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My Trip to Italy ~ Exploring the Ruins of Pompeii

So, it is time for that awkward moment where I apologize for letting you in on my travels. The last update that I gave you guys was in Rome and Naples in Italy. Sadly, I did not tell you about the rest of my wayfaring in Italy. Yeah, I realize that it was a long time ago, but life has gotten is the way. I have more travels to tell you about later as well. For now, I will get back to my time in Italy with our next stop in Pompeii.

From Naples, we took a train ride south to the scorching city of ancient Pompeii. I studied Classics while I attended UCLA. I actually was on an archaeological dig in Greece through UCLA just before this excursion in Italy. As you may have guessed,Pompeii had been high on my travel list for quite some time.

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My poor boyfriend, who was less interested in history and ruins and more interested in balmy museums and gelato, endured several laborious hours of roving ancient streets as I admired wagon wheel ruts, water fountains and graffiti.

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We entered through the sea port (porta marina) at the southwest portion of the park.

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We stopped briefly by Suburban Baths (terme suburbane).

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Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed in this area, so we could only admire from afar. Then we walked up the Via Marina.

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The less than well-preserved temple of Venus (tiempo di Venere) on the road did not attract many spectators.

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pompeii scavi

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I was attracted more to the commonplace civil engineering elements, such as drainage ditches, crosswalk stones and lego-like building blocks.

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pompeii scavi

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I also loved the architectural aspects of the shops and home that owners added to differentiate themselves from others.

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pompeii scavi

This shopkeeper’s store on the Via Marina stood out from the other buildings due to its remaining address marker.

Just down the street from this shop is the impressive temple of Apollo. It is has the peripteros layout with a colonnade surrounding the courtyard.

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The colonnaded cella sits on a high podium creating a peristasis. Sitting on a podium, the temple was designed to invoke awe in the onlooker and it does just that. Columns of the outer colonnade of the courtyard and of the cella are still standing. The altar in the courtyard is still in good condition.

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You cannot get to the temple, but you can access the outer colonnade It is one of the few areas in Pompeii still standing where you can walk the roofed structure. Ambling through the colonnade gives you many perspectives of the beautiful temple while also giving you some much-needed shade.

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It is beautiful looking at the temple from the perspective of the bronze statues and water basins lining the colonnade.

pompeii scaviMore stood surrounding it, but only the markings from their original bases remain.

Walking further up the street, we reached the eminent forum. Public meeting places have longtime been my favorite spots to see.

I love forums, agoras and tavernas – places of mundane everyday life for cross-sections of population. These are the places where I feel the magic of the ancient world when I have the dirt beneath my feet.

To the south is the basilica. It is the oldest building in Pompeii and the oldest known basilica of the ancient world.

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It is actually pre-Roman built between 120 – 78 BC. It was modeled on the Greek stoa. Vitruvius’ De Architectura discusses many of the principles of the basicilia’s architecture.

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The basilica was used for commerce and as a court for a tribunal. The main entrance is on the short side facing the forum with the remnants of Ionic and Corinthian columns facing the onlooker.

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The basilica was closed to visitors the day that I happened to go, so I did not get to admire the standing facade close up. The remains of the symmetrical grid of columns gives a beautiful view to admire the grandeur of what it must have been.

To the south are the three halls comprising the less enthralling municipal offices. This area of bureaucracy has always required effort to keep my attention. With other more impressive things surrounding me, it was difficult to hold my attention.

Near it was an impressive arch of Drusus built with characteristic thin Roman bricks missing its marble.

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Most buildings, including arches, are missing their statues.

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pompeii scavi

Some building fragments with inscriptions are still standing while others are lying on the ground.

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On one side of the forum are the building of Eumachia, temple of Vespasian and the sanctuary of the public Lares.

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However, the forum granary on one side of the forum houses many pieces from Pompeii such as amphora, statues, pedestals, altars, tables and the famed plaster body casts of the victims of the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

pompeii scaviIt is difficult to see the suffering any of human from any time period. The postures of these poor souls in their last moments are heart-wrenching.

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pompeii scavi

To the northern end of the forum is the temple of Jupiter with triumphal arches on each side.

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It was built before Roman rule and dedicated to Jupiter. Upon Roman conquest, it was expanded and dedicated the ‘Capitoline Triad’  – Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.

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The enlarged Roman temple of 150 BC loomed over the forum – the focal public space – as intended by the Romans. It became the main temple after Roman conquest holding statues of its gods within the cella where only its priest could enter. The podium had vaulted rooms where votive items and the city treasury were stored. The front of the temple had a prostyle portico/pronaos. I saw remnants of Ionic columns, however there were Corinthian columns as well. The temple sits on a podium like the temple of Apollo. The temple went through three different periods of style rooted in the occupation of the Samnites and then the Romans. An earthquake in 62 AD left the temple of Jupiter in shambles and it awaiting yet another remodeling at the time of the volcanic eruption that buried the city. The smaller temple of Jupiter Meilichios became the city’s main temple after the 62 AD earthquake.

Next to the forum granary on the edge of the forum is a measurement table (mensa ponderaria) from the public office for weights and measures that was used to control weights and measurements.

