The Ancient City of Pompeii

A Little Background on Pompeii

The Ancient City of Pompeii is within an hour's drive from modern day Naples. The city was abandoned in 79 AD after a volcanic eruption buried the city in about 20 feet of ash. While people were able to evacuate in time, others remained within the city, only to be buried alive. Because of the dry climate and lack of air within this once entombed city, humans and their belongings were well preserved for over 1500 years.

A small amount of excavation first began in 1599, but did not really begin until the mid 1700's. Using plaster casting, archaeologists have been able to determine the exact position the people were in when they met their fate. Many of their belongings were found in near perfect condition, along with mosaics and fresco paintings on some of the more well preserved structures.

The City

The city itself was fairly sophisticated. It featured running water, a planned sewage system, and organized network of roads and buildings.

Lead pipes (not such a great choice in material) transported water from the fresh springs at a higher altitude, down to fountains throughout the city. Lead poisoning from the old pipes was not uncommon, but little was known about it at the time. The original fountains constantly ran, but their modern day lead free modifications have a faucet handle. The system still pulls water from the same spring as it did nearly 2000 years ago.

Elevated crosswalk allowed pedestrians to cross
while still allowing wagons and sewage through. 
The sewage system was not so elaborate, as it was above ground, and shared traffic with wagons. Yes, the street was also the sewer system. However, all of the streets were on an incline, allowing the sewage to travel from the smallest streets out to the main ones, where it would wash down to the edges of the city. I imagine the rain had a huge role in ensuring that the system worked properly, but I am not an expert on the topic. While wagons would travel along the same streets as the sewage, there were elevated sidewalks similar to a modern street for foot traffic. Stepping stones crossed the street with enough space for wagon wheels and sewage to get through.

Buildings were placed on a grid, much like a modern city but with simpler building techniques. Building walls were usually made out of stone or brick with wooden roofs over top. Community buildings, including a gymnasium, pool, and bathhouse were all placed in a central location to provide citizens with a recreational space. Most shops and houses were similar in size, though with any society, some are more successful than others. As a result, there were a handful of more elaborate properties, complete with gardens, mosaic entryways, and private pools! These were less common and therefore harder for tourists to observe, but I did manage to get a few pictures of the city itself. The city itself is fascinating and what I have mentioned above is only a small fraction of information out there on the subject. I advise you to do some additional research if it interests you.

A theater within the city walls allowed for theatrical performances. The structure was built on an existing hill and therefore required no support underneath. 

Ruins of old housing

A counter top at a merchant location, with spaces for hot meals 

Another crosswalk with an incline behind it

The remains of a staircase. This staircase would lead to a second floor above the merchant's store.

The original pipes did not have faucets, however these are the original fountains, as well as original water source

The ceiling of a bathhouse corridor

The same bathhouse corridor

A closer look at the sides

A narrower street

Fresco paintings inside a brothel

Imagine paying to get laid on that. The price was no more than that of a few glasses of wine. Also keep in mind that the bed is only about 4 feet wide, people were little back then. 

Remains of unearthed lead pipe.

A former bakery. The round hat-like stones you see were mills to grind grains down. The square hole allowed for a lever to aid in rotation.

A view behind the mills. An oven and countertop. This was at one point under a roof. 

There were two types of tunnels into Pompeii: a smaller one for pedestrians, and a larger one for wagons and carts. 

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