Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pompeii: Maps and Checking In

 We got ourselves out of bed bright and early, ate a big breakfast, and boarded the Circumvesuviana local train from Sorrento to Pompeii. Once at the Pompeii train station, we walked a short distance to get to the Pompeii ruins entrance.
 These were the first glimpses we had of the excavations at Pompeii as we approached: a few structures outside of the city walls.
 It was a beautiful morning: bright, calm, crisp, cool. Birds chirped and the morning freshness matched the peace and quiet perfectly.
 There were about 20 people milling about. I do remember that it was not immediately obvious what we were supposed to do, but that was not the reason most of them were there.
Most of these people turned out to be tour guides, soliciting tourists to pay them cash for a guided tour of Pomeii. Although I did not capture him in a photo, one gentleman sticks out in my mind. He was a little taller than I, a little rounder, black hair and a beard. And his booming Russian voice broke the tranquil silence with stunning frequency. Imagine a very loud voice reverberating the following words throughout the area, in a very heavy Russian accent (don't forget to roll the first R): "RRRRrrrrrrreeee - DICK - u - loss POMP-pay!!!! Take a tour of ridicilous Pomeii!". This phrase was repeated about every 15 seconds. It made me wonder if this Russian chap knew what the word 'ridiculous' meant.
 We had already purchased a pass the prior day at Herculaneum, so we just showed it at the window and picked up a Pompeii map. I'll be referring to this map as we start our tour of Pompeii...
 Here's another map - a little simpler to read, but not near as much detail, either.
To start our tour, we must pass the dude in the pink shirt. Proceed.

Pompeii: Entering the City

 We are passing through the walls that surround Pompeii in this first photo. As were many cities at the time, Pompeii was a walled city. With a population of 20,000, it was an area were Romans had their holiday villas. Pompeii and Herculaneum are the only Roman cities where we can examine life exactly as it existed two thousand years ago. Since it was buried by a sudden event, daily life is captured intact and undistrubed - except for a few tunnelers that searched for booty over the years.
 We are now in the city itself, with the Basilica on the right side. If you'd like to follow along on the map, you can access it using this link.
 Here is the first dog we ran across in Pompeii. At first they were a novelty to me so I took a photo of every one I saw. When I realized how numerous they were, I stopped taking their photo. I'm not sure where they get their food, but most of them looked to be having a lazy, sleepy day.
 This is the basilica, number 5 on the map referenced above. The basilica was created as a covered market. The roof collapsed during the 62AD earthquake and it then became an open-air market. Finally, by the time Vesuvius erupted in was a part of the judicial system.
I'm not sure which direction I was looking at this time, but it shows you the surrounding mountains visible from Pompeii.
 Looking towards the forum (number 6 on the map), we can see tourists trying to get their bearing, figuring out where they are going to go for their day of exploration. I kind of imagine ancient Pompeii residents and visitors doing the same thing...visitors would have just entered through the tunnel, and residents would no doubt gather in the forum.
 Another lazy, sleepy dog has found himself a nice shady niche for a nap...

 To give you a sense of scale, here is someone standing in the basilica.
 These are the public administration buildings, number 7 on the map, located on the edge of the forum. The government constructs of Pompeii are rather boring to me, so I won't be going into detail here.
 Just a glimpse of what is to come when we explore the forum here shortly.
And another shot showing the beautiful mountains and clouds in the distance.
 The public administration buildings once again...
 ...and a shot of the interior of one of them. It was about this time when we realized there was no way we were going to see all of Pompeii in one day, so we were going to have to prioritize. We had already seen typical houses and shops in Herculaneum so we decided to see the theater and amphitheater in Pompeii, and let the paths to those uncover other things along the way.
So now that we have the introductions out of the way, let's explore the forum then start heading over to the nearby theater!

Pompeii: The Forum

 In any Roman town, the forum was the urban center with the town's civic, religious, and commercial institutions. The Pompeii forum is number 6 on the map. All the stars aligned for this photo - the clouds, the blue sky, the time of day shadows, just the right placement of people. It looks just like the photo out of a book.
 I'm standing with my back to the administrative buildings here, looking toward the Temple of Jupiter. If I'm not mistaken, that's Mt Vesuvius in the background.
 Taking a few steps forward from the prior shot and turning left, this is what is seen. Before the 2nd century BC, the forum was primarily a market place, except for the Temple of Apollo which has been there since the 6th century BC. After the 2nd century BC, more temples were added and law courts were built.
 Swinging the camera a little to the right we see this view. Somewhere in the city was scrawled this note: "I detest beggars. if somebody asks for something for free, he is an idiot. Let him pay his cash and get what he wants."
 ..and even more to the right...and there is the Temple of Jupiter.
The Temple of Jupiter is at the north end of the forum. It was erected in the mid 2nd century BC at the same time that the Temple of Apollo was being renovted. Roman influence over Pompeii was increasing, so Jupiter, the Roman's ruler of gods and protector of Rome, was superseding the Greek Apollo as the town's highest god.
Roman rule led to alterations in Pompeii's architectural style. When influence from the previous Samnite occupiers dwindled, the Roman view on the importance of architecture in civic and religious life took over. The Romans transformed Pompeii into a much more public and open place where public areas dominated the city.

Pompeii: Walking to the Theater past the Triangular Forum

 We can't remember what route we took when we left the forum area to head for the theater. We may have taken Via delle Sculoa, Vicolo dei 12 Dei, or Via dei Testri - we're just not sure. Whichever path we took, we ran across this area. I'm not sure if it is a home or some other building. If you know, please write and tell me!
 The mosaic on the floor was marvelous...very good condition.
Here are a few of the pictures on the wall frescoes....
 And another. One of my regrets from this trip is that it looks like we just barely missed stumbling upon Terme Stabiane, the Stabian Baths. Oh well, that gives us something to explore on the next trip.
 Another fine wall painting.
 I'm also not quite sure what this mosaic or building is called or where it is located. It is between the form and the theater somewhere.
 A close-up of the mosaic.

 As we drew near the theater, we came across the Triangular Forum, a small slice of land that borders the theater.
 At the nearby Temple of Isis, which also bordered the theater, the following inscription was found: "Numerius Popidius Celsinus, son of Numerius, restored the Temple of Isis from the ground up, after it had been totally destroyed by an earthquake. The Town Council, coopted him into their assembly when he was only six years old in consideration of his generosity."
Yes, the wealthy could purchase their entry into elite society even in Roman times. Or I should say, their parents could purchase their entry. A six year old would not have been rebuilding temples, he would have been playing with Legos. Okay, the ancient equivalent of Legos: rocks. And now, let's walk the last few feet and enter the theater.

Pompeii: The Theater

 And we found ourselves looking into the Large Theater, number 43 on this map, at Pompeii. It is an impressive view, but it looks bigger in this photograph than it is in person. It looks relatively small in person. In typical Greek fashion, the structure takes advange of the natural hillside.
 In reality, it seats about 5,000 people. The seats that existed here were numbered, with each person getting 15-3/4 inches of space. An enormous cloth canopy protected the audience from the sun and wind.
 The theater was so popular with residents that politicians ensured that enhancements were well funded. It had been through at least four renovations in the 300 years it was in use.

 These are stairs that lead down into the Gladiator's Quarters, where we'll go next.
 Mobs of people in tour groups can often be found in the theater - we had to wait quite awhile for one such large group to clear out before taking pictures, and still there were a few stragglers. That's okay...they lend scale to the photos.
 Smile! I should have photo-bombed.