Pompeii, Italy - Haunting Heritage
06-07-2018    95 times
Pompeii Italy

Located near modern Naples in Italy, Pompeii can be termed as a ghost city. During its prime time, this prosperous trade centre on the Bay of Naples was cruelly obliterated and lost from the earth. In 79 AD, a deadly eruption of Mount Vesuvius destroyed the city of Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and the surrounding area and buried the beautiful city under 13 to 20 feet of volcanic ash and pumice. It was estimated that, by the time of destruction its population was 11.000.

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The ancient city of Pompeii was probably founded in the seventh or sixth century BC by the Osci or Oscans, an ancient race of central Italy. Even in those early days, the city had a complex water system, a gymnasium, an amphitheatre, and an astonishing mix of several thousand buildings. It is estimated that the city's most important religious structure, the Temple of Apollo, was built in the 2nd century BC.

Pompeii
The ruins of Pompeii
The ruins of Pompeii

Scholars opined that, at the time of the eruption, Pompeii was at its prime and many Romans frequented the city on vacations. It is believed that even Emperor Nero (37- 68CE) owned a villa near Pompeii and his wife Poppaea Sabina was a native of the town. From the large number of well-preserved frescoes it is evident that, in those early days the people of Pompeii were quite advanced in art history of the ancient world, with the innovation of the Pompeian Styles. Some aspects of the culture were distinctly erotic. The image of Phallus was frequently used as a good-luck charm in various types of decoration. A large collection of erotic objects and frescoes were found at Pompeii. For reasons unknown, many of those items were removed from the original spot and kept until recently in a secret collection at the University of Naples.

Pompeii
Inside one of the newly restored houses of Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii
Roman fresco of making love, found in the bedroom of the Casa del Centenario

Like many Roman towns, Pompeii was also walled with many gates, often with two or three arched entrances to separate pedestrian and vehicle traffic. It was, in fact, a holiday resort and many of its furnished villas and apartments were artistically designed to attract the wealthy guests. It had plenty of public baths, public latrines, shops, large villas, modest housing, temples, taverns (cauponae), schools, a basilica, theatres, spots for parties, including a generously-sized brothel where anthropologists have found a lot of hilariously obscene graffiti. Casa del Centenario (House of the Centenary), the house of a wealthy resident of Pompeii, was discovered in 1879. It was one of the largest buildings in the city, equipped with private baths, a fish pond (piscina), a nymphaeum (a monument consecrated to the nymphs), and two atria. The building consisted of several well furnished rooms decorated with number of paintings, apart from a special room ornamented with explicit erotic scenes. In all probability, that was specifically designed for a private sex club.

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Like the ‘House of the Faun’, many houses in Pompeii had a private garden (hortus) with statues, ornate fountains, and vine-covered pergolas. In complete contrast to the richer residences, slave quarters were cramped and like prison cells. It may sound strange, but skeletons of chained slaves were found in Pompeii, as their chains were not removed despite the imminent disaster.

Pompeii
Pompeii
Paved ways in Pompeii

A devastating eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE destroyed the city of Pompeii, killed its inhabitants and buried it under tons of volcanic ash. It was lost and forgotten for more than 1,500 years until its initial discovery in 1599. However, it was rediscovered almost 150 years later, in 1748, by a Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre. It was also discovered at that time that, everything that was buried under the ash, was perfectly preserved for centuries, since devoid of air and moisture. These artifacts provide an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city during the early Roman period.

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The fatal blow came upon the city of Pompeii on 24th August 79 AD, as Mt. Vesuvius erupted, just one day after the festival of the Roman god of fire. At midday a massive explosion blew off the entire cone of Vesuvius and a mountainous mushroom cloud of pumice particles rose 43 km (27 miles) into the sky. In the beginning the ash that started to rain down on Pompeii was light in weight, but within minutes it covered everything. People tried to flee the town or tried desperately to find shelters to keep themselves above the shifting layers of volcanic material. But, in the late afternoon another massive explosion rang the air, sending a huge towering ash six miles higher than the previous cloud and much heavier than in the first eruption. Inevitably, buildings began to collapse under the pressure of accumulated weight. Survivors huddled near walls and under stairs for greater protection, some hugging their loved ones or clasping their most precious possessions. Finally, at the dead of night, at about 11pm, the huge accumulated cloud hanging above the volcano collapsed from its own weight and blasted the town in six devastating waves of super-heated ash and air which asphyxiated and literally baked the bodies of the entire population. Thus, the once vibrant city of Pompeii was buried deep under the accumulated volcanic ash, to be lost and forgotten and wiped from the face of the Earth.

Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii
Bodies from Pompeii

Prolonged scientific studies and specific experiments clearly indicate that the people of Pompeii, who were previously believed to have died by ash suffocation, were actually instantly died due to the tremendous heat generated by the volcanic eruption. The result of a study also indicated that, exposure to the tremendous heat of at least 250 °C (482 °F), ), that surged at a distance of 10 km (6 miles) from the top of Mt. Vesuvius was more than sufficient to cause instant death, even if people were sheltered within buildings.

After excavation it was found that, the ashes had acted as a marvelous preservative and underneath the accumulated dust and debris, Pompeii was almost exactly as it had been 2,000 years before. The buildings were intact. Skeletons were frozen right where they had fallen. Everyday objects and household goods littered the streets. It was also revealed that, Pompeii had suffered from other seismic events before the eruption. In 62 CE both the city of Pompeii and Herculaneum were severely damaged by an earthquake and the cities were yet to recover, when the violent eruption struck as the final blow 17 years later.

Pompeii
Ruins of Pompeii amphitheater

The 2000 year-old Schola Armatorum (House of the Gladiators) of Pompeii, collapsed on 6 November 2010. It is suggested that, water infiltration following heavy rains might have done the damage. Nevertheless, Pompeii, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1997.

Pompeii
Ruins of Pompeii amphitheater

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Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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