Little is still known about the origins of Pompeii prior to the city being covered in ash and rock back in 79 AD. Pompeii covers an area of 66 hectares, but so far only 48 of those has been carefully excavated to reveal what is seen today. Yet as you walk the ancient streets you will continue to see remains of further excavation activities.
There are two ways to see Pompeii, on your own or with a local guide. If you want to hear the stories of the people then it is recommended to go with the local guide on this one. Otherwise you may miss an important key monument that brings the whole experience together. Take a walk in the footsteps of the people who inhabited Pompeii before that fateful event. Traces of their lives can be seen in the shells of excavated buildings.
The building not mentioned in the guide book, but perhaps shows what Pompeii life was like for the regular resident, is the Lupanare. The Lupanare was known as the brothel and is also interpreted as prostitute. As you can see from the remains in the photo, this was not a luxury brothel. It was two storey, windowless structure and inside were stone beds with only a mattress. Instead of walls, the antechamber space was separated by curtains. Research indicates that the working environment was uncomfortable, cramped and lit by candles which did little to offer a pleasant experience for both worker and customer. The photo on the right shows the marker carved onto a stone that identified the lupanare to customers. The prostitutes, or lupa, meaning female wolf, were generally Greek or Eastern slaves but not all. Others were women who had little or no training in other occupations and had no alternative but to turn to this lifestyle. As you look at the buildings remains and imagine how life was for the people of Pompeii, this grim reality offers a sense of economic conditions in many other Roman cities during the first century.
Venus and Apollo
A key building in the ancient city was the Temple of Venus, also known as the Roman Goddess and Protector of the city (although somewhat ironic considering the turn of events). The Venus Temple, built in 80 BC, was the most beautiful building in Pompeii but today there only remains a couple of marble columns laid on the ground. The temple stood in the most prominent position and close by the Temple of Apollo. The Apollo temple and its architectural design date back to around 550 BC. You will have to look through a heavy metal fence at this one for safety reasons. The entrance of the temple has step leading up to what is left of the frontage. Note the Greek influences around the floor cells made of polychrome stone diamond that creates a cubic effect on the colonnade. To the side of the frontage there is a statue of Apollo posed as an archer.
Forum and Granary
Nearby Apollo’s temple is the Basilica where all the business decisions were made. It was used for administering justice and negotiating business for the city. This building has most of its columns still standing and built back in the 2nd century BC.
Take a walk along the main street of the Forum. I loved walking along this part of the city surrounded by history. The best view is when stood in the archway at the top looking the length of the street. Remains of the limestone monumental structures from the 2nd Century BC reflect the Imperial age. This was the city’s main square at the intersection of the two main streets. No carts were allowed, only foot traffic and the Forum was at the heart of religion, politics and public administration.
A few metres further is the Forum Granary, also known in 62 AD as the Produce market, was never completed at the time Mount Vesuvius erupted. Today it is used to store items excavated from the city. Housed here also are plaster casts of some of the victims, including a baby and a dog who were killed when ash and rock exploded onto the city. Although these are not real people, you still feel the emotion of the tragic events that occurred many centuries ago. It is hard not to feel as you see the tiny baby plaster cast on display.
House of the Faun
The most grand and luxurious place in Pompeii was the House of the Faun. It boasted 2970 square metres and was inhabited from the 2nd Century, There were two doorways at the entrance, one led to private rooms and the other to the public spaces. The house is a symbol of aristocratic Romans from the upper class. A bronze statue of the faun has been erected in the front atrium. The wealthy owner of the house is still unknown, but there is said to be a connection to Alexander the Great and Darius the King of Persia.
These are just a few of the main attractions with an interesting history that have been uncovered in the ancient city of Pompeii. Work still goes on to uncover more treasures of history that were buried under a mountain of ash all those many centuries ago. Life in Pompeii was not easy for most people and when you hear the stories from the local guide you get a realistic interpretation of life prior to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.