Roman City that Completely Disappeared due to Mount Vesuvius

Pompeii is located near the Vesuvius volcano in Italy. A city that was completely destroyed by a volcanic eruption. It's one of the greatest mysteries in human history. In this article, information and the best tips for your visit to Pompeii, including interesting sights to see.

Pompeii disappeared in 79 under a 6-meter thick layer of ash due to a volcanic eruption. The remnants are impressive, but also somewhat morbid. Everything has been extremely well preserved by the ash.

After decades of research, the main outlines of what happened are known. It is certain that it was one of the most disastrous volcanic eruptions ever. In which many people lost their lives.

The Eruption that Destroyed Pompeii

The immense eruption on 24 August of the year 79 buried Roman cities such as Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae under a 6-meter thick layer of ash and chunks of pumice. This all happened within a few hours, engulfing an entire area. Which centuries later re-emerged as a kind of frozen moment in time.

One of the famous mummies in Pompeii.

"You could hear women lamenting, children crying and men screaming. Some were so afraid of death that they prayed for death. Many raised their hands to the gods, but many believed that there were no longer any gods and thought that the perpetual night had come to earth." This quote is from Pliny the Younger, who wrote letters to his friend (and historian) Tacitus between 101 and 104 AD.

He elaborates extensively about the volcanic eruption and its consequences for Pompeii. Also about his uncle, Pliny the Elder, who did not survive. He was one of the deceased that he called 'sleepers'; people who, after all the smoke had disappeared, were found in the street. They had no visible scratches or other wounds. Even the clothing was intact.

Scientists long thought they were overcome by toxic sulphur, but it is much more likely they died from the extreme heat of a gas cloud. Scientists continue to debate whether Pliny the Younger was an eyewitness or simply collected information from survivors.

Discovered in 1599

The city seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth for a long time. Until it was accidentally discovered in 1599 by the Italian architect Domenico Fontana. He was looking for a route to divert the Samo river. Reportedly, he did not dig any further, even though some archaeologists believe that Fontana indeed found some frescoes. But since these are sometimes erotic in nature, they think he reburied them and did not reveal the location.

Because the exact location was unclear, the search continued for more than a century. In 1710, the first real evidence of Pliny's stories was found. Near the Italian village of Resina, the remains of the town of Herculaneum were revealed. The eruption in 79 had caused a large flow of mud here. And made many victims.

In 1748, the location of Pompeii was finally found. At the request of the King of Naples, Charles III, Swiss architect Karl Jakob Weber began the task. He marveled at the city that was slowly being revealed. Houses, wine shops, public baths and brothels tell a story of about 20,000 residents. With unprecedented wealth. Villas with countless frescoes and mosaics emerged, as did rich mosaic floors and countless art and utility items.

The famous Centaur in Pompeii.

Everywhere Graffiti in Pompeii

One of the most surprising aspects is the amount of graffiti on the walls in Pompeii. Texts have been scratched into numerous locations using a shard of pottery or a piece of iron. These are mostly texts in shaky Latin, often of an obscene or offensive tone. And surprisingly often of a personal nature. The graffiti sparked a lot of discussion among scientists about the 'highly developed' culture of the Romans.

The mummies of Pompeii are fascinating, but also a bit eerie. People were buried alive under the ash and reappeared in almost perfect shape. You can see various remnants of these people. These are the most beautiful sights in Pompeii. There are also some excursions to make.

House of the Vettii

The House of the Vettii is a villa with a remarkable number of intact frescoes. Famous is the painting of the fertility god Priapus, but also the many others are among the most beautiful that come from Pompeii. In the garden, the many fountains and impressive colonnade stand out. The house was owned by the wealthy merchants Aulus Vettius Conviva and Aulus Vettius Restitutus. The local name is Casa dei Vettii.

House of Menander

Even the House of Menander was once an impressive villa. And just like many other houses, it is equipped with several impressive frescoes. It was built in the 3rd century BC and named after the Greek poet and playwright Menander. The local name is Casa del Menandro.

Villa of the Mysteries

This farm is located just outside the city walls. Notable is the strikingly luxurious living area full of frescoes. Including a fresco with 29 life-size figures, but scientists do not yet know exactly what it represents. Villa dei Misteri also shows how the local farmer cultivated wine, including special wine presses.

One of the Mosaic Floors in Pompeii.

Temple of Apollo

The Temple of Apollo dates back to the 2nd century BC, although parts from the 5th century BC have been found. This temple is special because it shows that the Romans had adopted the Greek Apollo cult. Apollo was one of the most important Greek gods. This son of Zeus and Leto was among others the god of prophecies, the arts (especially music) and archery. 

