Herculaneum Stabiae Villa Poppaea

View of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius
Pompeii is located in Italy
Shown within Italy
LocationPompei, Province of Naples, Campania, Italy
Coordinates40°45′0″N 14°29′10″E / 40.75000°N 14.48611°E / 40.75000; 14.48611Coordinates: 40°45′0″N 14°29′10″E / 40.75000°N 14.48611°E / 40.75000; 14.48611
Area64 to 67 ha (170 acres)
Founded6th–7th century BC
AbandonedAD 79
Site notes
Official nameArchaeological Areas of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata
Criteriaiii, iv, v
Designated1997 (21st session)
Reference no.829

Pompeii (/pɒmˈp(i)/, Latin[pɔmˈpeːjjiː]) was an ancient city located in what is now the comune of Pompei near Naples in the Campania region of Italy. Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area (e.g. at Boscoreale, Stabiae), was buried under 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft) of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

Largely preserved under the ash, the excavated city offered a unique snapshot of Roman life, frozen at the moment it was buried,[1] and an extraordinarily detailed insight into the everyday life of its inhabitants, although much of the evidence was lost in the early excavations. It was a wealthy town, enjoying many fine public buildings and luxurious private houses with lavish decorations, furnishings and works of art which were the main attractions for the early excavators. Organic remains, including wooden objects and human bodies, were entombed in the ash and decayed leaving voids which archaeologists found could be used as moulds to make plaster casts of unique and often gruesome figures in their final moments of life. The numerous graffiti carved on the walls and inside rooms provide a wealth of examples of the largely lost Vulgar Latin spoken colloquially at the time, contrasting with the formal language of the classical writers.

Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, with approximately 2.5 million visitors annually.[2]

After many excavations prior to 1960 that had uncovered most of the city but left it in decay,[3] further major excavations were banned and instead they were limited to targeted, prioritised areas. In 2018, these led to new discoveries in some previously unexplored areas of the city.[4][5][6][7]


Pompeii (pronounced [pɔmˈpɛjjiː]) in Latin is a second declension plural noun (Pompeiī, -ōrum). According to Theodor Kraus, "The root of the word Pompeii would appear to be the Oscan word for the number five, pompe, which suggests that either the community consisted of five hamlets or perhaps it was settled by a family group (gens Pompeia)."[8]

The Forum with Vesuvius in the distance


Pompeii was built about 40 metres (130 ft) above sea level on a coastal lava plateau created by earlier eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, (8 km (5.0 mi) distant). The plateau fell steeply to the south and partly the west and into the sea. Three sheets of sediment from large landslides lie on top of the lava, perhaps triggered by extended rainfall.[9] The city bordered the coastline, though today it is 700 metres (2,300 ft) away. The mouth of the navigable Sarno River, adjacent to the city, was protected by lagoons and served early Greek and Phoenician sailors as a safe haven and port which was developed further by the Romans.

Pompeii covered a total of 64 to 67 hectares (160 to 170 acres) and was home to 11,000 to 11,500 people, based on household counts.[10]


Although best known for its Roman remains visible today dating from AD 79, it was built upon a substantial city dating from much earlier times. Expansion of the city from an early nucleus (the old town) accelerated already from 450 BC under the Greeks after the battle of Cumae.[11]

Early history

Settlement phases of Pompeii
red: 1st (Samnite) town
blue: 1st expansion, 4th c. BC
green: 2nd expansion
yellow: Roman expansion, from 89 BC

The first stable settlements on the site date back to the 8th century BC when the Oscans,[12] a people of central Italy, founded five villages in the area.

With the arrival of the Greeks in Campania from around 740 BC, Pompeii entered the orbit of the Hellenic people and the most important building of this period is the Doric Temple, built away from the centre in what would later become the Triangular Forum.[13]:62 At the same time the cult of Apollo was introduced.[14] Greek and Phoenician sailors used the location as a safe port.

