Tuesday, 2 June 2009


23 Aug 2005. We arrive in the ancient devastated city of Pompeii. There is much more of it than you would think - indeed the ticket office is still in fine shape...

Walking along streets 2000 years old is humbling. Working on a generation every 25 years that's 80 generations away. If my ancestor had lived there it would have been my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great... you're right - it doesn't bear thinking about!

And yet look - streets, pavements, houses... The huge chunks of stone in the middle of the road by the way allowed people to cross the street without wading through the filth of sewerage and rotting food. Well, perhaps there has been a bit of progress since then...

As Lucretzia said to Bilius at No. XXIII Arena Street, "It'll never last...". And it didn't.

This is all that's left of why. At the time Vesuvius had a single coned peak. So follow the sides of the volcano up until the lines would meet. That's how high it was until it blew itself apart.

24 August AD79. "What on earth was that?!?" (Centurian Kevin)

Joking apart, it's a weird feeling when you see one of these for the first time. It's not a body coated with rock, it's a cast taken from the mould that was left in the rock when the body decayed. Even so, this poor sod was a real person, terrified and struggling to breathe through all the ash, sitting slumped down when a pyrochlastic flow swept down from Vesuvius during the eruption.

There are lots of wonderful things to see in Pompeii. It was a large city - you certainly cannot hope to see it all in one visit.

The guides leave this until the last.

The House of Mystery has the most wonderful Roman paintings left in existence. Elsewhere in Pompeii fast food shops still have their rows of bowls set into the counters - the salad bars or dips.

Vesuvius killed somewhere between 10,000-25,000 people in AD79. In 2009 over 3 million people live around it. It last erupted in 1944 and will erupt again, although the eruption of 79 was by far greater than any eruption since (at least 40 eruptions have occured since AD79). But that's not to say the next won't be worse!

The photos from this holiday can be viewed as a series of montages.

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