September 17 - 23, 2017: Issue 330


Tourists exploring the site.


By George Repin

On 24 August 79 CE Mount Vesuvius, which dominates the Bay of Naples, erupted explosively burying Pompeii, Herculaneum and villas on the shores of the Bay under a crust of volcanic ash.

At the start of  the eruption, when dry ash was falling and showers of pumice were raining down upon the city,  people who could not or refused to flee took refuge in buildings or under cover. By late evening the volcanic material had reached the upper stories of buildings when the second phase of the eruption released searing super-heated gases which swept through the city killing those who had stayed. Their bodies were buried in the accumulating five metres of volcanic ash. Of Pompeii’s estimated population of 10,000 to 12,000 most escaped in the early stages of the eruption - but around 2,000 people perished.

Cast of a human prepared by filling with plaster the void left after decomposition of human material.

Cast of a dog which had been tied up.

For the next seventeen centuries the city was sealed as if in a time capsule.  It was preserved and forgotten until excavations started in 1748.  The excavations revealed Pompeii street by street, building by building, room by room – providing unparalleled information about life in a city of the Roman Empire of the time. The excavations continue to this day and are still yielding useful knowledge.  

General view of part of the site.

Restored columns.

An excavated sculptured head.

A visitor to Pompeii can see the layout of the city and many of the physical facilities available to the inhabitants, such as the public baths and the communal public toilets.  The popularity of bread as a staple food in the diet is evidenced by large numbers of bakeries in some of which blackened loaves, almost two thousand years old, have been found in the ruins of ovens.  There are millstones which had been used by bakers to mill their own grain.

A corner of the ceiling of a bathhouse.

A water fountain in the bathhouse.

A decorative feature in the bathhouse.

The layout of private residences can be seen and the many beautiful frescoes which have been preserved shed light on the art techniques and styles used in ancient Rome.

Mosaic floor in a home.

Wall fresco in a home.

However, what some visitors find disappointing is the absence of displays of items such as coins, jewellery, household items, pottery, statues and the like discovered during  excavations,  which would have added perspective in imagining life in Pompeii. These items are now in museums, primarily in Naples and in particular the Superintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

Items from the above museum were on display in Sydney for a few months earlier this year at the Australian National Maritime Museum in an Exhibition entitled Escape from Pompeii – the untold Roman rescue.  

Water spout above a water tank in a bakery.

Work table in a kitchen.

Bust statue of a female.

(Photographs at the site of the excavations of Pompeii included with this article were taken by George Repin in 2014.)
Mount Vesuvius seen across the Bay of Naples from Sorrento.

Previous Reflections by George Repin 

The Nineteen Thirties  Remembering Rowe Street  The Sydney Push  Saturday Night at the Movies  Shooting Through Like A Bondi Tram  A Stop On The Road To Canberra  City Department Stores - Gone and Mostly Forgotten  An Australian Icon - thanks to Billy Hughes  Crossing The Pacific in the 1930s  Hill End  The Paragon at Katoomba  Seafood In Sydney  How Far From Sydney?  Cockatoo Island Over The Years  The Seagull at the Melbourne Festival in 1991  Busby's Bore  The Trocadero In Sydney  Cahill's restaurants Medical Pioneers in Australian Wine Making  Pedal Power and the Royal Flying Doctor Service  Pambula and the Charles Darwin Connection  Gloucester and the Barrington Tops  A Millenium Apart  Have You Stopped to Look?  Gulgong  Il Porcellino  Olympia  Durham Hall  Sargent's Tea Rooms Pie Shops and Street Photographers The Ballet Russes and Their Friends in Australia  Hotels at Bondi  Alma Ata Conference - 1978 Keukenhof - 1954 The Lands Department Building and Yellowblock Sandstone  The Goroka Show - 1958  A Gem On The Quay  Staffa  The Matson Line and Keepsake Menus Kokeshi Dolls  The Coal Mine At Balmain  The Hyde Park Barracks  The Changing Faces Of Sydney From Pounds and Pence to Dollars and Cents Nell Tritton and Alexander Kerensky  Making A Difference In Ethiopia William Balmain  J C Bendrodt and Princes Restaurant Azzalin Orlando Romano and Romano's Restaurant  Waldheim  Alcohol in Restaurants Before 1955  King Island Kelp  The Mercury Theatre   Around Angkor - 1963   Angkor Wat 1963  Costumes From the Ballets Russe Clifton at Kirribilli  Chairman Mao's Personal Physician  The Toby Tavern The MoKa at Kings Cross  The Oceaographic  Museum  in Monaco  The Island of Elba  Russian Fairy Tale Plates  Meteora  Souda Bay War Cemetery Barrow, Alaska  Cloisonné  Tripitaka Koreana Minshuku The Third Man Photographs and Memories  Not A Chagall!  Did You Listen? Did You Ask?  Napier (Ahuriri, Maori) New Zealand  Borobudur  Ggantija Temples Plumes and Pearlshells  Murano  University of Padua  Ancient Puebloe Peoples - The Anasazi   Pula  The Gondolas of Venice Cinque Terre  Visiting the Iban David The Living Desert Bryce Canyon National Park   Aphrodisias   The Divine Comedy Caodaism  Sapa and local Hill People  A Few Children  Cappadocia  Symi Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre   Aboriginal Rock Art on Bigge Island    ANZAC Cove (Ari Burnu) 25 April, 1997  Hotere Garden Oputae  Children of the Trobriand Islands  Page Park Market - Rabaul  Rabual   Kotor, Montenegro   Galleries of Photographs I   Lascaux  Galleries of Photographs II   The Cathedral of St. James – Šibenik, Croatia  Ivan Meštrović  - Sculptor   Delphi   Gallery of Photographs III  The Handicrafts of Chiang Mai Raft Point  San Simeon - "Hearst Castle"  Floriade - The Netherlands - 1982  Russian New Year  Mycenae  "Flightseeing" Out Of Anchorage Alaska  The White Pass and Yukon Route  Totem Poles  Tivkin Cemetery  Krka National Park - Croatia   Tavistock Square and the BMA  Orthodox Easter  Wieliczka Salt Mine  A Walk on Santorini  Indonesian Snapshots Ephesus - The Library of Celsus  Ephesus - Some Places Of Interest  Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Valley United Nations Headquarters 1958  A Miscellany of Flower Images Gardens Bath St. David's In Wales   Zion National Park Nicholas Himona - Artist  Kraków  Lilianfels  Collonges-La-Rouge  Gingerbread Houses   Cape Sounion   Delos  Wroclaw  Colonial Williamsburg  Gruyères   Strasbourg  Coventry Cathedral  The Roman Theatre at Aspendos  Turkish Carpets The Duomo of Orvieto  Rovinj  The City Walls of Dubrovnik Monaco - Snapshots   Bonifacio, Corsica  Autumn in New England USA  The Great Ocean Road  

Copyright George Repin 2017. All Rights Reserved.