A fresco discovered in 1879 in Pompeii in the House of the centenarian and today kept in the National Museum of Naples, portrays Bacchus with an enormous bunch of black grapes at the foot of an isolated mountain that is thought to be the Vesuvius. The Volcano didn't seem, before that inauspicious day in 79 A. D., to be a danger for the
inhabitants of Pompeii. Its foot was surrounded by vineyards, his top was dense of woods rich in game. Often on the wine amphoras from Pompeii was written "Vesuvinum" and sometimes in the kitchens were painted heads of wild boar.
The city, founded by the Oscis, raised on a buttress, created by a lava flow of prehistoric origin, crossed by the river Sarno that constituted, for the populations that lived in the valley, a useful outlet on the sea.
Even if ceramics findings and weapons made of stone date back the first human installations to the Bronze and Iron Age (VIII century B.C.), a boundary wall with blocks of lava and small nucleuses of houses of the VII and the VI century B.C., represent the first sure testimony of the foundation of the city.
This territory suffered a double hegemony: initially the Greek dominated the Gulf of Naples, then the Etrurians controlled the hinterland of Campania and then again the Greek (474 - 425), after the defeat of the Etrurians in Cuma. At the end of the V century B.C. the city was conquered by the Sannitis come down by the mountains of Irpinia and Sannio.
Pompeii will stay under their influence for more than three centuries, until began the Roman conquest of Campania (at the end of the III century B.C.) and the city was subdued, even if maintaining its own institutions and its own language. In 89 B.C. Lucio Silla set the siege to Pompeii and occupied it militarily. Nine years later, in 80 B.C. it became a Roman colony assimilating its language, its customs and its architecture. The city that was in the centre of a fertile lowland was an important commercial reference.
In 62 A.D. together with other cities of Campania, it was seriously damaged by a violent earthquake, but the work of reconstruction began in good time.
Pompeii was a city in full expansion, with about 20.000 inhabitants, when on the 24th August 79 A.D. the Vesuvius waked up again and destroyed it together with the near Ercolano and Stabia. In a famous letter that Plinio the Youth wrote to Tacit, we can read the description of the eruption and his uncle’s tragic death, who was giving him hospitality: Plinio the Old, naturalist and commander of Miseno’s fleet.
A layer of about six or seven meters of ash and lapilli submerged the city and the greatest part of the inhabitants died, while they were trying escape along the road that led to Stabia and Nocera, or suffocated in the basements of their residences.
Several casts realized by Joseph Fiorelli, manager of the excavations in 1840, pouring some liquid chalk in the empty spaces left by the dead bodies in the bench of ash that had buried them, represent the perennial testimony of that tragedy.
Pompeii was forgotten until the time when, between 1594 and 1600, in order to build a channel to bring the waters of the river Sarno to Torre Annunziata, the hill of the "Civita" was bored and the ruins of the buildings and inscriptions were discovered.
But only in 1748, under the kingdom of Charles of Bourbon, the first explorations began.
Great impulse to the excavations was given instead in ‘800, bringing to light, between 1806 and 1832, the greatest part of the public buildings of the Forum and some among the most important private houses such as that of Pansa, of the tragic Poet and of the Faun.
With the Kingdom of Italy in 1860, the direction of the excavations was submitted to Joseph Fiorelli who worked in systematic way, with contemporary interventions of restoration and protection of the findings.
After the interruption, caused by the First World War, the excavations took back on a large scale in 1924 with the archaeologist Amedeo Maiuri who passionately devoted himself for almost forty years, up to his death.
Three fifths of the area of the city, that spreads for 66 square kilometres and has a boundaries perimeter of mt. 3220, has been brought to light not only offering the exciting vision of some buildings, but also of the original decorations and furnishings.
The archaeologists, according to the road network, have divided the whole inhabited area in 9 regions and every region in insulae, giving a number of progressive order to the entry of each block.
In 1997 the archaeological area of Pompeii was declared patrimony of humanity by UNESCO.
WHAT TO SEE
Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgo of the Rosary
HOW TO GET THERE
By car: Highway A3 Naples-Salerno, exit Pompeii.
By train (entrance Porta Marina): Naples-Salerno, stop Pompeii;
Circumvesuviana line Naples-Sorrento, stop Pompeii Villa of the Mysteries;
Circumvesuviana line Naples-Poggiomarino, stop Pompeii Sanctuary.
By bus (entrance Porta Marina): SITA from Naples and from Salerno; CSTP n° 4
from Salerno; CSTP from Salerno (by highway).
By bus Ruocco Bus lines (Teggiano) from Venice, Padua, Verona, Bologna, Forlì, Rimini, Pesaro, Urbino, Perugia and Assisi.
Town Hall tel. 081 8576254
A.A.S.T. tel. 081 8507255
detail of the amphitheatre