Pompeii Italy

As part of my trip to Gaeta I made a side trip to Pompeii on the way back to the airport in Napoli.

The entrance Gate to Pompeii

These buildings are just outside the original city wall of Pompeii, and were stables and granaries for the local farmers. When warloomed, they could disappear quickly within the confines of the wall, and their stock was left to fend for itself.

Me just inside the wall, taken by my faithful guide, Luigi.

A jumble of fallen building stones.

The footings of the massive colums that once held up a temple

Close up of the pillar. This pillar was originally simple fluted white marble, but was later coated and painted

From a friend of mine who studied Roman architecture & buildiong materials:

One of the more notable things lost during the dark ages was the use of concrete. If you look carefully in the pictures you'll see some pozzalan concrete made from volcanic ash. It was expensive back then cause it was a natural resource, but Pompeii had easy access to the material. This is what made Pompeii a great economic city. Normally concrete was used only on expensive civic buildings throughout the empire, but in Pompeii is was more common.

Both the techniques of concrete and stone veneer were lost and not resurrected until concrete again became widespread around 1850 in Europe. Both the Pantheon dome and the Colosseum are constructed of concrete imported to Rome. The romans never used bare concrete (it was too ugly and wouldn't take the paint). It was always used with face stones impressed into the surface to make it look like masonry or covered with a plaster fresco with typical colorful roman paints (reds, purples, yellows and would be considered gaudish by todays standards). Remember back then, paint as we know it didn't exist. So it was dyes onto wet plaster. Wood was not painted as the paint was too expensive and wouldn't last on wood.

One of the more agonizing aspects of the movie Gladiator is the complete lack of color in the Roman architecture. From writings of Pliny and others the romans loved paint and if it wasn't bare stone, it was painted in brilliant colors. The dye trade was one of the largest in the empire.

The mosaic floors on the interior are typically rich in color.

Now, back to our story: The history of pillars is interesting and somewhat ironic. (especially as they are made from stone, not metal)

I) The Egyptians
The Egyptians along the southern Nile built palaces of Papyrus trees, which were bound together in stacks, as each one was small in diameter.

II) The Greeks got the idea from the Egyptians.
The Egyptian bundles of sticks were duplicated in stone by the Greeks, with the flutes of the columns imitating the texture of the bound sticks.

III) Romans copied the Greeks

IV) Fashion catches up with history
Later, as fashions changed, and smooth marble columns of dark stone rose to prominence in Europe, the Romans coated their Grecian-style (copied from the Egyptians) fluted columns with plaster, which was then painted in a faux marble! Ah the Irony, that a white marble imitation of papyrus logs would then be painted to look like... Marble.

Apollo's Temple

Across a central square

More shorn columns

This building has been renovated and a new roof added to it. Here many artifacts are stored.

In this photo you can see many amphorae (plural of amphora) which are jars used to store and transport liquids (wine, beer, oil) and solids (grain, others) from place to place. The amphorae with flat bottoms are kept locally, while the ones with pointed bottoms are meant for transport. They would be placed in boards with a series of holes in them, which would keep the amphorae upright while being taken by cart or ship to their new destination.

The next chamber of the building houses artifacts including a plaster cast of the void of a human being left when they were encased in ash by the eruption of Vesuvius. When these cavities were discovered, they would be filled with plaster, then the remaining ash would be removed and the remaining cast would show approximately how the person looked as they were covered by the ash. The detail can be anywhere from indistinct to dramatic, such as showing the straps of a person's sandal across the skin of their leg.

Also shown in the foreground is a reconstructed cart.

Another series of body casts including one of a boar.

More artifacts and a cast of a person huddled against the onslaught of ash.

A cast of a prone corpse, among bird baths and basins.

More artifacts, including some statuary and a pair of wagon wheels on the right. Note the large diameter.

Preserved statuary. The twin objects to the foreground right are table legs, which would support a marble slab or wooden plank tabletop.

A view down the street, which shows why the wagon wheels were so large. The city had abundant indoor plumbing for fresh water. However, the sewer ran directly into the street. This along with animal waste from the beasts of burden meant that the street was no place to walk. Thus there are raised sidewalks all along the streets, often with elegant paving (stone or sometimes ceramic mosaic). To cross a street, you went to the corner and crossed at the raised stones which formed your cross walk. The height of the crosswalk stones necessitated the tall cart wheels described above.

Wide boulevards have 3 paving stones, allowing gaps for both cart wheels and the animal in the center, with two-way traffic. Narrower streets had only 2 stones, which meant that carts would have to pause for one way traffic if two met at a crosswalk.

An excellently preserved ceramic mosaic tile with the legend "CAVLA Canis" (Beware of Dog in Latin) and a picture of a dog on a chain. The steel gates are not original ;-)

Down a narrower alley.

Teh central courtyard of a large house. The houses were arranged in such a way that rainwater from the roof was channeled into a basin inside the main arcade of the house, which helped keep the place cool and provided a close source of fresh water, if you were too lazy to walk out to one of the many public fountains nearby.

A mill/bakery complex. The stone cones to the right are mills. Wooden staves were fitted into the sockets on the cones. Wheat was poured into the top of the cone, and the cone revolved. The ground wheat flour came out the bottom of the mill and collected on the smooth shelf around the cone. it was then scraped from the shelf into jars and stored or used to bake bread in the ovens in the background.

A lead drain pipe running down the side of the building. Lead pipes also run under the sidewalk pavement. Each joint of pipe has a maker's trademark on it, which have been cataloged, so that we can research each plumber's travels across the Roman Empire.

The Popmeiian fast food. Food was prepared and kept in the basins, which could be heated with fires under the cabinet. You walk up, order what you want and either take it with you, or eat it there.

Another excellent pool with a truly impreessive stone mosaic floor of marble and darker stone.

Lead fresh water pipe (my foot for scale) Notice the swelling just to the right of the stone anchor for the pipe, shoing where the pipe fitter soldered the two joints of pipe together. its frightening to think of all that we lost in the Dark Ages after the fall of Rome.

The timbers of the doorway are reconstructions. You can see the mixed mode building of both stone and flat brick.

The insides of a large building with a grassy central area dedicated to training athletes. A Pompeiian field house, if you will.

My guide Luigi in front of one of the theatres. There is this small amphitheatre, which seats 2,000. It has a water chamber under the stage (much as the Paris Opera House, made famous in "The Phantom of the Opera") which is used to adjust the acoustics of the hall.

To my right is another, larger stadium for concerts.

The largest public building in Pompeii, the colliseum. It would seat 10s of thousands, and would be the scene of athletic contest as well as gladiatorial fights (some would say slaughters)

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