Pompeii Project: Week 3, Primary Images, Brief history of Pompeii and Travel Reflections

Week 3

I’m particularly excited about focusing this project on Pompeii as I actually had the chance to visit the ancient City back in 2012. It was one of the most memorable and emotive places that I’ve had the privilege of stepping foot in and I would not hesitate the chance to go back there again. It’s so haunting and moving, a lot like being in an abandoned house riddled with memories you’ll never know and someone else’s treasures. I remember feeling like I was stepping into someone’s home actually, and feeling that it felt more like a stolen place than a “lost” one which it has been popularly dubbed as by scholars today.

Pompeii, the city preserved like a snapshot of Roman life frozen in time, was just another Roman seaside resort until Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and covered it in a blanket of volcanic ash around 20 metres deep. The eruption killed 2,000 people in a City home to 20,000. Pompeii was buried and was eventually forgotten until it was unearthed by explorers around 1800 years later. Now, it’s one of the most famous Roman sites in the world and one of Italy’s top tourist attractions.

“Tourist” Pompeii is a vast plane of Roman ruins, known to be homes, temples etc. There is also the remains of a hotel, and amphitheatre, a brothel with art, as well as vast amounts of artefacts and everyday objects from the time. But most famously, Pompeii holds a collection of stone human forms that are believed to be the remains of those who lived in Pompeii, captured in a forever pose of their last moments, just as their lives were snatched away by nature. After the merciless eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD which destroyed the entire Port City.

A god-fearing region at the time, it was thought that that the volcanic eruption (or the beginnings of it when the Pompeiians had a chance to react) was an act of the gods, smiting the region. Many fled at this point, but some remained and “Pliny the Younger” was one who’s reflection is a great insight to experiencing the tragedy. “Darkness fell, not the dark of a moonless or cloudy night, but as if the lamp had been put out in a dark room” – words from Pliny the Younger, who watched the eruption from across the Bay of Naples.

Back in 1860 an archaeologist called Guiseppe Fiorelli realised that the empty spaces in the ash around the human bones he found, were where the bodies themselves had decomposed, and by filling them with plaster you could make a cast of the position they were in when they died. (Curled up in a foetal position or with hands shielding their faces from the eruption, the famous skeleton “lovers” and the form of a mother who was believed to be shielding children) – apparently, the temperatures reached near 250°C and would have killed anyone long before the ash even arrived. Unimaginable terror.

You can still see some of the body casts around Pompeii, but imaginably a lot of them and other relics and artworks were taken away and are now displayed in Naples’ Archaeological Museum.

As some primary research and a bit of a personal touch I’m using my own photos I took during my time in Pompeii 5 years ago. Here are a few of them!

Pompeii is about 25km south of Naples, in the Campagna (Campania) region. It wasn’t the only area destroyed by Vesuvius, another was Herculaneum as well as a few outer regions. But Pompeii is most famous as it remains the most well-preserved as was also believed to be the most lavish and prosperous at the time.

Most of this is my own experience, opinion and knowledge having been interested in Pompeii for some time, but some external research links I used are : here and here

I’m so excited to be looking into history and statistics of Pompeii again, it feels like a personal interest at this point seeing as I already have an obsession with Italian culture and history. It’ll be so excited to represent this extaordinary place in 3D!


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