In the early 6th century BC, the settlement merged into a single community centred on the important crossroad between Cumae, Nola, and Stabiae and was surrounded by a tufa city wall (the pappamonte wall).[15][16] The first wall (which was also used as a base for the later wall) unusually enclosed a much greater area than the early town together with much agricultural land.[17] That such an impressive wall was built at this time indicates that the settlement was already important and wealthy. The city began to flourish and maritime trade started with the construction of a small port near the mouth of the river.[13] The earliest settlement was focused in regions VII and VIII of the town (the old town) as identified from stratigraphy below the Samnite and Roman buildings, as well as from the different and irregular street plan.

In 524 BC, the Etruscans arrived and settled in the area, including Pompeii, finding in the River Sarno a communication route between the sea and the interior. Like the Greeks, the Etruscans did not conquer the city militarily, but simply controlled it and Pompeii enjoyed a sort of autonomy.[13]:63 Nevertheless, Pompeii became a member of the Etruscan League of cities.[18] Excavations in 1980–1981 have shown the presence of Etruscan inscriptions and a 6th-century BC necropolis.[19] Under the Etruscans a primitive forum or simple market square was built, as well as the Temple of Apollo, in both of which objects including fragments of bucchero were found by Maiuri.[20] Several houses were built with the so-called Tuscan atrium, typical of this people.[13]:64

The city wall was strengthened in the early-5th century BC with two façades of relatively thin, vertically set, slabs of Sarno limestone some four metres apart filled with earth (the orthostate wall).[21]

In 474 BC the Greek city of Cumae, allied with Syracuse, defeated the Etruscans at the Battle of Cumae and gained control of the area.

The Samnite period

City walls south of the Nocera gate

The period between about 450–375 BC witnessed large areas of the city being abandoned while important sanctuaries such as the Temple of Apollo show a sudden lack of votive material remains.[22]

The Samnites, people from the areas of Abruzzo and Molise, and allies of the Romans, conquered Greek Cumae between 423 and 420 BC and it is likely that all the surrounding territory, including Pompeii, was already conquered around 424 BC. The new rulers gradually imposed their architecture and enlarged the town.

From 343–341 BC in the Samnite Wars, the first Roman army entered the Campanian plain bringing with it the customs and traditions of Rome, and in the Roman Latin War from 340 BC the Samnites were faithful to Rome. Pompeii, although governed by the Samnites, entered the Roman orbit, to which it remained faithful even during the third Samnite war and in the war against Pyrrhus. In the late 4th century BC the city began to expand from its nucleus and into the open walled area. The street plan of the new areas was more regular and more conformal to Hippodamus's street plan. The city walls were reinforced in Sarno stone in the early 3rd century BC (the limestone enceinte, or the "first Samnite wall"). It formed the basis for the currently visible walls with an outer wall of rectangular limestone blocks as a terrace wall supporting a large agger, or earth embankment, behind it.

After the Samnite Wars from 290 BC, Pompeii was forced to accept the status of socii of Rome, maintaining, however, linguistic and administrative autonomy.

From the outbreak of the Second Punic War (218–201 BC) in which Pompeii remained faithful to Rome, an additional internal wall was built of tufa and the internal agger and outer façade raised resulting in a double parapet with wider wall-walk.[13] Despite the political uncertainty of these events and the progressive migration of wealthy men to quieter cities in the eastern Mediterranean, Pompeii continued to flourish due to the production and trade of wine and oil with places like Provence and Spain,[23] as well as to intensive agriculture on farms around the city.

In the 2nd century BC, Pompeii enriched itself by taking part in Rome's conquest of the east as shown by a statue of Apollo in the Forum erected by Lucius Mummius in gratitude for their support in the sack of Corinth and the eastern campaigns. These riches enabled Pompeii to bloom and expand to its ultimate limits. The forum and many public and private buildings of high architectural quality were built, including Teatro Grande, the Temple of Jupiter, the Basilica, the Comitium, the Stabian Baths and a new two-story portico.[24]

The Roman period

Annotated map of Pompeii

Pompeii was one of the towns of Campania that rebelled against Rome in the Social Wars and in 89 BC it was besieged by Sulla, who targeted the strategically vulnerable Porta Ercolano with his artillery as can still be seen by the impact craters of thousands of ballista shots in the walls. Many nearby buildings inside the walls were also destroyed.[25] Although the battle-hardened troops of the Social League, headed by Lucius Cluentius, helped in resisting the Romans, Pompeii was forced to surrender after the conquest of Nola.

