The Tragedy and Glory of Ancient Pompeii… The Wednesday Photo Essay

 

Pompeii body

A blanket of ash rushed down from Mt. Vesuvius on Pompeii in 79 CE, suffocating many of the city’s residents. Those who could escape, did. Those who didn’t were covered by a flow of molten rock the next day, preserving their bodies as they died in poses that can still be seen today.

 

It’s time for another Wednesday photo essay where I scroll through the 75,000+ photos that Peggy and I have taken from around the world and find something that catches my attention. Today it is Ancient Pompeii. Next Wednesday it will be Costa Rica.

 

Their lives would have been interrupted by a series of small tremors. It had to be worrisome; seventeen years earlier Pompeii had come close to being destroyed in a massive earthquake. The city was still being rebuilt. Possibly the residents woke on the morning of August 24, 79 CE and looked fearfully at the restless mountain that loomed over them— and then went on about their business.

Temple of Jupiter and Mt. Vesuvius

Mt. Vesuvius still looms above Pompeii today. This is what it looks like from the Temple of Jupiter.

Ruins at Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius

Another perspective.

Everything ended at 1:00 PM.

Mt. Vesuvius exploded in a massive eruption sending tons of ash, gas and rocks spewing 20 miles into the sky and forming a dense mushroom cloud. Winds quickly carried the ash into Pompeii, turning day into night and dreams into nightmares. The majority fled, escaping by whatever means available. Those who stayed behind died— suffocating at first under the blanket of thick ash and ultimately, the next morning, by being buried alive under a pyroclastic flow of molten rock and gas that flew down the mountain at speeds close to 100 miles per hour.

Buried alive in Pompeii

It must have been incredibly fast, and frightening.

Pompeii's dead

You have to wonder if this person was simply asleep when it happened.

Viewed from an archeological perspective, history’s tragedy has become today’s blessing. The molten rock and ash that covered Pompeii, also preserved it, providing historians with their most complete view of what life was like in the ancient Roman Empire.

Pompeii street with raised crossing

Buildings and streets in Pompeii are well-preserved. Ruts from vehicles using the roads can still be seen, as can road crossings.

Street crossing in Pompeii

Streets were cleaned by flooding them with water. People kept their feet dry by using these crossing stones.

Street in Pompeii

Another street scene. Note how carefully the buildings had been aligned. The square box might have been a community water cistern.

 

Water faucet in Pompeii

Peggy and I were amused by its modern day equivalent where a faucet was added to the mouth of an early sculpture.

Side of bathhouse in Pompeii

Public baths were a part of most Roman towns and cities. This one was decorated with a detailed relief…

Father and child, Pompeii

Which included a father and child walking down stairs.

Pompeii bathhouse

An inside view of the baths provides an idea of how luxurious the baths would have been. Remnants of murals that once covered the walls still remain.

Ceiling of bathhouse in Pompeii

Ceilings were decorated as well. This one shows bas-reliefs of people and animals.

Columns in a row at Pompeii

Columns are another thing that most Roman towns shared. These set off a training school of gladiators, who were expected to go out and die for the greater glory of Rome, or to fight and possibly die to entertain Roman citizens. When I closed my eyes, I could almost hear the clashing of swords.

Pompeii Column

Looking up at one of the columns.

Column in Pompeii

Close-up.

Apollo at Pompeii with his temple

Peggy did a clever job of catching Jupiter with his hand seemingly wrapped around a column in his temple. The god was apparently traveling light that day.

Pompeii building

Many of the buildings were remarkably preserved.

Ruins at Pompeii

Others more closely resembled other Roman ruins found throughout the Mediterranean.

Pompeii House of Pleasure

The Lupanar House of Pleasure or brothel is one of Pompeii’s best preserved buildings and our guide gave us a tour…

House of Lupenare bed in Pompeii

This was one of the beds. It would have been covered with a mattress, but still… The walls of the brothel included paintings that showed the various services available.

Fastfood holders at Pompeii

A meal out may have included stopping by this place. These were designed to hold prepared food and keep it hot. It strikes me as a fast food/takeout restaurant.

Bread oven in Pompeii

Bread was baked in this oven.

Jars at Pompeii

A large number of storage jars, such as these, were found in the city.

Amphitheater at Pompeii

The large amphitheater would have accommodated most of Pompeii’s residents. The rich folks got the lower seats. Those not so fortunate, the upper ‘nosebleed’ seats.

Street scene in Pompeii

Another street scene in Pompeii. Murals were  included on the walls. There must have been a great deal of civic pride in the city.

Child with dog at Pompeii

A little girl and her dog…

Dog at Pompeii

And a modern resident of Pompeii.

Edge of Pompeii

I’ll conclude with this photo from the Mediterranean side of Pompeii. In 79 CE, the sea was only a couple of hundred yards away. Today it is a couple of miles. Those who had boats or access to boats would have been fleeing from here on that fateful August day, escaping the death that was raining down on their fair city.

 

FRIDAY’S POST: I determine it’s my job to rule the first grade but no one else seems to agree. Mrs. Young gives me a spanking for my effort.

MONDAY’S POST: It’s all about food on our river trip. And why did Homeland Security determine it was necessary to check our food boxes for a bomb?

WEDNESDAY’S POST: We leave Italy and the Mediterranean to venture off to the Amazon..

