What Happened in Pompeii?

Visited by more than 3 million tourists every year, Pompeii remains one of the most popular sites in Italy. Situated in the region of Campania, near Naples, Pompeii was founded around the 6th century B.C. by the Osci who came from Central Italy. Due to its strategic location in the bay, the town was very disputed among the Etruscans, the Samnites and the Greek but was finally won over by the Roman Republic in 89 B.C. Since then, the town had undergone quite a few architectural reforms which included the building of an amphitheater, a swimming pool, an aqueduct and more infrastructure to equip the city better. However, in August 79 A.D., following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii disappeared under ashes, and debris and remained undiscovered for about 1700 years.

Today, we have a fairly good idea of how the eruption looked like at that time thanks to the writings of Pliny the Younger. As a matter of fact, it all started with abnormally large grey clouds coming from a mountain. Indeed, at that time, the civilians had no idea that Mount Vesuvius was a volcano. It had always been no more than an inoffensive mountain to their eyes. While his uncle, Pliny the Elder, decided to go closer in order to understand better the phenomenon, he decided to stay home and work on his writing. Unfortunately, Pliny the Elder died shortly due to the large amount of sulfur present in the air near Mount Vesuvius. Later on, Pliny the Younger describes the eruption as chaotic where the sky went completely dark, ashes started falling heavily on the grounds covering the city entirely suffocating the civilians distress cries.

A excavation of the area began in 1748 A.D. Under the thick layer of ashes, it was surprising how everything was kept intact over the years. The buildings, the shops, the artifacts and the skeletons; it seemed like all remained in the exact same place for centuries. Thanks to what was discovered, we even have a good picture of how Pompeii used to look like, back in the days. As a matter of fact, the city could be described as a busy trade center where goods such as olives, wine, wool, fish sauce, salt walnuts, figs, almonds, cherries, apricots, onions, cabbages were exported. On the other hand, it was also a gateway for slaves, wild animals destined to entertain the crowds in the arena, exotic fruits, sandal wood and much more. Moreover, the town was equipped with large paved streets, and buildings for all needs. With its large villas offering splendid views on the bay and its pleasant weather, Pompeii attracted a lot of visitors, even back in the days.

Classified as a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1997, Pompeii has become one of Italy’s top landmark. However, Pompeii was not the only city to suffer from Vesuvius, neighboring cities such as Herculaneum and Strabiae succumbed to the same destiny and showcase the similar sights. If you are planning to visit Pompeii on your next trip to Italy, check out our tours here. Depending on the number of days you are planning to stay in Italy, we might have exactly what you are looking for!

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