The result was that Pompeii became a Roman colony with the name of Colonia Cornelia Veneria Pompeianorum. Many of Sulla's veterans were given land and property in and around the city, while many of those who opposed Rome were dispossessed of their property. Despite this, the Pompeians were granted Roman citizenship and they were quickly assimilated into the Roman world. The main language in the city became Latin,[26] and many of Pompeii's old aristocratic families Latinized their names as a sign of assimilation.[27]

Fresco depicting the fight in the amphitheatre between Pompeians and Nucerians

The city became an important passage for goods that arrived by sea and had to be sent toward Rome or Southern Italy along the nearby Appian Way. Many public buildings were built or refurbished and improved under the new order; new buildings included the Amphitheatre of Pompeii in 70 BC, the Forum Baths, and the Odeon, while the forum was embellished with the colonnade of Popidius before 80 BC.[28] These buildings raised the status of Pompeii as a cultural centre in the region as it outshone its neighbours in the number of places for entertainment which significantly enhanced the social and economic development of the city.

Under Augustus, from about 30 BC a major expansion in new public buildings, as in the rest of the empire, included the Eumachia Building, the Sanctuary of Augustus and the Macellum. From about 20 BC, Pompeii was fed with running water by a spur from the Serino Aqueduct, built by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.

In AD 59, there was a serious riot and bloodshed in the amphitheatre between Pompeians and Nucerians (which is recorded in a fresco) and which led the Roman senate to send the Praetorian Guard to restore order and to ban further events for a period of ten years.[29][30]

AD 62–79

The inhabitants of Pompeii had long been used to minor earthquakes (indeed, the writer Pliny the Younger wrote that earth tremors "were not particularly alarming because they are frequent in Campania"), but on 5 February 62[31] a severe earthquake did considerable damage around the bay, and particularly to Pompeii. It is believed that the earthquake would have registered between about 5 and 6 on the Richter magnitude scale.[32]

On that day in Pompeii, there were to be two sacrifices, as it was the anniversary of Augustus being named "Father of the Nation" and also a feast day to honour the guardian spirits of the city. Chaos followed the earthquake; fires caused by oil lamps that had fallen during the quake added to the panic. The nearby cities of Herculaneum and Nuceria were also affected.[32]

Between 62 and the eruption in 79 most rebuilding was done in the private sector and older, damaged frescoes were often covered with newer ones, for example. In the public sector the opportunity was taken to improve buildings and the city plan e.g. in the forum.[33]

An important field of current research concerns structures that were restored between the earthquake of 62 and the eruption. It was thought until recently that some of the damage had still not been repaired at the time of the eruption but this has been shown to be doubtful as the evidence of missing forum statues and marble wall-veneers are most likely due to robbers after the city's burial.[34][35] The public buildings on the east side of the forum were largely restored and were even enhanced by beautiful marble veneers and other modifications to the architecture.[36]

Some buildings like the Central Baths were only started after the earthquake and were built to enhance the city with modern developments in their architecture, as had been done in Rome, in terms of wall-heating and window glass, and with well-lit spacious rooms. The new baths took over a whole insula by demolishing houses, which may have been made easier by the earthquake that had damaged these houses. This shows that the city was still flourishing rather than struggling to recover from the earthquake.[37]

In about 64, Nero and his wife Poppaea visited Pompeii and made gifts to the temple of Venus, probably when he performed in the theatre of Naples.[38]

By 79, Pompeii had a population of 20,000,[39] which had prospered from the region's renowned agricultural fertility and favourable location.

Eruption of Vesuvius

Pompeii and other cities affected by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The black cloud represents the general distribution of ash and cinder. Modern coast lines are shown.
Illustrated reconstruction, from a CyArk/University of Ferrara research partnership, of how the Temple of Apollo may have looked before Mt. Vesuvius erupted
The same location today.

