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Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Historical Background
The Ancient City of Pompeii


In the early afternoon hours of August 24, 79 A.D. the summit of Mount Vesuvius exploded without warning. A black river of ash and lapilli ran from the crater of the volcano down through the city of Pompeii leaving death and destruction in its wake. The magnificent ancient city of Pompeii was left buried under about 20 feet of earth and ash. Pompeii was originally only 500 meters from the sea, but after the eruption the distance to the sea increased to two kilometers.

Mount Vesuvius
Ominous View of Mount Vesuvius

Oscans settled along the shore of the Tyrrhenian Sea on an elevated lavic spur that was created by an ancient erution of Vesuvius during the 8th century B.C. The strategic location made Pompeii an object of great importance to the Estuscans. The Samnites arrived from the mountains of Irpinia in the 5th century, putting an end to the control of Campania by the Greeks and Etruscans.

Pompeii Hillside
The Stategic Hillside Location of Pompeii
Pompeii, showing strategic location on hill

It was inevitable that Pompeii would fall under the domination of Rome at the beginning of the Samnite Wars. Pompeii became a Roman colony in 80 B.C., taking the name "Colonia Veneria Cornelia Pompeii" which refers to both her conquerer and to the goddess Venus.

Temple of Jupiter on the Arcade
Temple of Jupiter on the Arcade

Pompeii Ruins
Ruins at Pompeii

Seventeen-hundred years later, architect Domenico Fontana happened across some inscriptions while building a tunnel in the area. Some excavation was done near the amphitheater at that time, but no one suspected that an entire city was buried there. The first scientific exploration of the site took place in 1748, directed by Charles of Bourbon. In 1860 Giuseppe Fiorelli invented a system of pouring liquid plaster into the spaces left in the ash bed.

Dramatic Example of Death at Pompeii
A Dramatic Example of the Death that Overtook the People of Pompeii

Victim in PompeiiVictim of Vesuvius
Casts Obtained by Pouring Plaster into the Spaces left by Decomposed Bodies

Victims had remained in the House of the Fugitives during the volcanic eruption and the fall of lapilli. Later they had tried to escape under the ashes, but suffocated.

Pompeii, Vesuvius
View of Fountain Ruin with Vesuvius in Background

Pompeii Forum
View of the Forum at Pompeii

The oldest buildings of Pompeii date to the 6th century B.C. and likely only occupied a small part of the south-western area, between the main Forum and the Triangular Forum. Pompeii gradually expanded toward the east and the north. Most of the ruins date back to its establishment as a Roman colony in 80 B.C.

Historical Background of Pompeii - I

Background of Pompeii - II

Entrance to the Ruins and Roads of Pompeii - III

The Forum and Basilica - IV

Temples of Apollo, Isis, and Jupiter - V

Water Supply and the Baths of Pompeii - VI

Pompeii's Mills, Bakery, Laundry, and Brothel - VII

House of the Faun, House of the Vettii,
House of the Large Fountain, and
The House of the Silver Wedding - VIII

House of Marcus Lucretius Fronto,
House of Trebius Valens, House of Loreius Tibertinus,
And the Villa of the Mysteries - IX

Court of the Gladiators, Amphitheatre, and
The Necropolis of Porta Nocera - X

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