 

 

 

 

 

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Santorini’s Akrotiri: An Impressive Ancient City… but Is It Atlantis?

This piece of pottery is one of my favorites on display at the museum. I like to believe that the Minoans of Akrotiri had a sense of humor.

This piece of pottery is one of my favorites on display at the Museum of Historic Thira on Santorini. I like to believe that the Minoans of Akrotiri had a sense of humor. Note the red lips.

The small Museum of Historic Thira is definitely worth a visit if you are on the Greek island of Santorini. Located in the town of Fira, it’s mission is to trace the development of prehistoric Thira from 3000-1600 BC by displaying artifacts found in the ruins of ancient Akrotiri. Before Santorini blew its top in a massive volcanic explosion around 1600 BC and buried the city under a sea of volcanic ash, Akrotiri was a center of a Bronze Age Minoan Culture second only to Knossos on Crete.

Picture hot and cold water running water, indoor bathrooms, two and three-story buildings, beautiful frescos, intriguing pottery, weights and measures, and a fleet of ships that delivered cargo throughout the known world of the time. We are fortunate that many of these artifacts have been preserved under the volcanic ash, which makes Akrotiri similar to Pompeii. Unlike Pompeii, no bodies have been found in the ruins. Apparently the Minoans were given ample warning to escape.

This fresco is one of many that lined the walls of buildings in Akrotiri, Santorini is close to 4000 years old.

This fresco is one of many that lined the walls of buildings in Akrotiri, Santorini is close to 4000 years old.

Excavations of the ruins, which are located on the southern part of Santorini, began in 1957 and continue today. Only a small portion of the city has been uncovered. Because of its level of civilization combined with the fact that it disappeared, there is speculation that Akrotiri may have served as the inspiration for the myth of Atlantis.

Plato mentioned the fabled city around 360 BC. He described it as an ancient civilization existing some 9000 years before his time that was buried under a flood of water. Modern archeologists suggest that the 9000 years may have been mistranslated from earlier Egyptian accounts and actually be 900 years, which would put the destruction of Atlantis right around the time Akrotiri met a similar fate. Substitute an ocean of ash for a sea of water and there is ample room for the speculation. Buried is buried. We will probably never know the truth.

The volcanic activity that brought Akrotiri to its spectacular end continues to be a fact of life on Santorini, however. “Santorini Bulges as Magma Balloons Underneath” a September 12, 2012 article in National Geographic news reported. Somewhere between 13-26 million cubic yards of molten rock were filling the magma chamber located directly under the sea where our cruise ship was anchored! The Crown Princess did not cover the bulge in its newsletter. Apparently, there is no imminent danger… at least to speak of.

Here's another favorite Akrotiri artifact of mine. It's called a nipple ewer (or pitcher) for obvious reasons. This one comes with tiny breasts, ear rings and a beak. Archeologists speculate that the ewer may have had religious significance. My wife Peggy, always practical, suggests that may have been used like baby bottles.

Here’s another favorite Akrotiri artifact of mine. It’s called a nipple ewer (or pitcher) for obvious reasons. This one comes with tiny breasts, ear rings and a beak. Archeologists speculate that the ewers may have had religious significance. My wife Peggy, always practical, suggests that may have been used like baby bottles.

Another nipple ewer. This one featured a swallow. Both wild and domestic animals were featured prominently on Akrotiri artifacts. The yellow color, BTW, is because of the lights used by the museum to protect the ancient works of art.

Another nipple ewer. This one featured a swallow. Both wild and domestic animals were featured prominently on Akrotiri artifacts. The yellow color, BTW, is because of the lights used by the museum to protect the ancient works of art.

I found this elongated double pitcher with its leaping dolphins to be quite graceful.

I found this elongated double pitcher with its leaping dolphins to be quite graceful.

This reconstructed storage container features a bull that appears to be mooing quite loudly.

This reconstructed storage container features a bull that appears to be mooing quite loudly.

Much of the pottery found in Akrotiri also featured common crops grown by the Minoans. The grapes reflect the wine industry that has been in existence on Santorini for over 4000 years.

Much of the pottery found in Akrotiri also features common crops grown by the Minoans. The grapes on this jar reflect the wine industry that has been in existence on Santorini for over 4000 years.

The Museum of Historic Thira also displays a number of small figurines such as this bull.

The Museum of Historic Thira also displays a number of small figurines such as this bull.

For those who like to attribute alien influence to the development of Atlantis, I will end my photos from the museum with this piece, possibly as old as 2700 BC. (grin)

For those who like to attribute alien influence to the development of Atlantis, I will end my photos of artifacts from Akrotiri with this piece (grin), possibly as old as 2700 BC.

As we returned to our ship, which was anchored above the bulging lava chamber, we had a final look at the towering cliffs of Santorini and their beautiful white villages.

As we returned to our ship, which was anchored above the bulging lava chamber, we had a final look at the towering cliffs of Santorini with their beautiful white villages perched on top.

A beautiful sunset greeted our ship as we headed out to sea and our next adventure.

A beautiful sunset greeted our ship as we headed out to sea and our next adventure.

NEXT BLOG: I continue my travel blog on the Mediterranean with a visit to the second largest city in the Roman Empire, Ephesus, which is located on the Turkish mainland.