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What to see in Pompeii? Map and history of the archaeological site

Pompeii, one of the largest tourist attractions in Italy, is a city buried by time and brought back to life by ruins and archaeological excavations. Located at the foot of Vesuvius, this extraordinary place offers a unique immersion in the daily life of the ancient Romans. Exploring its ancient streets, houses, temples and well-preserved frescoes is like taking a journey back in time. In this article we will discover the most beautiful archaeological site in Italy and tell you what to see in Pompeii!

The history of Pompeii

From the foundation to the eruption of Vesuvius

Pompeii was founded by the Samnites, an Italic people, in the 6th century BC. During this period, the city was modest in size and part of a larger settlement complex. However, in the 3rd century BC, the Romans conquered the city and began a period of growth and prosperity. Pompeii became a thriving Roman city, with a growing population and a thriving economy based on agriculture and trade.

Roman Pompeii was a lively and cosmopolitan city. The streets were lined with impressive buildings, such as the famous Amphitheater and the Temple of Apollo. Richly decorated frescoes adorned the homes of the wealthiest citizens, testifying to the art and culture of that era. The city was an important commercial center thanks to its strategic position near the sea.

The most famous date in the history of Pompeii is August 24, 79 AD. On that day, the volcano Vesuvius, located nearby, erupted violently, covering the city with ash, lapilli and a rain of volcanic stones. This catastrophe buried Pompeii in a layer of volcanic material and erased it from the maps. Many of its inhabitants lost their lives during the eruption.

The archaeological excavations

Pompeii remained buried for almost 1,700 years until, in 1748, archaeologist Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre began conducting systematic excavations to bring the ancient city to light. Over the years, excavations have intensified, revealing buildings, streets and even human bodies preserved by volcanic ash. These discoveries have given the world a valuable window into daily life in ancient Rome.

Map of the archaeological site

Below is the map of the archaeological site:

What to see in Pompeii?

The Mitoraj Statue

The statue of Mitoraj is an imposing and evocative sculpture located at the main entrance of Pompeii. Created by the Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj in 2009, the work represents a face without a nose and without arms, which emerges from the ruins like a mysterious presence.

Statue of Mitoraj

The statue is a modern interpretation of ancient artistic styles, particularly Greco-Roman sculpture. Its flowing lines and abstract structure create a fascinating contrast with the classical architecture that surrounds it. Its presence in a place so full of history and culture creates an intriguing dialogue between the past and the present.

Mitoraj’s work represents an invitation to reflect on the fragility of humanity and the traces we leave behind us. The noseless face and missing arms symbolize the passage of time and decadence, but at the same time convey a sense of mystery and incomprehensible beauty.

The choice to place this sculpture at the entrance to Pompeii is not accidental. It emphasizes the fact that art is not limited to a specific era or style, but can speak to all generations. The statue of Mitoraj invites visitors to Pompeii to reflect on the past and the universal connections that bind humanity across time.

The Forum of Pompeii

Located in the center of the city, the forum was the beating heart of the social, political and economic life of its inhabitants.

Built in the 2nd century BC, the Forum of Pompeii was a vast rectangular square surrounded by colonnades and full of temples, shops and other public structures. It was the center of business and commercial activities, as well as the place where important political and religious events took place.

The Basilica was the main public building of the forum. Used as a court and administrative center, the Basilica was where hearings were held, legal issues were discussed and conflicts were resolved.

The porticoes extended around the Forum, with shops and workshops offering a variety of goods and services. Here citizens could buy food, clothes, household items and many other things essential for their daily life. In fact, it is precisely here that commercial exchanges took place and people of different social classes met.

The Forum of Pompeii was also the place where important religious and public events were celebrated. The inhabitants of Pompeii gathered here to participate in processions, celebrate religious holidays and attend shows and games. It was a meeting point for the community, a place where connections were created and social relationships were strengthened.

