The use of marble in the public places and in the dwellings of Pompeii was common and it gave to the public and private buildings where it was used for, a beautiful impact and a feeling of richness.
Marble is a valuable material. It was used for covering the steps of the Great Theatre, during its last renovation under the rule of the Augustus emperor. Conversely, for its original construction the Samnites used a less expensive and more available material.
Actually, now as in the past, the first rule in the choice of the building materials is to select the more available ones, so that the effect of the transport cost is the lowest. That is why in Pompeii there is a large use of lava stone, tuff and travertine. But the archaeological surveys found out that in Pompeii the marble was used much for public buildings. The marble was originally used a lot (but not always it has been found, because it was removed and used again) in the coverings of the walls of public buildings, such as the Terme Stabiane (Stabian Baths) and in the villas, such as the Villa of Diomede (one of the most majestic residences of Pompeii, second only to the Villa of the Mysteries, with more than 3,500 square meters of marble and gardens on the sea). The marble was used also for the rich decorations of thresholds, steps, sculptures and tombs (like the one discovered the last July at Porta Stabia). Also worthy of mention is the Fontana del Gallo, a splendid public marble fountain which takes its name from the bas-relief depicting the bird. It is located at the southwest corner of the neighborhood that houses the Sailor's House, not far from the entrance of this wealthy house: it is very likely, therefore, that the fountain was built thanks to the patronage of the owner of the domus.
A particular research reviewed the House of Julius Polybius (Regio IX), with the façade overlooking Via dell’Abbondanza, and the tubs in the garden of the House of the Vettii. The studies of the decoration in white or coloured marble found in Pompeii lead to the classification of 36 kinds of marbles, imported from North Africa, the Greek Islands and Asia Minor. So, the marble was without doubts, at the time, a remarkable sign of richness and social relevance of the owners of the richest houses in Pompeii.
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The Naples National Archaeological Museum (MANN) is taking Pompeii to five Chinese cities starting in February for over a year.
MANN is the largest lender in the world of Pompeiian artifacts, and has taken statues, frescoes and decorations from its immense archives to loan to the Jinsha Archaeology Museum in Chengdu.
Among the 120 works and artifacts on loan is the "calidarium" from the Villa di Pisanella in Boscoreale, one of the best preserved and most complete examples of private thermal baths from ancient Roman times. A caldarium was a room with a hot plunge bath, used in a complex. This was a very hot and steamy room heated by a hypocaust, an underfloor heating system. This was the hottest room in the regular sequence of bathing rooms; after the caldarium, bathers would progress back through the tepidarium [the warm bathroom]] to the frigidarium [the cold water room].
In the caldarium, there would be a bath (alveus, piscina calida or solium) of hot water sunk into the floor and there was sometimes even a laconicum—a hot, dry area for inducing sweating. The bath's patrons would use olive oil to cleanse themselves by applying it to their bodies and using a strigil to remove the excess. This was sometimes left on the floor for the slaves to pick up or put back in the pot for the women to use for their hair.
The hot floor and water would have most likely been heated by fires which slaves underneath kept burning or from the hot air from outside. The temperature of the caldarium is not known exactly: however, since the Romans used sandals with a wooden sole, it could not be higher than 50–55 °C (122–131°F).
Also making its way to China is the famed "balneum", an extraordinary example of ancient-world hydraulic work, which has been taken apart and distributed into 14 crates for shipping. Upon its return in 2019, it will be part of the historic "technology section" that will be reopened at the MANN.
The traveling show, titled "Pompeii, The Infinite Life 2018", is part of the EU-China Tourism Year and is a project of Beijing's ChinaMuseum Ltd with the cooperation of the Italian Cultural Ministry.
MANN Director Paolo Giulierini said being involved in the project is a "great honour". "We hope it will bring many visitors both to the exhibitions as well as to our museum, considering the constant growth of Chinese tourists who are passionate about archaeology," he said. "The exhibitions will also allow for sharing on issues such as preservation, development, local promotion and technological research. In our endless archives, we have a bobbin with a silk thread that was likely produced by the Chinese. It's an unmatched object that at the moment is undergoing study and restoration. We like to think that that silk thread is a symbol that, like the one that held Theseus and Ariadne together during the feat with the Minotaur, symbolically connects the two great empires before and the two countries now, to overcome the new monster: fear of what's different".
The exhibitions will start in Chengdu during the Sun Festival, until May 3; the other stops will be Qinshihuang Mausoleum Museum (June 1-August 24), Tianjin Museum (September 21-December 14); Wuhan Museum (February-March 2019), plus a fifth museum still to be determined.
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Brothels in Pompeii
Brothels in Pompeii were decorated with murals depicting erotic and exotic scenes: but the reality was far more brutal and mundane, writes Classical Literature and Classical Reception Studies professor Marguerite Johnson of the University of Newcastle (Australia).
Like the anxious men who began excavations at Pompeii in the 18th century and discovered more about the ancient Italians than they had bargained for – such as phallic-shaped lamps – historians of sex are regularly confronted with case studies from the past that challenge their own ethics. Those who worked the streets of Pompeii and served clients in the brothels lived hard lives, yet many of the murals that survive depict the women as erotic and exotic.
