March 03, 2014

Pompeii Today

The movie Pompeii opened in theatres recently and tells the story of the ancient Roman town destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Archeologists have unearthed the remains of this civilization beneath the layers of ash and rock, giving us an interesting look at the lives of the ordinary people who once lived here.

The Forum and Mount Vesuvius

The archeological site of Pompeii is located south of Rome, near the city of Naples. The ruins were first discovered in 1599 and excavations began in 1748. Porta Marina, the main entrance to the site and the original town gate, was not far from the sea at the time of the eruption.

Porta Marina, Pompeii

Pompeii City Gate

The Forum was the main square of Pompeii. This is where the Temple of Jupiter and the town's Basilica, or court of law, are located.

The Forum, Pompeii

The Basilica, Pompeii's Court of Law

Twenty thousand people once live in Pompeii and the town streets were well thought out. You can see the grooves worn into the roads by ancient chariot wheels and the large stepping stones positioned to keep pedestrians' feet dry when the streets were flushed daily with water.

Streets of Pompeii

Grooves in the Stone

Stepping Stones

Traffic Barrier

Some of the buildings on the site have been reconstructed and many of their architectural details are intact.

Baths of the Forum

The Lupanare or Brothel



The people of Pompeii embraced art in their everyday lives in the form of decorative wall frescoes, mosaics and statuary. The original artifacts are now on display at the Archeological Museum in Naples.

Wall Frescoes, House of the Ancient Hunt

Battle of Alexander Mosaic, House of the Faun

'Beware of Dog' Mosaic, House of the Tragic Poet

Statue of Apollo, the Forum

Dancing Faun, House of the Faun

There are also signs of everyday Roman life and commerce, such as food counters with holes for pots of food and wine, a bakery oven and flour mill, and a public bath house.

Pompeii Food Counter

Bakery Oven

Flour Grinders

Pompeii Pottery

Stone Fountain

Pompeii had six public bath houses, with separate facilities for men and women. In addition to a changing room, a Roman bath included a tepidarium (warm bath), caldarium (hot bath) and frigidarium (cold plunge). In the caldarium, water flowed from a fountain onto the heated floor to create steam.

Tepidarium Massage Bench

Caldarium, Bath of the Forum

Caldarium Fountain

Fountain Lettering Detail

There are also haunting reminders of the citizens of Pompeii who lost their lives that day. Archaeologists have created plaster casts from the spaces left in the ash by the decomposed bodies of those who perished.

Plaster Casts of Victims of the Eruption

But life has once again returned to the scene of the destruction.

Spring Wildflowers, Pompeii

The volcanic soil is very fertile and vendors offer refreshments made with local oranges and lemons.

Pompeii Refreshment Vendor

Mount Vesuvius is an active volcano considered overdue for her next eruption – the last major occurrence was in 1944. The area around Naples is densely populated so geologists are keeping a close eye on any volcanic activity.

View of Mount Vesuvius from Sorrento

A tour of the archeological site can be done as a day-trip from Rome or Sorrento. Up-to-date information on opening hours and ticket prices can be found on the Pompeii web site. You can also visit the summit of Mount Vesuvius.

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