The Temple of Apollo

The Temple of Apollo represents a perfect example of classical Roman architecture. Located near the Forum, the temple stood imposingly as a symbol of the city’s religious and political power.

Temple of Apollo in Pompeii

Its front featured six Corinthian columns constructed from travertine, providing support for a graceful triangular pediment. Inside the temple, frescoes and embellishments enriched the space, and at its heart stood the altar consecrated to Apollo, the deity of light, music, and prophecy.

The Temple of Apollo was a place of great religious and cultural importance for the inhabitants of Pompeii. Here ceremonies, rites and offerings took place in honor of the god Apollo, and people gathered to pray and ask for his favor.

The Temple of Jupiter

Built in the 2nd century BC, the Temple of Jupiter was one of the most important sacred structures in the city. Located in the Forum, the temple occupies a central position and dominates the surrounding area with its architectural grandeur.

Temple of Jupiter Pompeii

The temple adhered to a classical Roman architectural style, boasting a magnificent façade adorned with Corinthian columns. Crafted from travertine, these columns upheld an imposing triangular pediment embellished with sculptures and reliefs illustrating the exploits of Jupiter and various other mythological characters.

The interior of the temple was equally impressive, with a large worship hall decorated with frescoes and sculptures. In the center of the room was the statue of Jupiter.

Today, although a large part of the temple was damaged by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, the surviving architectural elements are still very evocative and testify to the magnificence of the temple.

House of the Faun

The House of the Faun is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary and well-preserved houses in the ancient city of Pompeii. This exceptional example of Roman architecture offers a fascinating window into the life and culture of the era.

House of the Faun

The house takes its name from a statue of the faun, a deity from Roman mythology, which is located inside the peristyle, the main courtyard of the residence. But the charm of the House of the Faun is not limited only to this sculpture. Every corner of this home full of frescoes, mosaics and architectural details reveal the opulence and refined taste of its owners.

This residence extends over an area of almost 3,000 square meters and develops around a central peristyle, surrounded by columns and porticoes. The open and bright space was the fulcrum of family life and represented a place to meet and relax for the inhabitants.

The house’s rooms feature wall paintings portraying mythological scenes, idyllic landscapes, flowers, and animals. These frescoes, crafted with exceptional skill, bear witness to the ancient Romans’ impressive artistic prowess.

One of the highlights of the House of the Faun is its magnificent collection of mosaics. These intricate floors, composed of marble tiles and precious stones, are true masterpieces of Roman art. The mosaics depict animals, hunting scenes, mythological figures and architectural details, and convey a feeling of luxury and wealth.

The House of the Faun also offers an insight into the daily life of the ancient Romans. You can visit the kitchens, service areas and private rooms, and imagine how people lived and interacted in this magnificent home.

The Lupanare (brothel)

The Lupanare of Pompeii is one of the most famous and discussed places of the ancient Roman city. Located along one of the main streets, this building has been identified as a brothel, a place where sexual services were offered to Pompeii residents and visitors.

Lupanare of Pompeii

The Lupanare building is divided into several rooms, each with a stone bed and erotic frescoes on the walls. These frescoes, although often damaged or deteriorated, depict explicit and detailed scenes that reflect the open and frank nature of the activity carried out here.

The presence of the Lupanare in Pompeii has been the subject of debates and discussions among scholars. Many have wondered about the morality and role of brothels in ancient Rome. However, it is important to remember that sexuality was an intrinsic aspect of Roman society and that brothels were widely accepted as an integral part of everyday life.

The brothel offers an interesting window into the sexual life of the time. His presence in Pompeii offers us a unique opportunity to better understand the intimate and personal aspect of the lives of the ancient Romans.

However, it is important to note that the Lupanare was not the only place where prostitution was practiced in Pompeii. Some scholars suggest that many of the private homes also offered similar services. Thus, the Lupanare represented only one of the many options available for those seeking a sexual encounter.

Despite the controversial nature of the Lupanare, it is important to remember that its presence in Pompeii is part of the historical and cultural context of the time.

