Day 4 – Monte Vesuvio and Pompeii
- Barb: Antique
- Mike: Vesuvio
- Jen: Craftmanship
- Barb: Memory jogging
- Mike: Decorative brickwork
- Jen: Colorful marble
Three or Four Words
- Barb: Mosaic tile floors
- Mike: Irregular mosaic tiles
- Jen: Feast for the imagination
- Barb: Pompeii opens a window on the lives of the ancients.
- Mike: I want to travel back in time and witness a day in the life of Pompeii before the eruption.
- Jen: I walked in the footsteps of ancient Romans.
Today’s themes: Time, Everyday life, Craftsmanship
I confess I knew very little about Pompeii prior to reading about Roman history and watching two classes from The Great Courses in preparation for our visit. The tragic story of Pompeii is riveting. It was a resort town. People came for the baths, i.e., hot springs, I presume. The baths were the first structures built in the 4th century BC.
In 79 AD, Mt. Vesuvius erupted. People didn’t even know it was a volcano, it had been dormant so long. Gases killed Pompeii residents and visitors, and then ash buried them and the city.
In the mid 1700s a woman wanted to have a well dug. When workers emerged from the well with statues and ceramic artifacts, she called in historians and scientists. The science of archaeology was born, and Pompeii was rediscovered.
Pompeii was built more than 2,000 years ago. The US isn’t 250 years old. There is nothing in my experience that compares to the time frame of 2,000+ years ago. It’s hard for me to fathom that length of time. I find it overwhelming. I know that there are certain universal human thoughts and feelings, and I try to imagine those in that time period. It’s fun, but of course I’m only guessing, and I want to know, not just guess.
Some of the most evocative artifacts are the plaster casts of people. On that fateful August day in AD 79, the sky was dark, the sea was rough (no escaping by boat), and the air was full of gas and ash. People collapsed and died, then were buried (preserved) by ash. Their bodies disintegrated. Archaeologists found hollow cavities filled with bones.
They discovered they could use the hollow cavities as molds, fill them with plaster, and get the shapes of the people as they had died. The models are haunting. They hammer home the final experience of these people, and they make the people of the time more real to me, feel more similar to me.
The remains of the buildings, the roads with ruts from wagon wheels, and the paintings and artifacts help me imagine the everyday lives of these people. We watched a little girl pick up pebbles in the road, and I easily envisioned her in a tunic and sandals.
The beauty and endurance of the stone- and brickwork inspire awe. The engineering of the huge structures is impressive, and the time taken to carve beautiful details and decorate with extensive tile mosaics commands respect. These are not made-in-China, cheap, disposable things.
I want to live in a world where these things are valued as they were obviously valued then. I want to make things like this, things that cannot be rushed, things that take time and care and skill to make.
I love this place!