I saw Pompeii in October 2008. Here is my account of it:
Pompeii is a town near Naples, Italy that was buried under six metres of ash when Mount Vesuvius blew its top on a summer day in the year 79. It was not uncovered till the 1800s, making it the best preserved town from Roman times.
It is a whole town: street after street, house after house. Even the pictures in the whorehouse are still there. Much of the town was destroyed, but much of it was covered so quickly in ash that it was preserved – even the shape and position of dying men and dying dogs. It is the closest thing we have to a time machine back to Roman times.
The way you can walk the streets of a lost world is like – Disney World! That is the only other place that is built to be another place and yet is not that other place. It is a strange feeling.
Something that Pompeii makes clear is the power of small, simple changes:
- The streets are made of large stones – making them uneven, so you always have to always watch your step so you do not twist your foot or fall over. It makes walking down the street slow and harder than you know it has to be.
- The writing had no spaces, making it hard to read.
Not only are the Romans gone from Pompeii, so is the smell. People threw their waste out into the street and it had to be regularly washed away down the street. That is why there are sidewalks and crossing stones.
Pompeii did have running water: you can still see the lead pipes running along the streets. The rich had both hot and cold water – nearly 2000 years ago.
One building that is strangely familiar is the basilica, the courthouse, the largest building in town. Only bits of it are left but it had the same layout as St Patick’s cathedral in New York: a huge, long room with a line of inner columns to the right and to the left and a raised part at the far end – where the judge sat, and, in St Paritick’s, where the priest and the altar stand. It is as if the Church took over the courthouses after the fall of Rome.
The pictures in the whorehouse are still there. They show different positions: you pick the one you want.
Pompeii was not built very high: most of the houses are one or two floors, all of them pretty small. And yet from the way Pompeii is built you can tell people were shorter then, by like about a foot (0.3 m). Even the beds are shorter.
The rich had a courtyard inside their houses and pictures on their walls.
The bricks were not laid and cut so that the outer walls are smooth and even, but some were made smooth by covering them with plaster.
– Abagond, 2009.
- The first century
- Roman Empire
- Ephesus – another town from Roman times I visited
- Disney World
- other blasts from the past: