Many cities across the world have developed and become modernized over time, with some isolated structures being preserved from long ago. However, in some places complete cities have been preserved, looking almost exactly like they did hundreds, even thousands of years ago. Pompeii is one of these cities, preserved since the day it was destroyed in 79 AD. Located in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that simultaneously destroyed and preserved the ancient city, Pompeii is now open to tourist including my western civilization group this summer as it is the place we plan to visit. For a variety of reasons, I am excited to visit it and implore others to visit it too, all of which I have described below.
With many well-preserved buildings and art, the city serves as almost a time capsule for the Roman Empire, with various essential structures of Roman life still preserved. Even houses still line the streets, with the house of Caecilius Iucundus being an iconic house due to his role main role in the Cambridge Latin series where he is the father of an imaginary son. His house was preserved to such an extent that historians were even able to guess that he may have been a banker.
Additionally, the baths of Pompeii still stand, and although they do not compare to those in Spa, they are still impressive. However, the arguably most fascinating part of the city is not an individual structure, but the city as a collective whole, as its large size gives the town the ability to engulf the guest in the history of Ancient Rome and the lives of the people who had lived there.
Although much is known about the ancient city, many mysteries still lie with it. One of the biggest mysteries of the city is the ancient scrolls that were found within Pompeii. Originally when they were found, they were unreadable due to their extreme age making them break when they were discovered. Recently scientist and historians have begun to be able to read the text using a particle collider that produces x rays that can detect the rises on the pages that words make. However, this process takes a long time to even get through one scroll and it may take many years to be able to scan and read all the scrolls found in the ancient library.
Additional smaller mysteries also lie with the victims of these eruptions as it proved fatal to the citizens that were left inside when the city was preserved. This is because although the bodies were not preserved crevices and holes were found where the people had died allowing for a plaster cast of their body to be made. These crevices provided the background for many mysteries such as how the people may have died. One such peculiar case of a man who appeared to have died when a door jam hit him in the head while he ran from the eruption. Another mystery comes from the items found with the body’s when the crevices were discovered, many personal items specifically metal accessories such as necklaces and ring were discovered in the crevices leading many scholars to formulate theories on who the victim was and what they did with their lives. These mysteries all contribute to the allure of the city with many scholars and citizens all curious.
Although many mysteries lie within the city one of the most fascinating parts of the city is of how it was destroyed. Famously written by Pliny the Younger, the eruption is described in detail in a first-hand account, serving as a great asset to historians and those curious on the eruption of Vesuvius. This account painstakingly details the destruction of not only Pompeii but also the city of Herculaneum and other much smaller settlements. However, neither of them were preserved as well as Pompeii, due to their unfortunate and Pompeii’s fortunate location, making them much less famous.
Additionally, this high-level destruction in the other two cities led to them becoming so poorly preserved that they are too dangerous to visit. However, Pliny’s account of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, unfortunately, ends early as he describes how he needs to go inside to finish his work, concluding his description of the event that killed one of his family members. Pliny the younger’s work is still worth reading and is highly recommended for anyone wanting to visit the city and learn its history.
More text is also available for those who want to read about the historic city of Pompeii and the famous eruption. One of my personal favorites when it comes to text on Pompeii is the Cambridge Latin Course Book 1. This book describes many aspects of life in the city before it was destroyed while simultaneously teaching Latin, it even served as my source for much of the information provided above.
With the books, many pictures and scholarly articles, it is an invaluable resource to those truly curious about the city. However, if one is wanting to secure a quick lesson on the history of the city many articles exist in the city and its destruction and there’s even a movie describing the final days of the people in the city. With all these resources available I highly recommend you read one before going to truly appreciate the city and the lives of the people who lived within it.
Because of this and many other facts about the city I love it, due to its rich history filled with mysteries and life. As aptly described by Melody Truong, ”I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to”. But I cannot wait till Pompeii becomes a city I have been to when I visit it this summer with Abby Road through their Western Civilization program. However, if you are not going to be joining Abbey Road on the trip to Pompeii this summer I still insist you visit at least once in your lifetime, and can walk in the historic street preserved by the volcano that destroyed it.