypt, but homes were usually made of wood or mud or lesser materials that wouldn’t last through the centuries.  In Pompeii you can actually walk in someone’s home and see their courtyard and, in many cases, mosaics and paintings on the walls, still very colorful today.   
One of the most interesting buildings that is very well-preserved is a brothel.  It’s a 2 story building that actually had “menus” painted on the walls where a “patron” could order what he wanted.  These “menus” are amusingly graphic and still amazingly visible today. 

The brothel had stone beds and even a toilet which looks like a latrine. 

One of the most amazing things of all in Pompeii, however, is that archeologists have found bodies of victims.  Actually what they found was the space where a decomposed body had been.  They then filled it with a polymer and were able to basically make a “cast” of the body.  

You can actually see the victims’ tortured positions as they succumbed to the ash.  It’s chilling and it’s about as close as you’ll ever get to a 2000 year old body.   

You can spend a whole day walking this fascinating place.  We’d recommend the audio tour.  There’s also a sound and light show at night that re-enacts the eruption.  The Roman Empire is one of the greatest stories in history, Pompeii is like walking back in time to where the average Roman lived.

Book your own 'excellent adventure' with Ann at Travel Leaders. 800-525-1570 or 317-573-6666.

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