Many films about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae in 79 A.D. are highly fictionalized. However, nowadays we can reconstruct the dynamics of the facts of an event that has remained in history as one of the most devastating natural disasters that hit Italy.
Pompeii was a prosperous Roman town that once stood at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. The inhabitants were unaware that the Green Giant (the sides of the mountain were covered with vegetation and vineyards and olive trees) could pose a threat. In fact, there were 700 years that the volcano gave no signs of life, so they did not worry too much when, between the 20th and the 24th of August in 79 A.D., a series of earthquakes shook the houses. Some roofs collapsed making the first victims. Then all was quiet again, the people returned to their homes convinced that the danger had passed.
On the morning of August the 25th, first thick clouds thick clouds rose up, then came a tremendous explosion. Vesuvius had awakened. Within hours, a column of smoke rose up to tens of kilometers going to blot out the sun. However, Pompeiians didn’t understand yet to be on the verge of tragedy, so only a few escaped. Most of them took refuge in the house and cellars. In the sky of Pompeii a disaster was unleashed. A mix of ash, gas and rocks began falling on the city, the Pompeiians spilled out of the houses in the futile effort to escape. Suffocated by smoke, they fell in the streets or in the gardens, and over their bodies meters of debris were deposited. Fared no better in those who had managed to reach the beaches, because the sea, bubbling because of the heat, rose to high waves. The earthquake had become a tidal wave. While Pompeii was covered by volcanic debris, on the nearby Herculaneum had fallen only a thin layer of ash. The inhabitants did not want to abandon their homes and had no escape when the volcano rushed to the speed of a hurricane (160 mph) huge amounts of fiery boulders that broke down the houses and killed everyone.
The eruption of Vesuvius had lasted just over 25 hours, during which the volcano had expelled nearly a billion cubic meters of material.
The Roman Empire sent his army to help the people, but the devastation was such that no one thought to rebuild the city. For centuries Pompeii and Herculaneum were lost even in the memory. Then, in the eighteenth century, some farmers digging in their fields ran into coins, columns, human skeletons: the ancient Pompeii had been found. Around 1860 the archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli began to carry out systematic excavations. He also thought of throwing liquid plaster into the cavities left in the hardened ground: that was an empty space left by the human bodies that centuries ago had decomposed. He got so the perfect casts, showing the victims in the position where they died. The archaeological area of Pompeii is the largest archaeological site in the world, and one of the most visited.
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The Greeks “conquer” the ancient Pompeii. A new emotion awaits the tourists of the "Queen of archeology”. From April 14 until November 27 the Big Gym of the Excavations of Pompeii will host the exhibition "Pompeii and the Greeks": over 600 exhibits that tell the history of the encounter between the Pompeian civilization with the Greek world, through an immersive signed "Graphics eMotion”. The exhibition, curated by the Director General of Pompeii Massimo Osanna and Carlo Rescigno of the University of Campania, is promoted by the Pompeii Superintendency.
"Pompeii and the Greeks” tells the stories of a meeting: starting from an Italian town, Pompeii, it shows the frequent contact with the Greek civilization, following craftsmen, architects, decorative styles, focusing on precious imported objects but also on inscriptions in Greek on city walls, they focus the many different souls of an ancient city, its temporary and unstable identity. Over 600 exhibits including ceramics, ornaments, weapons, architectural elements, sculptures from Pompeii, Stabiae, Sorrento, Cuma, Capua, Poseidonia, Metaponto, Torre di Satriano and even inscriptions in different languages spoken - Greek, Etruscan, Paleoitalic - , silver and Greek sculptures reproduced in Roman times. The exhibition is a scientific project and ongoing research that for the first time shed light on unknown stretches of Pompeii: objects coming from leading national and European museums are divided into 13 thematic sections.
This exhibition reconstructs the Greek appearances before Pompeii, the forms of the ancient city, the changes imposed in the Gulf after the foundation of Naples - of which are exposed unpublished material from the bottom of the seaport - until the Roman world. Thanks to this event, many Italian documents and monuments emigrated abroad came back. For example, visitors can see the helmets donated to Olympia by Ieron, the tyrant of Syracuse, to celebrate the victory of the Cumans on the Etruscans in a battle fought on the waters of the Gulf of Naples. It will be possible to rediscover, in the fragments of a monumental crater from Altamura, in Apulia, the story of Alexander the Great's battle against the Persian king Darius, in the same manner and in the same pattern that was made almost two centuries later in the "Great Mosaic" of the House of the Faun. From two drain, two garbage dumps, one found in the Agora of Athens, the great square of the main center of the Greek world, and one at the arcades of Pompeii hole, it is possible to observe the similarities between objects and tools that show forms of similar experience in the two centers in the second century BC.
The exhibition design, which occupies the space of the Gymnasium of Pompeii, is designed by the Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi and includes three immersive audiovisual installations curated by the Canadian company GeM (Graphic eMotion). “Pompeii and the Greeks” illustrates the visitors the charm of a non-linear historical narrative, composed of multiple and contradictory identity, by layered languages, consciously re-used: the history of the Mediterranean area. A narrative that suggests a comparison and a reflection on our contemporary time with its dynamism made of migration and conflict, whit its encounters and clashes of cultures. The Pompeii exhibit is the first stage of an exhibition program carried out jointly with the Archaeological Museum of Naples: in June there will start an exhibition dedicated to the Greek myths in Pompeii and the Roman world.
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Staff at Flashback Journey to Pompeii. Our goal is to bring you up-to-date information on events, continuing archeological excavations and more on Pompeii.