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Pompeii

Pompeii today

Pompeii lies at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano which destroyed the town and made it world famous. The opulent town, the was buried in AD 79 in one of the most disastrous volcanic eruptions in history, provides important evidence of the ancient way of life. Pompeii was founded in the 8th century b. Chr. by the Oscans, but by the 6th century b. Chr. Greek influence was already prevalent in the city from its neighbour Cumae, which was then a powerful Greek colony. From the end of the 5th century b. Chr., when it came under Smanite rule, to the beginning of the I C AD, the city knew great prosperity; town planning and art flourished, in the year 80 BC, the town fell under Roman domination and then it became a favourite resort of rich Roman families who settled there. Pompeii adopted Roman organisation, language, lifestyle, building methods and decoration. When the eruption of Vesuvius struck, Pompeii was a booming town with a population of about 25.000. The town was situated in a fertile region, trade flourished and there was even some industrial activity; it also had a port. The numerous shops and workshops which have been uncovered, its wide streets and the deep ruts made in the cobblestones by chariot wheels are evidence of the intense activity that went on in the town. The people had a lively interest in spectacles, games and active politics, as can be seen in a fresco housed at the Archaeological Museum in Naples. In AD 59, after a bloodthirsty fight between rival supporters, the amphitheatre was closed for 10 years and only re-opened after Nero’s wife Poppea interceded. In the year AD 62, an earthquake extensively damaged the town but before all could be put to rights, Vesuvius erupted and also destroyed the nearby towns of Herculaneum and Stabiae. In the space of two days Pompeii was buried under a layer of cinders 6m to 7m / 20ft to 23ft deep. Bulwer-Lytton describes these events in his novel The last days of Pompeii.

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Archaeological site

Archaeological site

The eruption of Vesuvius in 79 d.C. stopped forever the life of the city of Pompeii and its inhabitants. Ash and lapilli covered the streets, palaces, public buildings and with the passage of time it has been lost even the memory of that opulent city. After centuries of neglect, from the eighteenth century, from the ground bloom again the splendours of the campanian centre: its homes, its temples, the forum and also the extraordinary scenes of the Villa dei Misteri. The discovery of ruins of Pompeii began in the eighteenth century, thanks to the excavations promoted by Bourbon. The discovery of nearly intact buildings and treasures of all kinds immediately attracted scholars and artists of international renown, as the historian of art Winckelmann and the poet Goethe. The constant interest in this extraordinary site in 1860 led to the first systematic excavations conducted by Giuseppe Fiorelli. The area excavation has brought to light the ancient Roman city that was destroyed by an eruption of Vesuvius in 79. Despite the city was seriously damaged, it was immediately began with the reconstruction of Pompeii. 17 years later, when the work still continued and many public buildings had yet to be restored, the citizens lived one of the greatest tragedies of ancient history. Today, the area is the 2. archaeological site most visited worldwide.

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