Peril in Pompeii
How sad to see the damage done in Pompeii by floodwaters recently. Talk about destruction by the elements; air, earth, fire and water. Pompeii’s working its way through the whole list!
Pompeii, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site – and quite rightly too! – is an absolutely fascinating place to visit, whether you’re interested in history or not!
The city of Pompeii was an ancient Roman town-city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania, in the territory of the comune of Pompei. Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area, was mostly destroyed and buried under 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft) of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Researchers believe that the town was founded in the seventh or sixth century BC by the Osci or Oscans and was captured by the Romans in 80 BC. By the time of its destruction, 160 years later, its population was probably approximately 20,000, and the city had a complex water system, an amphitheatre, gymnasium and a port.
The eruption was cataclysmic for the town. Evidence for the destruction originally came from a surviving letter by Pliny the Younger, who saw the eruption from a distance and described the death of his uncle Pliny the Elder, an admiral of the Roman fleet, who tried to rescue citizens. The site was lost for about 1,500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599 and broader rediscovery almost 150 years later by Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre in 1748. The objects that lay beneath the city have been well preserved for centuries because of the lack of air and moisture. These artifacts provide an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city during the Pax Romana. During the excavation, plaster was used to fill in the voids between the ash layers that once held human bodies. This allowed one to see the exact position the person was in when he or she died.
Pompeii has been a tourist destination for over 250 years. Today it has UNESCO World Heritage Site status and is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy, with approximately 2.5 million visitors every year.
I visited Pompeii with my parents when I was 15, and I was speechless, which was very unusual for me as a teenager!
The whole town is frozen in time. You can walk along the paving stones in streets that were trodden on by people over two millenia ago, and the stones are still practically perfect!
Like Herculaneum, the other town a few miles away that was buried under volcanic ash, a lot of it is still covered, and probably always will be as towns and buildings are on top of it.
Over 75% of Herculaneum is still buried.
Herculaneum was buried under a much deeper layer of ash, so the top storeys of buildings were preserved as well.
Over 300 skeletons were discovered there in 1981, which was a surprise to everyone as it was always believed that the inhabitants of the town had been evacuated.
Most people from both towns died while trying to escape. But they were too late.
They would all have been killed instantly by the ash and the extreme heat.
Recently, there has been some terrible damage in Pompeii due to the heavy rains. On the Sunday, stones from an arch and a stretch of wall collapsed. Then the next day, a wall of an ancient shop collapsed.
This isn’t the only damage that has occurred there, but the Italians are notoriously slow at making decisions and putting them into action.
Last year I was in Matera, in the Basilicata region. Work has been going on (and off) in the Cathedral for over 11 years!
There is 105 million euros available for the upkeep and rehabilitation of Pompeii, but it has hardly been touched due to Bureaucracy.
My suggestion? Build a structure over the top of it all. I know that it’s a huge site to cover, but it doesn’t need any sides.
But whatever they decide to do, I just hope that they hurry up and do it, before it’s too late! The damage that’s being done is irreversible!