A Roman City Buried Under a Layer of Ash from Mount Vesuvius

Herculaneum is not so known to many. While the slightly further Pompeii is world-famous. Unjustly so, since Herculaneum also disappeared under the ash due to the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It is the best place to see how Roman nobles lived and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This ancient city is unique in Italy and in the world. In this article, you'll find the most beautiful and interesting sights of Herculaneum.

The Differences with Pompeii

In Herculaneum numerous multi-storey houses have been preserved, not in Pompeii. Probably we will never see everything from Herculaneum, simply because the old centre is under the modern city of Resina.

Herculaneum turned out to be a beach resort for wealthy Romans, who came to the Bay of Naples to escape the heat. In 1752, the remains of an extensive library were discovered. Herculaneum is much less known than Pompeii. Unjustly so, since countless treasures have also been found here. In addition, the function of this city was completely different. 

A public fountain in Herculaneum.

Roman villas

Scientists found more than 1,758 charred papyrus rolls or parts of them in a vast Roman villa (the largest ever found). They were in poor condition, with a large part being charred. They are largely attributed to Philodemus, a famous philosopher and poet.

The remnants were gradually deciphered over the centuries. However, with varying success, as exposure to the air is not ideal for the paper. The discovery turned out to be the start of a whole series of remarkable finds, both in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Some scientists believe that Julius Caesar's father-in-law established the library, as he was consul around that time.

From the reports of Pliny the Elder, it appears that the harbour city grew, but was overshadowed by Pompeii. It was conquered (and partly destroyed) by the Roman general Sulla on April 30, 89 BC.

Since then, it has become the location of countless Roman villas. The Villa of Ariadne, the adjacent Second Complex and the Villa San Marco have been largely restored. This must have once been a row of villas belonging to high-ranking Romans. Many artefacts found are also on display in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.

Villa of the Papyri

This is the only Roman library ever found. It houses a wealth of information, although a large part has perished. Also, two bronze statues of runners were found here. These are now on display in the Archaeological Museum in Naples. These statues were used as decoration in the garden and remained almost unscathed by the ash.

Suburban Baths

According to scientists, these are the best-preserved baths from Roman times. Around the 1st century, a large bath complex was built between the city wall and the beach. You can still see the changing room (for both men and women), with the lukewarm water bath and the cold water bath on either side. The relaxation room still has a floor full of mosaics.

Others still have marble floors. On some walls, erotic images can be seen. Also, a large washbasin can be seen that was pressed against the wall by the mud flow. The architect might have been Marcus Nonius Balbus, as a terrace with an altar and statue was built in front of the baths.

House of Neptune and Amphitrite

House of Neptune and Amphitrite.

Famous for its many intact (and famous) mosaics. These include Neptune and his wife Amphitrite (although some scientists think it's Venus). It also has a nymphaeum, that is to say, a lavishly decorated monument dedicated to the nymphs, Greek demi-goddesses. You can also see shells and marble theatre masks.

Central Baths

Less spectacular than the Suburbane, but special because you can still see the benches where the bathers have sat. The holes in the wall for storing clothes are also still there. The mosaics on the floor are also still in good condition.

House of Argus

This villa is a good example of how a wealthy Roman noble lived. Complete with portal and a luxury dining room. The local name is Casa d'Argo.

House of the Deer

This substantial house still counts two floors, which you walk through upon entry. Characteristics are the colonnade and the garden. Numerous murals can also be seen in the house. The villa is named after the sculpture of marble stags, which was found in the house. These animals are being attacked by a group of dogs. A statue of a urinating Hercules was also found. The local name is Casa dei Cervi.

House of the Relief of Telephus

The atrium has been completely reconstructed, so that the original bright colours are visible. The house is named after an image of Telephus, a hero from Greek mythology.

In the garden there is a water basin that acted as a part of a 'hanging garden' carried by the vaults. The rich decoration on the walls is still visible. The local name is Casa del Rilievo di Telefo.

Accommodation in Ercolano

The nearest city is Ercolano. Here you will find various small hotels, holiday homes and apartments that you can easily book online. Some are located near the entrance, but these are very popular. So make sure you're on time, so you don't miss out. 

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