The Stabian Baths

Among the ancient ruins and cobbled streets full of history, lie the Stabian Baths, an opulent and fascinating spa complex that was one of the main attractions of the Roman city. These spas, dating back to the 1st century AD, offered an oasis of well-being and relaxation for the inhabitants of Pompeii, both rich and poor.

Apodyterium Terme Stabiane

The Stabian Baths were famous for their magnificence and for the numerous services they offered to visitors. They included a complex system of hot and cold baths, saunas, gymnasiums and massage rooms. The rooms were splendidly decorated with mosaics, frescoes and sculptures that reflected the art and culture of the time.

The hot baths, fed by a network of aqueducts, offered a place to relax and socialize. Here, the inhabitants of Pompeii could immerse themselves in the hot thermal waters and enjoy the benefits for health and well-being. Saunas, on the other hand, offered the possibility of undergoing thermal treatments such as steam baths and sweating, considered beneficial for purifying the body.

The gyms, equipped with equipment for physical exercise and wrestling, were frequented by those who wanted to keep their bodies in shape and practice sports. Instead the massage rooms offered regenerating and relaxing treatments for those seeking a moment of pure pleasure and body care.

Stabian Baths were accessible to people of all social classes. The inhabitants of Pompeii could use the spa services at affordable prices, thus guaranteeing everyone the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the spa.

The Great Theatre

Located in the south-west of Pompeii, the Teatro Grande, also known as the Roman Theatre, is one of the best preserved ancient theaters in the world. Built in the 2nd century BC, the theater could seat up to 5,000 spectators and was a place of entertainment and artistic expression.

Big theatre

One of the most striking features of the Teatro Grande is its impeccable acoustics. Thanks to its semicircular structure and its tuff walls, the sound propagated clearly throughout the theater without the aid of speakers or microphones. This allowed spectators to fully enjoy the theatrical and musical performances without missing a single sound.

The stage of the Teatro Grande was a lively place, where shows of all kinds took place. From Greek tragedies to Latin comedies, the theater was the beating heart of Pompeian culture. Actors and musicians performed with skill, entertaining the audience with their engaging performances.

But the Teatro Grande was not just a place for performances. It was also a social meeting place, where the inhabitants of Pompeii could gather, discuss politics, socialize and share ideas. The theater was a point of reference in the daily life of the city, a place where relationships were formed and artistic passions were cultivated.

As you walk through the stands, you can hear the echo of the long applause, imagine the emotion of the spectators who attended the performances and perceive the vibrant energy of a bygone era.

The Amphitheater of Pompeii

Built in the 1st century BC, the Pompeii Amphitheater is one of the oldest Roman amphitheaters still standing. Its elliptical structure, with a diameter of approximately 135 meters, could accommodate up to 20,000 spectators, making it one of the largest amphitheaters of the time.

Pompeii amphitheater

The Amphitheater was designed to host gladiatorial games, fights between wild animals and theatrical performances. The gladiators, trained warriors who fought for glory and honor, faced each other in spectacular battles that thrilled the Pompeii public.

Animal fights were another attraction that attracted the masses. The ferocious beasts, coming from different parts of the Roman Empire, clashed in furious battles, creating palpable tension and emotion among the spectators.

The Amphitheater’s structure was meticulously planned to guarantee unobstructed views and flawless acoustics for every audience member. Arranged in terraces, the stone steps enabled everyone to savor a performance without overlooking any detail.

The history of Pompeii has had a lasting impact on art, culture and archaeology. The buried city has inspired generations of artists, writers and scholars, and influenced how we understand life in ancient Rome. His discoveries continue to uncover new information, and excavations are underway to reveal more secrets.

Pompeii is much more than just an ancient city; it is a symbol of human frailty and the strength of archeology in preserving the past. Its story reminds us that even the most flourishing civilizations may be lost to time, but that their spirit and legacy can survive to inspire and enlighten future generations.