Modern archaeologists can get a “snapshot” of life in a first-century city in Roman Italy because of Pompeii’s burial in the Vesuvius eruption in 79 CE. However, Pompeii had a lengthy and rich history before being destroyed. In this article, we’ll take a quick look at Pompeii’s past and how what’s left of the city today can help us learn about events that happened much earlier than 79.
The Ruins Of Pompeii, A City Frozen In Time, Are The Subject Of Archaeological Investigation
There is still much controversy around Pompeii’s earlier years. Yet, our oldest evidence for what we would call a town or city today occurs in the sixth century BCE. Archaeological evidence shows that the area around Pompeii had been inhabited from at least the eighth century BCE.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
History of Pompeii
The Doric Temple (called after the capitals of its columns, which are holy to Athena and Hercules) in regio VIII, next to the Triangular Forum, and the Sanctuary of Apollo in regio VII, constructed on the location that would one day become the leading Forum, were both founded during this time.
We may learn a lot about the early city from these temples. These temples incorporate various Greek and Etruscan artistic elements, which is evidence of early Pompeii’s diverse cultural scene. This is supported by the monumental Oscan (an Italic language) inscriptions and Etruscan votive offerings at these sites. The earliest city wall in Pompeii was constructed in the sixth century, and portions of it can still be seen today.
Source: World History Encyclopedia
Between the sixth and the middle of the fifth century BCE, or around a century, Pompeii belonged to the Etruscan League, a political coalition of Etruscan settlements. After falling to an alliance of Syracuse and the culturally Greek city of Cumae in a conflict, the Etruscan League lost control over the Bay of Naples in 474 BCE. Pompeii has been chiefly abandoned until the middle of the fourth century BCE. The Samnites, a tribe from the Apennines, took over the area around Pompeii and gradually began reestablishing Pompeii in the early 420s BCE. Many of the most well-known locations in the city date back to the Samnite Period.
The Forum in region VII takes shape as the Temple to Jupiter is built at its northern extremity. The Great Theater and the Samnite Palaestra, two significant projects in region VIII, were finished to create a sort of entertainment district. The Stabian Baths, built in regio VIII and located just north of them, were Pompeii’s first public bathing facility.
Pompeii was thriving under the Samnite influence, while Rome, a potent northern neighbor, was beginning to exert influence over it.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Rome engaged in a bloody fight known as the Samnite Wars between the fourth and third centuries that led to a Roman victory and the acceptance of Samnite villages in Campania as friends of the Roman people. Pompeii continued to support Rome as it extended its influence into southern Italy after this. Significantly, during the Hannibalic War (218–201 BCE), Pompeii supported Rome while several of its Campania neighbors sided with Carthage. When Hannibal was driven out of Italy, other Campanian cities suffered vengeance, but Pompeii prospered because the Romans valued loyalty. The Roman consul L. Mummius made a dedication to the Apollo Temple, demonstrating how intimate the relationship was.
But, Pompeii’s fidelity did not persist after the third and second centuries BCE. In a struggle that would eventually come to be known as the Social War, it joined the Italian villages that had rebelled against Roman rule (90-89 BCE). Rome and her erstwhile allies engaged in a bloody battle, and Pompeii was besieged by the future despot P. Cornelius Sulla in 89 before giving in. Pompeii, who had previously been a nominally autonomous ally of Rome, was now reestablished as Colonia Cornelia Veneria Pompeianorum, a Roman colony. The people of Pompeii acquired Roman citizenship along with the rest of Roman Italy, but many had their land taken away and given to Roman soldiers.
An Excellent Look Into Roman Civilization In Antiquity
Even though art and literature include a wealth of information about Ancient Roman culture and society, they are nonetheless deliberate, well-planned methods of information dissemination. On the other hand, the catastrophe at Pompeii and Herculaneum offers a spontaneous and accurate 3-dimensional depiction of everyday life in a Roman metropolis.
Ornate paintings and gladiator graffiti have been preserved for two millennia, thanks to Vesuvius’ unpredictable geological history. Taverns, brothels, villas, and theaters in the city were photographed in good time. Even bakery ovens were used to seal bread.
There isn’t an archaeological site that can compare to Pompeii regarding how well it has preserved the everyday lives of ancient people or for how long.
Without the eruption, most, if not all, of Pompeii’s structures and artifacts would have been lucky to survive another 100 years. Instead, they have persisted for almost 2000 years.
What made it out of Pompeii?
There are many different types of artifacts that exhibit preservation at Pompeii, such as the Temple of Isis and a wall painting that complements it and shows how the Egyptian goddess was worshiped there; a sizable collection of glassware; animal-powered rotary mills; practically intact houses; an amazingly well-conserved forum baths; and even carbonized chicken eggs.
Among the paintings are many sensual frescos, a beautiful representation of a young woman writing on wooden tablets with a stylus, a feast scene, and a baker selling bread.
A somewhat less refined painting from a city tavern depicts men playing games, but it is nonetheless fascinating in history and archaeology.
The old site is more susceptible to destruction now that it is being excavated than when it was covered in ash for many years. Due to neglect and a lack of weather protection, UNESCO has raised worry that the Pompeii site has experienced vandalism and general degradation.
Although most of the frescoes have been relocated to museums, the city’s architecture is still exposed and has to be protected because it is a treasure not just of Italy but of the entire globe.
Pompeii was engaged in another intense development phase around the eruption in 79 CE. A significant earthquake in 62 CE triggered many construction and remodeling initiatives. Around the time of the explosion, the Temple of Isis in regio VIII and the enormous new bathing facility known as The Central Baths in region IX were unfinished. Given Pompeii’s development following the end of the Social War, it is interesting to consider how much more it may have expanded if the explosion hadn’t destroyed it.
Source: World History Encyclopedia
Preserving Pompeii’s History for Future Generations
Despite hundreds of years of excavation, a third of the city is still underground. Nonetheless, there is no pressing need to find these obscure Pompeii neighborhoods. The biggest issue we face today is keeping what has been found safe.
Pompeii was formerly shielded from the elements by volcanic ash, but much of it is now outside. There is a significant risk of losing most of what was fortunately discovered intact because of the degradation caused by weather, pollution, and tourism.