Everyone has that place they believe they'll never actually visit. For me, there were two which were just too legendary and too far away that there's no way the stars would ever align properly for me to visit. Atlantis was one of those places. Pompeii was another.
Of course, unlike Atlantis, Pompeii is very real.
In 78AD. this bustling ancient city was home to some 20,000 people who really wanted nothing more out of their days than to go to work, go home, play with their kids and live their lives.
That all changed the year after. In 79AD. Mount Vesuvius erupted violently, spewing over 1.5 million tons of molten rock, pulverized pumice and hot ash every second. In total, it released the thermal equivalent of over 100,000 Hiroshima/Nagasaki atomic bombs combined.
|The culprit: Mount Vesuvius, which last erupted in 1944...|
For many years, people believed that those who died in Pompeii (some 1,500 victims were unearthed) died due to asphyxiation. Recent studies, however, have determined that it's far more likely that these victims died of the sudden increase in heat. Basically, the victims didn't have time to suffocate. Temperatures soared to over 300° Celsius (540° Fahrenheit) in a fraction of a second.
One of the results of such a quick death was that people were covered in volcanic ash which, after molding itself to the bodies, then solidified. Volcanic ash doesn't dissolve in water so, as the bodies inside the ash deteriorated, a sort of mold of the body was created. In the mid-1800's, archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli developed a method of revealing the victims by pouring plaster of Paris into the molds created in the volcanic ash:
|A plaster casting of an actual victim in Pompeii...|
The city was moderately expansive for the day, and every inch of it was covered in ash. Today, it would take days to explore the site fully. Then again, much of the ruins look a lot like the ruins on the other side of town so, unless you're an obsessive Italian history buff, you could probably get by with visiting various parts of the ruins instead of everything.
|This map shows what Pompeii is believed to have looked like the day of the eruption...|
In the picture above, to the right, is the amphitheater in Pompeii. It's the earliest known permanent stone amphitheater in Italy.
As you find your way around the ruins, you'll likely find little tings here and there which offer a glimpse, as slight as it may be, into what Pompeii might've been like, whether it's a bath house, a storefront, or maybe even a vineyard:
|This vineyard still produces grapes today for wine made in the region. Mount Vesuvius looms in the background...|
|A sign, with 2,000 year old paint, on a building within the ruins...|
|Ruins in Pompeii...|
|Ruins in Pompeii...|
Today, the ruins at Pompeii are a UNSECO World Heritage Site and receive over 2,000,000 visitors every year. Like I said, it would take you a while to do a full visit to every portion of the ruins, but a shorter visit will most certainly offer you some insight into what things were like in Pompeii in the first century...