To visit the ancient Roman city of Pompeii is like peaking through a curtain of time. Pompeii offers the rare opportunity to view what life would have been like for Roman citizens before that fateful day when Mount Vesuvius covered the town with volcanic ash.
The year was 79 A.D, and the town of Pompeii was a thriving community and lovely resort area. Located only 5 miles from Mount Vesuvius and near the Bay of Naples it offered the ideal spot for wealthy Romans to escape from their busy lives in Rome and enjoy relaxing times in their elegant villas.
The town was complete with all that was needed to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, including numerous shops, taverns, cafes and of course, bath houses.
The people of Pompeii would rise with the sun to begin their day. Only wealthy citizens would have water in their homes, so most people would head to the public fountains to refresh themselves after their nights sleep, and then enjoy a breakfast of bread and cheese.
By sunrise, shops would be open and street vendors would be pedaling their merchandise. The streets would be busy with people going about their business for the day.
After a lunch of bread and fruits, a wealthy Roman might head over to the amphitheater to view the gladiator games. These were events of enjoyment, perhaps similar to a sporting event. However, our current point of view would find them quite barbaric and inhumane.
Other choices might include a visit to the theater for a play, religious celebrations or musical concert.
Later in the afternoon, the wealthy and the slaves alike, would gravitate to one of the four thermal baths. The public baths were a social meeting place where important events of the day might be discussed. Men and women had separate bathing areas. Some may have included a gymnasium for exercise as well.
The streets of Pompeii were not considered safe after dark, so Romans ended their day early. Shortly before sunset, Romans would head for home to enjoy a dinner of olives and eggs, perhaps fish for the wealthy. As there was no evening entertainment as there is today, Romans would retire early.
A day late in August 79 A.D. around noon, Mount Vesuvius began to sputter it’s fury. Across the Bay of Naples, Pliny the Younger, was staying at his uncles villa and later wrote of the disaster. His letters report of a cloud “like an umbrella pine, for it rose to a great height on a sort of trunk and then spit off into branches.” You may read Pliny the Youngers letters of the disaster here.
By evening, ash and white pumice begin to fall on the town of Pompeii and roofs begin to cave under the weight of the debris. Many of the people of Pompeii were able to flee taking with them what they could.
Vesuvius continued to pummel pumice, rock and ash on the town and victims of Pompeii for a 25 hour period. Pompeii was eventually buried in volcanic ash. Ironically, this same ash preserved bodies of the residents, art, jewelry, and fragments of their everyday life. A visit to this amazing archaeological site opens a door to an incredible history of a town from long ago.
Our visit to the ancient Roman city of Pompeii left me in awe of it’s amazing culture and deeply saddened by the events that occurred there. By touring the ruins, I gained a much deeper understanding of how advanced this ancient society truly was. I also felt a certain reverence at how quickly so many lives were taken along with the town and thriving culture in ancient Pompeii.