Tag Archives: Roman remains


Most people know about the tragedy that was Pompeii so it would be presumptuous of me to write a post on its history.  I will, therefore, content myself with posting some images I took when I was there in June last when I struggled in the heatwave and the crowds that had disembarked from the 3 cruise ships in the Bay of Naples.   Here are just a few essential details.

It wasn’t until 1594 that the architect Dominico Fontana, discovered the ruins while digging a canal but serious excavations didn’t begin until the mid 18th century.  Of the city’s original 66 hectares, 44 have now been excavated but not all of this area is accessible to the public.

Pompeii wasn’t destroyed by Vesuvius in AD 79: it was buried under a layer of burning pumice stone which means that much of it is remarkably well preserved.  Today the visitor can walk down Roman streets, peer into what we know were brothels and bath-houses, snoop around houses, temples and shops and sit in the amphitheatre and pretend to be an ancient Roman.  Some of the frescoes are in a remarkable condition, the colours vibrant and the figures well defined. Those in the the brothel are quite explicit as they were there to provide visual inspiration for the clients and they were a cause for scandal in the Vatican when they were first revealed in 2001.

There had been severe earthquakes in the area for two days previous to the volcano’s eruption so many people had left the town for safety, otherwise the number of lives lost would have been a lot more.  Nevertheless, 2,000 men, women and children perished. Plaster casts of some of the bodies that were excavated are on display but some are still under renovation.

My first visit to Pompeii was many years ago in late autumn and I would recommend that time of year.  The number of visitors visiting the Naples area in late spring, summer and early autumn and ticking Pompeii off their bucket-list makes it a less enjoyable tour for the serious lover of history or archaeology.  Besides the crowds, there is the heat, and Pompeii offers no shade whatsoever.

Recommended Reading

There are many histories of the destruction of Pompeii but the best must surely be Robert Harris’s Pompeii (2004) published by Hutchinson which reads like a thriller and is a true page-turner.

The original account is by Pliny the Younger who was there at the time and most accounts are based on this, another very exciting read.

Photo by king kurt, Pixabay
Photo: Pascal, Pixabay


My recent trip to Syracuse gave me lots of material for posts but as I have written before about this Sicilian city I thought that this time I would hone in on the Archaeological Park of Neapolis which holds Syracuse’s most important Greek and Roman remains.  The Park covers approximately 240 square metres and the Greek and Roman periods are divided by a green, tranquil oasis in the midst of the ruins, called Viale Paradiso.

Between the two cultures, through the Viale Paradaiso.

The Park came into being between 1952 and 1955 with the idea of bringing together all the monuments, pillars and stones which previously had been located on various private properties and were not accessible to the public.  The result has been an outstanding success.

The Roman part dates back to the 3rd century AD and the Amphitheatre (seen below) is the largest in Sicily at 140 x 190 metres, and it is recorded that the first performance of Aeschylus’ Etnean Women was performed here in 476 BC.  To avoid this turning into a history lesson, I shall leave the images, with captions, to speak for themselves.

Not only was the amphitheatre used for drama: political life was played out here too, especially the assemblies in which all citizens participated.