Wednesday, April 10, 2019

A Morning in Herculaneum

Yesterday John and I rose early to catch the Circumvesuviana train to the Erculano-Scavi stop and visit the famous Herculaneum excavation site. We were not disappointed. Unlike Pompei, which was crushed under volcanic ash, Herculaneum was submerged in hot, volcanic mud and much better preserved.
 Visitors enter the site by descending a ramp to the ancient beach of the Bay of Naples. We immediately sensed the depth of that mudslide of AD 79.
At the bottom of the ramp we encountered a row of storage vaults and a grizzly reminder of the tragedy for the townspeople who had rushed to the beach in search of escape by boat.
Instead they were suffocated by the toxic fumes.
 The new town now sits on top of the ruins of the old town and prevents the complete excavation of its buildings and treasures.
Let's explore...
 A tavern with its cook pots and lovely terrazzo decoration seem still to await morning customers.
In the public baths John and I imagined stowing our clothes on these shelves in the men's change rooms
before a dip into the mosaic-floored bathing pool.
 The women's baths display an elegance that surely pleased female customers. 
The men's open air gymnasium would have tempted the gents to work out before taking the baths.
 Back on the street we admired this public fountain.
Nearby John caught me photographing an elegant villa garden with its colonnade. Herculaneum was  populated by rich Romans who competed in building luxurious homes.
 The volcanic mudslide preserved several stories of the homes. Here we can see part of a second floor of a home that overhangs the street. Note the table exposed on the second floor and the buildings of the new town in the background.
 I liked the second floor balcony of this home - just my style!
 And how about this staircase to a second floor interior balcony. Fun! Love the hint of colourful frescoes to decorate it all too!
 A carbonized wooden bed was preserved by the volcanic mud in this frescoed bedroom.
 A beautiful detail on a frescoed wall like those now on view in the National Archaeological Museum
 and a gorgeous mosaic fountain background from a triclinium (dining room). A Sea God accompanied by a Sea Nymph.
 Another triclinium fountain mosaic displays hunting scenes. Classy, eh?
 I regret that we can only share a taste of the wonders to be found in Herculaneum. Let's finish with the impressive hall of the College of the Augustales, an imperial cult of freedmen, that was under restoration when we visited.
 Again wonderful artwork and architecture that is not to be missed and yet the compactness of the site makes it an easy visit just outside of Napoli.
As we looked down on the incredible excavations below the modern town on our way back to the train station, we knew that we will return to explore it further. A treasure!


  1. Wow! Amazingly preserved! Can't believe this was from AD79!

    1. Was marvellous, rarecat. Makes for a very stimulating morning. And not too sunny!

  2. Great photos and story. We were there 2 years ago. I think it's the best of the sites because it was so well-preserved by the mud.

    1. So you know how rewarding this site is, Gary. Our next stop will be Villa Poppaea, called a most evocative Roman villa in the recommended "Naples Declared" by Benjamin Taylor. It is also on the Circumvesuviana.