The eruption lasted for two days.[40] The first phase was of pumice rain (lapilli) lasting about 18 hours, allowing most inhabitants to escape. That only approximately 1,150 bodies[41] have so far been found on site seems to confirm this theory and most escapees probably managed to salvage some of their most valuable belongings; many skeletons were found with jewellery, coins and silverware.

At some time in the night or early the next day, pyroclastic flows began near the volcano, consisting of high speed, dense, and very hot ash clouds, knocking down wholly or partly all structures in their path, incinerating or suffocating the remaining population and altering the landscape, including the coastline. By evening of the second day, the eruption was over, leaving only haze in the atmosphere through which the sun shone weakly.

A multidisciplinary volcanological and bio-anthropological study[42] of the eruption products and victims, merged with numerical simulations and experiments, indicates that at Pompeii and surrounding towns heat was the main cause of death of people, previously believed to have died by ash suffocation. The results of the study, published in 2010, show that exposure to at least 250 °C (480 °F) hot pyroclastic flows at a distance of 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the vent was sufficient to cause instant death, even if people were sheltered within buildings. The people and buildings of Pompeii were covered in up to twelve different layers of tephra, in total up to 6 metres (19.7 ft) deep.

Pliny the Younger provided a first-hand account of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius from his position across the Bay of Naples at Misenum but written 25 years after the event.[43] His uncle, Pliny the Elder, with whom he had a close relationship, died while attempting to rescue stranded victims. As admiral of the fleet, Pliny the Elder had ordered the ships of the Imperial Navy stationed at Misenum to cross the bay to assist evacuation attempts. Volcanologists have recognised the importance of Pliny the Younger's account of the eruption by calling similar events "Plinian". It had long been thought that the eruption was an August event based on one version of the letter but another version[44] gives a date of the eruption as late as 23 November. A later date is consistent with a charcoal inscription at the site, discovered in 2018, which includes the date of 17 October and which must have been recently written.[45]

Clear support for an October/November eruption is found in the fact that people buried in the ash appear to have been wearing heavier clothing than the light summer clothes typical of August. The fresh fruit and vegetables in the shops are typical of October – and conversely the summer fruit typical of August was already being sold in dried, or conserved form. Nuts from chestnut trees were found at Oplontis which would not have been mature before mid-September.[46] Wine fermenting jars had been sealed, which would have happened around the end of October. Coins found in the purse of a woman buried in the ash include one with a 15th imperatorial acclamation among the emperor's titles. These coins could not have been minted before the second week of September.[44]

Rediscovery and excavations

Periods/areas of excavations

Titus appointed two ex-consuls to organise a relief effort, while donating large amounts of money from the imperial treasury to aid the victims of the volcano.[47] He visited Pompeii once after the eruption and again the following year[48] but no work was done on recovery.

Soon after the burial of the city, survivors and possibly thieves came to salvage valuables, including the marble statues from the forum and other precious materials from buildings. There is wide evidence of post-eruption disturbance, including holes made through walls. The city was not completely buried, and tops of larger buildings would have been above the ash making it obvious where to dig or salvage building material.[49] The robbers left traces of their passage, as in a house where modern archaeologists found a wall graffito saying "house dug".[50]

Over the following centuries, its name and location were forgotten, though it still appeared on the Tabula Peutingeriana of the 4th century. Further eruptions particularly in 471–473 and 512 covered the remains more deeply. The area became known as the La Civita (the city) due to the features in the ground.[51]

Plan of Fontana's aqueduct through Pompeii

The next known date that any part was unearthed was in 1592, when architect Domenico Fontana while digging an underground aqueduct to the mills of Torre Annunziata ran into ancient walls covered with paintings and inscriptions. His aqueduct passed through and under a large part of the city[52] and would have had to pass though many buildings and foundations, as still can be seen in many places today, but he kept quiet and nothing more came of the discovery.

