No visit to
In 1592 an architect, who had been digging a canal in the area, found the ruins of buildings with decorated walls. The find was documented and forgotten until 1748 when excavations began in earnest. The sensational discoveries that followed made a deep impression on contemporary observers and inspired a whole aesthetic which flowered during the French revolution and the Napoleonic Empire that followed it.
Enter the houses and establishments and one almost expects its residents to come out and greet the visitor. Walk along its unevenly paved streets and raised pedestrian flagstones and one may almost imagine seeing a slave twist his ankle from the corner of one’s eye. The roads have been so rutted by the endless number of carts and chariots which have lumbered through these roads that one can almost feel them ready to run you down. There are loaves of bread left in the ovens of commercial bakeries waiting to be sold to passersby. There are even campaign posters advertising candidates for public office in an impending election. I half expected to see Pompeiians sitting in the public toilets or naked in the baths. Or better still, the prostitutes waiting in their cubicles beneath the frescoes advertising their specialty.
|The temple of Apollo|
|The amphitheatre, a must-have in any Roman city worthy of such an appelation|
Many of the houses in the city were huge even by modern standards. Some occupy a whole city block. Many have beautiful frescoes adorning their walls, especially one very famous house, The House of the Mysteries. Others have bronze statues and fountains, intricate mosaics, porticos, atria and colonnades. Some even had their own bathing complexes so that the owners would not have to patronize the public baths and mingle with the riffraff. One homeowner, who can only be described as a social climber, had a false colonnade to give the illusion of a large space so he could suitably impress his visitors! One house even had a mosaic floor at its entrance with the warning “Cave canem” (beware of the dog)!
As I wandered through the town, one thought kept swirling in my mind.
If such a small town in
could boast of such wealth, what would the scale and grandeur of the truly
wealthy and powerful in Italy
have been like? It must have been stupendous. But all this wealth and
luxury had been achieved and maintained by only one thing - slavery. This was the
economic base of the entire Rome Roman Empire. Romans, being the conquerors that they were, had slaves to build and maintain the mansions and
palaces, stoke the fires and cool the waters in the baths, build the roads and
walls of the city, tend to every whim of their masters, and satiate all their
sexual desires and proclivities. Underneath all this power, wealth, and
circumstance was an underpinning of misery which only death could end. And end
it did one fine summer day in August two thousand years ago.
|The House of Menander|
|The House of Loreius Tiburtinus|
|The House of the Faun|
|Interior of the House of the Vetii|
|Frescoes of the Dionysiac Mysteries in the House of the Mysteries|
|Fresco in the Dining Room of the House of the Mysteries|
|Fresco in the House of the Tragic Poet|
As we wandered about the town, my wife could not help but reminisce about her first visit to
|A Bacchanalian feast|
|Fresco atop a brothel's room advertising the occupant's specialty, in this case, orgies.|
|Roman outdoor advertising of the licentious kind|
|A priapic satyr going about his business|
They were escorted by the redoubtable head of the school, she whose dowry was the school's campus. When their group came to visit
Time and memory are inextricably intertwined. The former is absolute, the latter is relative.
is time that has been stopped dead in its tracks while my wife’s memory of her
trip around the world ebbs and flows with the intensity of her imagination and
is inevitably burnished by the golden glow of nostalgia. Ghosts still roam the deserted streets of Pompeii ; there are the ghosts of those
ancient Pompeiians who lost their lives that summer day two thousand years ago
and those 40 virgins searching poignantly for their virginity and the
simplicity of another age, now irretrievably lost. Pompeii