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It was used by the nearby vegetable market (forum holitorium) to sell foods. The inscription gives info on the measurement system used. First the Oscan (Samnite) measurement system was used and then the standardized Roman measurement system introduced by Augustus.

Across the street (vicolo dei soprastanti) just north of the temple of Jupiter are the public forum baths. Some baths were private belonging wealthy families. Most baths were public. The forum baths are one of the three baths in Pompeii.

The other two are stabian baths and central baths. The forum baths were the smallest and most beautiful.

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I fell in love with the geometric patterns on the ceilings. I personally loved the colors.

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The baths are divided into men’s and women’s quarters.

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The baths had four main rooms: the apodyterium (the changing room); a frigidarium (cold bath); a tepidarium (warm bath); and calidarium (hot bath).

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Romans moved successively from colder to warmer in order to stimulate sweat.

pompeii scaviThe changing rooms have gorgeous clubfooted couches.

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There is a palaestra outside the baths that was used before exercise where bathers could work up a sweat before beginning the bathing process in the cold bath.

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The entrance hall for men is less ornate, but the floor art is still beautiful to admire.

There are many beautiful items in baths such as clubfooted couches in the changing room, atlantes in the warm room, ornate frescoes throughout and marble fountains for cooling off throughout as well.

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Just north of the forum baths is the temple of Fortuna Augusta in honor of the emperor Augustus. Oddly enough, it was built by a relative of Cicero with his own funds while he was serving duumvir for the city.

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Further north across the via delle terme is the thermopolium – a place to get ‘hot food’ or the ancient equivalent of fast food.

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It has a counter with sunken round dolia jars that stored food.

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The counter and jars made for fast and easy standing service for those on the go and those without a private kitchen.

We then tried to head further north and east, but everything that we looked for was closed. My boyfriend had already been patient in his sweat and hunger. Sadly, we have not even covered a quarter of the park yet. So, we decided to try to hit just the major spots. Even that proved to be a challenge.

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So, we went to the famous House of the Faun. It is named after a bronze statue of a dancing faun that was found there.

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It is the largest and one of the most lavish houses in Pompeii. It encapsulates the aristocratic homes of the Roman Republic. The home encompasses an entire city block and was built during Samnite occupation in the second century BC.

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The fauces is impressive and full of first style fresco art and plaster columns.

The fauces opens up to the atrium. It is here where you can find the statue of the faun in an impluvium.

pompeii scaviLike most art in Pompeii, the impressive pieces have been removed and take to the Naples National Archaeological Museum. The illustrious mosaic apparently of Alexander the Great in the Battle of Issus against the Persian king Darius.

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It is possibly the only depiction of Alexander the Great in the ancient world. There are also two peristyles in the home.

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A beautiful fresco in the third style is still standing in the home.

Just down the road on the via della fortuna is the House of the Wild Boar.

We briefly stopped in and did not spend too much time appreciating the house.

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The ruins, no matter how well-preserved, were all blurring together in the eyes of my boyfriend.

pompeii scaviWe checked out some of frescoes in the fourth style and missed the floor mosaics.

We passed most of the buildings and ruins, including the central baths as we made our way south to the theater and temples. My boyfriend was more interested in the exit, which was edging closer. We did get to stop in to see the Stabian baths.

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pompeii scavi

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These are the oldest baths of the city.

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I loved these baths for the large peristyle outside, the more intact remains of the baths, the exposed hypocaust, floor mosaics as well as the round frigidarium.

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pompeii scavi

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The body casts also added to the bath.

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pompeii scavi

We moved increasingly faster toward the theater and the exit as my boyfriend’s shirt became increasingly dampened. We passed the closed off temple of Asclepius also known the temple of Jupiter Melichios.

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It interestingly has a tufa altar. all that remains is the altar, a few column bases and the podium base of the temple.

Next to it is the temple of Isis. It was one of the first discoveries when Pompeii was excavated in the 18th century. It emphasized the influence of the Greeks in Magna Graecia of southern Italy.

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The temple is dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis, which became part of the Hellenized religion. The temple is depicted in art of homes in Pompeii indicating that is was an important place for societal elite.

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This temple has more remains left than other temples do. On top of storage, it also housed a cistern where holy water from the Nile.

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We moved south to the small theater/odeion built during Roman occupation. It was modeled after the famous odeion Herodes Atticus of the Acropolis in Athens, but to a smaller degree. This theater sat approximately 1,500 spectators.

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I love looking at the cavea from the orchestra. I also loved the scaenae frons, because it is something truly different than the Greek theater.

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I had to complete the incomplete visit at the grand theater since my boyfriend was not up for going to the amphitheater. He had indulged me for hours in over weather over 100 degree weather with the sun beating down. By the time we made it the grand theater, my boyfriend sat in the shade of the tunnel.

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This one was built in the third century BC and sat 5,000 spectators. I quickly looked around and ran out to the exit.

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Below the theaters is the quadiporticus, where graffiti can be found. Unfortunately, I only got to breeze by it.

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I was still in awe of seeing the things that I had learned about as a Classics major. This coupled with my archaeological experiences made me want to stay for days to visit each and every building. I could only look forward to Herculaneum, which was supposed to be ever better preserved. My poor boyfriend ran for an ice cream before the train came. He was just hoping for the moment when he could start enjoying his vacation again.

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