In 1689, Francesco Picchetti saw a wall inscription mentioning decurio Pompeiis ("town councillor of Pompeii"), but he associated it with a villa of Pompey. Franceso Bianchini pointed out the true meaning and he was supported by Giuseppe Macrini, who in 1693 excavated some walls and wrote that Pompeii lay beneath La Civita.[53]

Herculaneum itself was rediscovered in 1738 by workmen digging for the foundations of a summer palace for the King of Naples, Charles of Bourbon. Due to the spectacular quality of the finds, the Spanish military engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre made excavations to find further remains at the site of Pompeii in 1748, even if the city was not identified.[54] Charles of Bourbon took great interest in the finds, even after leaving to become king of Spain, because the display of antiquities reinforced the political and cultural prestige of Naples.[55] On 20 August 1763, an inscription [...] Rei Publicae Pompeianorum [...] was found and the city was identified as Pompeii.[56]

"Garden of the Fugitives". Plaster casts of victims still in situ; many casts are in the Archaeological Museum of Naples.

Karl Weber directed the first scientific excavations.[57] He was followed in 1764 by military engineer Franscisco la Vega, who was succeeded by his brother, Pietro, in 1804.[58]

There was much progress in exploration when the French occupied Naples in 1799 and ruled over Italy from 1806 to 1815. The land on which Pompeii lies was expropriated and up to 700 workers were used in the excavations. The excavated areas in the north and south were connected. Parts of the Via dell'Abbondanza were also exposed in west–east direction and for the first time an impression of the size and appearance of the ancient town could be appreciated. In the following years, the excavators struggled with lack of money and excavations progressed slowly, but with significant finds such as the houses of the Faun, of Menandro, of the Tragic Poet and of the Surgeon.

Giuseppe Fiorelli took charge of the excavations in 1863 and made greater progress.[59] During early excavations of the site, occasional voids in the ash layer had been found that contained human remains. It was Fiorelli who realised these were spaces left by the decomposed bodies and so devised the technique of injecting plaster into them to recreate the forms of Vesuvius's victims. This technique is still in use today, with a clear resin now used instead of plaster because it is more durable, and does not destroy the bones, allowing further analysis.[60]

Fiorelli also introduced scientific documentation. He divided the city into the present nine areas (regiones) and blocks (insulae) and numbered the entrances of the individual houses (domus), so that each is identified by these three numbers. Fiorelli also published the first periodical with excavation reports. Under Fiorelli's successors the entire west of the city was exposed.

Modern archaeology

Via dell'Abbondanza, the main street in Pompeii.

In the 1920s, Amedeo Maiuri excavated for the first time in older layers than that of 79 AD in order to learn about the settlement history. Maiuri made the last excavations on a grand scale in the 1950s, and the area south of the Via dell'Abbondanza and the city wall was almost completely uncovered, but they were poorly documented scientifically. Preservation was haphazard and presents today's archaeologists with great difficulty. Questionable reconstruction was done in the 1980s and 1990s after the severe earthquake of 1980, which caused great destruction. Since then, except for targeted soundings and excavations, work was confined to the excavated areas. Further excavations on a large scale are not planned and today archaeologists try to reconstruct, to document and, above all, to stop the ever faster decay.

Under the 'Great Pompeii Project' over 2.5 km of ancient walls are being relieved of danger of collapse by treating the unexcavated areas behind the street fronts in order to increase drainage and reduce the pressure of ground water and earth on the walls, a problem especially in the rainy season. As of August 2019, these excavations have resumed on unexcavated areas of Regio V.[61]


Objects buried beneath Pompeii were well-preserved for almost 2,000 years as the lack of air and moisture allowed little to no deterioration. However, once exposed, Pompeii has been subject to both natural and man-made forces, which have rapidly increased deterioration.

The buildings on the left show signs of decay due to the infestation of various plants, while the debris accumulating on the footpath indicates erosion of the infrastructure. The footpaths and road have also been worn down by pedestrian activity since excavation.