He was one of the twelve Olympic gods and resided with the supreme god Zeus on Mount Olympus. His temple is surrounded by 48 Ionic columns. In front of it are (replicas of) bronze statues of Apollo and Diana. Scientists have discovered that the Romans restored this sanctuary after the earthquake of 62.

House of the Gilded Cherubs

It owes its name to the cherubs depicted on gold plates in a bedroom. These images can now be seen in the Naples museum. Scientists believe it belonged to Poppaeus Habitus, a family member of Poppea Sabina, the second wife of Nero. The local name is Casa degli amorini dorati.

Capitolium or Temple of Jupiter

This was the most important temple in Pompeii. In this temple from 150 BC, the Roman gods Jupiter, Juno and Minerva were worshipped. At the front stood six columns 8.40 metres high, but these likely collapsed during the earthquake in 62. According to scientists, this was restored. Some restored pillars, the foundation and the pedestals for the statues of the gods can still be seen, the rest has largely disappeared. The local name is Trias Capitolina.

Lupanare Brothel

The world-famous Lupanare brothel was, according to scholars, one of the first brothels from the Roman era. The entrance, cubicles and toilets have almost been completely restored. It is also one of the few houses in Pompeii with two floors. The erotic frescoes on the wall and the graffiti from guests are famous.

Fresco Lupenare in Pompeii.

House of the Faun

The House of the Faun is an immense house that has become famous for a mosaic of Alexander the Great. The original can be seen in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, but an exact replica is on the original site (on a floor in a small room in the central part of the house). The house is named after a bronze statue of a faun, a mythological half-man/half-beast.

Forum Pompeii

The Forum formed the central hub of a Roman city. The main characteristic is that all important buildings are located on the rectangular square, as is the case in Pompeii. It was used as a meeting place for the local population, traders, politicians, board members and believers during and after Augustus as a kind of saint). The square was surrounded by a walking gallery with columns on two floors, with Greek influences. The lower row of columns was Doric and the upper one Ionic (a construction method originating from the Ionian Islands).

Building of Eumachia

Eumachia was a very wealthy priestess, one of the few women who had political and social influence in the Roman Empire. Inscriptions reveal that she had the largest building at the Forum constructed from her own assets around 2 BC. Her marble statue was also found in this building, which is currently on display in the museum of Naples. Her tomb is visible, which as far as known is the largest in Pompeii. The local name is Edificio di Eumachia.

Pompeii Baths

A Roman bathhouse in Pompeii.

You must see the Pompeii Baths. Think of the Stabian Baths, the Forum Baths, the Central Baths and the (under construction) baths near the amphitheatre. Pompeii had no less than four baths. For the Romans, cleansing the body was a social process.

So you used to catch up in one of the thermal baths. Remains of all four are still visible, including bathing rooms, changing rooms, ovens, and toilets with running water. Together they give a good picture of how the Romans kept themselves clean.

Temple of Isis

The temple was built in 80 BC as a tribute to one of the most important goddesses of Egyptian mythology. Scientists know that this was roughly also the moment when the Romans gained power over the city.

And it demonstrates that the Romans and Egyptians were in contact with each other at a high cultural level. It is the best preserved temple of Pompeii, even though all statues, cult objects, and frescoes have been moved to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. The local name is Tempio di Iside.

Accommodation near Pompeii

You can comfortably stay overnight in the neighbourhood, so you can get on the move early in the morning, for instance. This way, you're ahead of many other visitors. In the immediate vicinity, you can find many small hotels, cheap hostels, convenient apartments and more for your visit. However, be sure to book in time to get relatively cheap rates.

Visit Pompeii

Pompeii is a must if you want to know more about the Romans and the volcanic eruption. A visit can be intense if you see mummies, for example. Here you can wander for a long time through the streets, the houses, temples and countless other buildings. Looking for frescoes, mosaics, statues, pillars and numerous other typical Roman (and Greek) features.

Anyone who wants a complete picture should also visit Herculaneum. There you will get a good impression of what Roman houses looked like at that time.

Avoid the Crowds

Pompeii can get very busy during the summer months. Try to avoid these or go very early in the day. Then the temperature is also pleasant. And you can take beautiful photos of the remains with soft sunlight.

Weekends and school holidays are also often busy. A weekday is smarter, with the start of the week often being quiet.

My Tips

Show all Bucket List Tips on Italy

Read My Tips

all 44 articles on Italy

Show all articles