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Italy: Pompei and Herculaneum

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Pompei and Herculaneum | Italy | Europe

[Visited: April 2003]

When the inhabitants of villages around the Vesuvius heard and saw the Vesuvius erupt in a violent spectacle of fire, stones, ashes, and lava, they did not realize that their villages would turn into the most famous ruins on earth almost 2 millennia later on. Instead, they tried to flee towards the sea, they tried to find shelter in their houses, they tried to protect themselves by covering their bodies with clothes. But the volcanic forces were so strong and relentless, and lasted for such a long time, that only the really lucky ones escaped. For many thousands, death descended from heaven.

Picture of Pompei and Herculaneum (Italy): Pompeian forum with Vesuvius in background

The thick layer under which the people were buried, sometimes reaching over 16 metres, would remain intact until the 18th century. While excavations still continue to the present day, it is possible to visit the ruins of several villages and towns. There are remarkable differences between the ruins. Herculaneum is smaller, and has remained more intact than Pompei. You can visit the baths, see mosaics on floors and walls, and even completely carbonized pieces of wooden constructions in houses.

Picture of Pompei and Herculaneum (Italy): Mosaic at Herculaneum, Naples

Pompei is much bigger than Herculaneum. It has a forum, a basilica, several theatres and an amphiteatre were gladiators played their deadly games. The street system is still like it was 2,000 years ago: straight streets, and large stones permitting people to cross the street without stepping down the high pavement, while chariots could still pass. The layer of ashes and stones has protected this town so well that when it was excavated, kitchen utensils were found, jewelllery, arms, and people still in clothes, in the very position in which they died. It is when you see the faces of fear that make you almost feel like a disaster tourist.

Picture of Pompei and Herculaneum (Italy): Statue in Pompei
Picture of Pompei and Herculaneum (Italy): Remains of Herculaneum
Picture of Pompei and Herculaneum (Italy): Herculaneum: storage pots
Picture of Pompei and Herculaneum (Italy): Charred door at Herculaneum ruins
Picture of Pompei and Herculaneum (Italy): Victims of Vesuvius' eruption, Pompei
Picture of Pompei and Herculaneum (Italy): Remains of temple at Pompei
Picture of Pompei and Herculaneum (Italy): Street in Pompei with arch
Picture of Pompei and Herculaneum (Italy): Amphiteatre at Pompei
Picture of Pompei and Herculaneum (Italy): Main street of Pompei

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