Weathering, erosion, light exposure, water damage, poor methods of excavation and reconstruction, introduced plants and animals, tourism, vandalism and theft have all damaged the site in some way. The lack of adequate weather protection of all but the most interesting and important buildings has allowed original interior decoration to fade or be lost. Two-thirds of the city has been excavated, but the remnants of the city are rapidly deteriorating.[62]

Furthermore, during World War II many buildings were badly damaged or destroyed by bombs dropped in several raids by the Allied forces.[63]

The concern for conservation has continually troubled archaeologists. The ancient city was included in the 1996 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund, and again in 1998 and in 2000. In 1996 the organisation claimed that Pompeii "desperately need[ed] repair" and called for the drafting of a general plan of restoration and interpretation.[64] The organisation supported conservation at Pompeii with funding from American Express and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.[65]

Today, funding is mostly directed into conservation of the site; however, due to the expanse of Pompeii and the scale of the problems, this is inadequate in halting the slow decay of the materials. A 2012 study recommended an improved strategy for interpretation and presentation of the site as a cost-effective method of improving its conservation and preservation in the short term.[66]

In June 2013, UNESCO declared: If restoration and preservation works "fail to deliver substantial progress in the next two years," Pompeii could be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.[67]

House of the Gladiators collapse

The 2,000-year-old Schola Armatorum ('House of the Gladiators') collapsed on 6 November 2010. The structure was not open to visitors, but the outside was visible to tourists. There was no immediate determination as to what caused the building to collapse, although reports suggested water infiltration following heavy rains might have been responsible. There has been fierce controversy after the collapse, with accusations of neglect.[68][69]

Roman city development

Under the Romans after the conquest by Sulla in 89 BC, Pompeii underwent a process of urban development which accelerated in the Augustan period from about 30 BC. New public buildings include the amphitheatre with palaestra or gymnasium with a central natatorium (cella natatoria) or swimming pool, two theatres, the Eumachia Building and at least four public baths. The amphitheatre has been cited by scholars as a model of sophisticated design, particularly in the area of crowd control.[70]

Other service buildings were the Macellum ("meat market"); the Pistrinum ("mill"); the Thermopolium (a fast food place that served hot and cold dishes and beverages), and cauponae ("cafes" or "dives" with a seedy reputation as hangouts for thieves and prostitutes). At least one building, the Lupanar, was dedicated to prostitution.[71] A large hotel or hospitium (of 1,000 square metres) was found at Murecine, a short distance from Pompeii, when the Naples-Salerno motorway was being built, and the Murecine Silver Treasure and the Tablets providing a unique record of business transactions were discovered.[72][73]

An aqueduct provided water to the public baths, to more than 25 street fountains, and to many private houses (domūs) and businesses. The aqueduct was a branch of the great Serino Aqueduct built to serve the other large towns in the Bay of Naples region and the important naval base at Misenum. The castellum aquae is well preserved, and includes many details of the distribution network and its controls.[74]

View of the Forum

Modern archaeologists have excavated garden sites and urban domains to reveal the agricultural staples of Pompeii's economy. Pompeii was fortunate to have had fertile soil for crop cultivation. The soils surrounding Mount Vesuvius preceding its eruption have been revealed to have had good water-retention capabilities, implying productive agriculture. The Tyrrhenian Sea's airflow provided hydration to the soil despite the hot, dry climate.[75] Barley, wheat, and millet were all produced along with wine and olive oil, in abundance for export to other regions.[76]

Evidence of wine imported nationally from Pompeii in its most prosperous years can be found from recovered artefacts such as wine bottles in Rome.[76] For this reason, vineyards were of utmost importance to Pompeii's economy. Agricultural policymaker Columella suggested that each vineyard in Rome produced a quota of three cullei of wine per jugerum, otherwise the vineyard would be uprooted. The nutrient-rich lands near Pompeii were extremely efficient at this and were often able to exceed these requirements by a steep margin, therefore providing the incentive for local wineries to establish themselves.[76] While wine was exported for Pompeii's economy, the majority of the other agricultural goods were likely produced in quantities sufficient for the city's consumption.

Remains of large formations of constructed wineries were found in the Forum Boarium, covered by cemented casts from the eruption of Vesuvius.[76] It is speculated that these historical vineyards are strikingly similar in structure to the modern day vineyards across Italy.

