Pompeii: a fascinating town suspended in time

Casts in Pompeii.
Casts in Pompeii.

Pompeii is probably the most fascinating place in Italy and well worth a visit if you’re in the Naples area.

At one time, this incredible place was a thriving, industrious Roman town with everything a wealthy Roman might want, such as elegant villas, theatres, shops and baths plus - on the more decadent side of things - brothels.

Carol Forster

Carol Forster

Here wealthy Romans lived alongside slaves, artisans and shop-keepers.

Sophisticated bath houses would pamper the hedonistic rich who lived or stayed there, while people in bustling shops and market places would all have been oblivious to their fate.

The town houses were quite luxurious with art work and frescoes, while pavements curiously featured small phalluses; their purpose a source of debate, perhaps to ward off evil spirits.

So, bearing all this in mind, this town was clearly a remarkable feat of Roman design before its disastrous fate.

On August 24 79 AD, volcano Mount Vesuvius started a series of eruptions which developed into the cataclysmic disaster which befell the town.

The skies darkened portentously and birds took flight.

Aside from ash and pumice being spewed onto the town, a hot noxious gas cloud covered it and an estimated 2,000 people died, encased in volcanic ash and suspended in time for almost as many years.

The whole area would sleep under its ash blanket for eons.

However, in 1748, a group of explorers found that, beneath the dust and ash, frozen in time, were the intact remnants of the town including buildings, animals and human remains preserved just as they had lived and died that fateful day in August 79 AD.

In fact the ash had preserved to such an extent that everything was just as it had been – a sleeping time capsule. Alongside the skeletons, mundane objects were strewn about such as tools and ornaments - even loaves of bread.

The signs of lives lost - a catastrophic tragedy.

Ancient Pompeii.