THE LOST CITIES FROZEN IN TIME
In 79 AD, one of the greatest natural disasters of antiquity, which still captivates people, occurred in their spell, the outbreak of Vesuvius in Italy. The unimaginable entered and buried several cities under meter-high ash and pumice stone layers within 19 hours, to be rediscovered by archaeologists only 1.700 years later. The rapid burial of the cities kept these centuries under a 4-6 meter high ash ceiling in a kind of Sleeping Beauty sleep and left the posterity one of the most impressive testimonies of the time.
The ancient Roman city of Pompeii was once on the west coast of Italy on the banks of the Gulf of Naples, in what is now the southeast of Naples. The Oscans were the first documented human settlement in the area dating to the VII century BC. From 740 BC to 524 BC, the Greeks had control over the area, and then from 524 BC to 474 BC it was ruled by the Etruscans. But only years later, in 80 BC, it became a Roman colony and blossomed into an emerging city officially named Colonia Cornelia Veneria Pompei.
The Roman aristocracy was fascinated by the flourishing Pompeii, which was five miles from the southeastern foot of Vesuvius. Elegant houses and magnificent villas with exquisite works of art and glittering fountains lined the paved roads, which were laid out in the then-typical grid. The city quickly developed into one of the most popular relaxation and holiday resorts of the time and some of the famous personalities who lived there were Cicero (106- 43 BC), Julius Caesar (100- 44 BC), Augustus (63 BC –14 AD), and Emperor Nero (37 – 68 AD).
According to scientists, around 11,000 people lived in Pompeii, and almost as many in the surrounding region. The population consisted of residents of every class, business people and craftspeople, but also travellers and slaves, as evidenced by various marketplaces, facilities, and an arena with 20,000 seats. Pompeii also developed very well economically, because thanks to the volcanic soil, olive trees, vines, and other crops that grew better than on traditional soil, made the city an important trading center.
The first misfortune occurred in 62 AD during the government of Nero when a strong earthquake severely damaged the city. The reconstruction started immediately but was suddenly interrupted on August 24, 79 AD. (This official date was revised to October by the recent discoveries of the clothing and food that indicate autumn). The outbreak of Vesuvi was an event that hit people completely unprepared, although there must have been signs of the upcoming disaster before the actual outbreak.
Read the full article in Issue 26