I went through a stage as a kid when I wanted to be an archeologist. It didn’t work out, but Pompeii has always since been a place I wanted to visit. Well, we did.
When I first read about the eruption of Mt Vesuvius, I pictured lava flows engulfing the city. Of course, had that happened there would be nothing to see today. People were killed and the place destroyed/preserved by gas and a heat shock wave followed by ash that collapsed most roofs and covered everything for posterity and giving us a one of our best looks at daily life in the Roman Empire in the first century.
Pompeii was a Roman colony, planted in the extraordinarily fertile volcanic soil. Until the unfortunate incident in AD 79, life was good. It was a rich little town, with baths, brothels and three theaters – a fair climate with beautiful mountains behind and the Mediterranean Sea in front. The Empire was at peace and competently managed.
If we want a modern analogy to Pompeii, it would be something like a pleasant seaside town in California. Carmel, Pompeii was like Carmel, or maybe like Sorrento closer by.
My first picture shows the streets of Pompeii. Those blocks in the middle of the street were NOT ancient speed bumps. Chariots and carts could not get much speed up on those ancient streets. Rather, they were crosswalks. It was not pleasant to set foot in the street. They were rivers of shit, from horses, donkey and people. The shit flowed downhills and eventually into the sea. They washed it down in the morning. Water was piped in from the mountains fifty miles away. Romans were good engineers. The water never stopped, since it was gravity fed from the mountains. Pipes were made of lead, but Romans did not suffer lead poisoning from the pipes, because the constantly flowing water prevented dangerous buildup. The next pictures is one of drinking the fountains.
Next are a couple of pictures of quality of life. We have the “lobby” of a theater, an oven for baking bread and the arches of an ancient bath house. The people of nearby Naples claim to have invented Pizza. Of course, pizza as we know was unavailable to the Romans, since tomatoes did not make the voyage from the New World until after 1492. They did bake a flat plate-like bread like a pizza crust. Archeologists found remains of bread still in the ovens. The eruptions came as a surprise to all involved. I will add a few more pictures in the next post.