Carbonised food plant remains, roots, seeds and pollens, have been found from gardens in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and from the Roman villa at Torre Annunziata. They revealed that emmer wheat, Italian millet, common millet, walnuts, pine nuts, chestnuts, hazel nuts, chickpeas, bitter vetch, broad beans, olives, figs, pears, onions, garlic, peaches, carob, grapes, and dates were consumed. All but the dates could have been produced locally.[77]


Erotic art

Fresco from the Casa del Centenario bedroom

The discovery of erotic art in Pompeii and Herculaneum left the archaeologists with a dilemma stemming from the clash of cultures between the mores of sexuality in ancient Rome and in Counter-Reformation Europe. An unknown number of discoveries were hidden away again. A wall fresco depicting Priapus, the ancient god of sex and fertility, with his grotesquely enlarged penis, was covered with plaster. An older reproduction was locked away "out of prudishness" and opened only on request – and only rediscovered in 1998 due to rainfall.[78] In 2018, an ancient fresco depicting an erotic scene of "Leda and the Swan" was discovered at Pompeii.[79]

Many artefacts from the buried cities are preserved in the Naples National Archaeological Museum. In 1819, when King Francis visited the Pompeii exhibition there with his wife and daughter, he was so embarrassed by the erotic artwork that he had it locked away in a "secret cabinet" (gabinetto segreto), a gallery within the museum accessible only to "people of mature age and respected morals". Re-opened, closed, re-opened again and then closed again for nearly 100 years, the Naples "Secret Museum" was briefly made accessible again at the end of the 1960s (the time of the sexual revolution) and was finally re-opened for viewing in 2000. Minors are still allowed entry only in the presence of a guardian or with written permission.[80]


The Forum

Pompeii has been a popular tourist destination for over 250 years;[81] it was on the Grand Tour. By 2008, it was attracting almost 2.6 million visitors per year, making it one of the most popular tourist sites in Italy.[82] It is part of a larger Vesuvius National Park and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. To combat problems associated with tourism, the governing body for Pompeii, the 'Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei', have begun issuing new tickets that allow tourists to visit cities such as Herculaneum and Stabiae as well as the Villa Poppaea, to encourage visitors to see these sites and reduce pressure on Pompeii.

Pompeii is a driving force behind the economy of the nearby town of Pompei. Many residents are employed in the tourism and hospitality industry, serving as taxi or bus drivers, waiters, or hotel staff.[citation needed]

Excavations at the site have generally ceased due to a moratorium imposed by the superintendent of the site, Professor Pietro Giovanni Guzzo. The site is generally less accessible to tourists than in the past, with less than a third of all buildings open in the 1960s being available for public viewing today.

In popular culture

The 1954 film, Journey to Italy, starring George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman, includes a scene at Pompeii in which they witness the excavation of a cast of a couple that perished in the eruption.

Pompeii was the setting for the British comedy television series Up Pompeii! and the movie of the series. Pompeii also featured in the second episode of the fourth season of revived BBC science fiction series Doctor Who, named "The Fires of Pompeii",[83] which featured Caecilius as a character.

In 1971, the rock band Pink Floyd filmed a live concert titled Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii, in which they performed six songs in the ancient Roman amphitheatre in the city. The audience consisted only of the film's production crew and some local children.

Siouxsie and the Banshees wrote and recorded the punk-inflected dance song "Cities in Dust", which describes the disaster that befell Pompeii and Herculaneum in AD 79. The song appears on their album Tinderbox, released in 1985, on Polydor Records. The jacket of the single remix of the song features the plaster cast of the chained dog killed in Pompeii.

Pompeii is a novel written by Robert Harris (published in 2003) featuring the account of the aquarius's race to fix the broken aqueduct in the days leading up to the eruption of Vesuvius, inspired by actual events and people.

"Pompeii" is a song by the British band Bastille, released 24 February 2013. The lyrics refer to the city and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Pompeii is a 2014 German-Canadian historical disaster film produced and directed by Paul W. S. Anderson.[84]

In 2016, 45 years after the Pink Floyd recordings, band guitarist David Gilmour returned to the Pompeii amphitheatre to perform a live concert for his Rattle That Lock Tour. This event was considered the first in the amphitheatre to feature an audience since the AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius.[85][86]



See also

Volcanic destruction


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