Murals from brothels and buildings that served as brothels (such as inns, lunch counters, and taverns) show fair-skinned women, naked (except for the occasional breast band), with stylized hair, in a variety of sexual positions with young, tanned, athletic men. The figures sport on beds that are sometimes ornate and festooned with decorative quilts.
In buildings identified as brothels, the murals may have been intended to arouse clients. They may also have functioned as pictorial menus or even served as instruction manuals for more inexperienced customers. In buildings identified as private residences, the scenes were most likely decorative but also designed, perhaps, for titillation.
Contrary to the idealized images, the brothels themselves provide evidence that the women worked in cells, usually only big enough for a narrow bed. The absence of windows in most attests to the darkness of the cells, as well as limited air flow.
Excavations also suggest that the cells were usually without doors, which implies that the rooms may have been curtained. They have also revealed stone beds. Wooden beds as well as pallets were likely also used, but would have perished in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
The conditions in which the women worked were of no concern to brothel owners, clients or anyone else for that matter, as most sex workers in ancient Italy were slaves. As the ancient attitude towards slaves was one of indifference at best, and violent disdain at worst, the lives of women were no source of empathy to those outside their class.
The sex workers fulfilled a utilitarian function and nothing else. Confined to the premises by (usually) male pimps who provided them with only their most basic needs, the women were essentially cut off from the outside world. This rendered them vulnerable to the whims of both pimp and client alike.
Women who worked the streets in Pompeii often waited around archways and other standard locations such as graveyards and public baths. In larger towns and cities, where control of the sex trade was harder to manage, some of these women may have worked without pimps. Those who made up this percentage of workers were mostly freed slaves and poor freeborn women.
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In the last few months in Pompeii there began to emerge untouched finds, never seen before, which add new elements to the reading of the history of the ancient city. At the Schola Armaturarum a new excavation of the courtyards has been started, never investigated before (the Schola Armataurarum is a building that comes up now like a symbol of the rebirth for Pompeii, where the original frescoes saved since the bombing of 1943 are being restored).
It is here that 14 new amphorae were found. The amphorae were found intact, they contained oil, wine and fish sauces: one of them has painted some inscriptions in which we read numbers that indicated the quantities and, probably, the contained product. The use as a deposit for the environment is confirmed by some visible graffiti on one of the walls of the same, which reaffirm the storage activity. At the end of the excavation, scheduled for the end of December, the amphorae will be relocated in situ as part of a wide project to enhance the "widespread museum" that the Archaeological Park is adopting in several areas of the excavations to re-contextualize the finds in the places of origin.
The exploration of the complete structure of the Schola is not the only operation planned in Pompeii. Also a work in progress is the large excavation site in the Regio V, the so-called "cuneo" (an area of over 1,000 square meters in the area between the Casa delle Nozze d'Argento and the buildings to the left of the Lucretius Frontone alley) from the which is expected to bring to light further structures and findings of private and public environments.
"We are happy with the discoveries that are emerging," says Massimo Osanna, director of the Archaeological Park, who adds: "Pompeii has started a new season, that of intense archaeological research and of the continuation of the site's knowledge. After the opening of new restored domus, the return to the use of entire districts so far inaccessible, thanks to the recovery of the practicability of the almost all urban streets, we can also be focused on the excavation activities, which are flanked by scheduled maintenance and that will allow to provide new hypotheses to the history of everyday life of the ancients. Pompeii is the symbol of a story of redemption. In these years a long and silent work has been done and the possibilities of growth are still extraordinary.
Would you like to discover more about the history of ancient Pompeii? Don’t forget that Pompeii is one of the most significant proofs of Roman civilization and, like an open book, provides outstanding information on the art, customs, trades and everyday life of the past. Book your time-traveling tour through the ancient city with our friendly and prepared licensed guides and a VR headset to see how Pompeii looked 2,000 years ago. View your tour options here. We are waiting for you!
Pompeii: The City of Gods
We already talked, in a previous article, about the history of the Temple of Isis (which was a testimony of the influence of other cultures upon roman religion), but the ancient city of Pompeii, like any other Roman city, was full of important religious buildings dedicated to various gods we want to talk about in this article.
The people of Pompeii worshipped several Gods, including Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva—the three principal deities of Rome—as well as Apollo and Venus, the patrons of Pompeii. Each god had a special day which would be made a public holiday, so that the Pompeians could visit the temple for whichever god was being celebrated. The gods were worshipped by processions and priests would make animal sacrifices at the altar which was in the front of the temple. Animal sacrifices reminded the ancient Romans that human beings had a higher place than that of animals but at the same time were much below that of the immortal gods. Special people called augur would take the remains of animals into the temples to predict the future.
TEMPLE OF APOLLO
We know that this temple was consecrated to Apollo thanks to the dedication in Oscan by quaestor Oppius Campanus that was found in the cell. The sacred area is surrounded by a portico with 48 Doric columns, in the centre of which, on a podium in the Italic style, is the actual temple. The interior originally contained a statue of a divinity (not found) and a rock of carved tuff representing the world’s navel, modeled on the one located in the famous sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi. At the bottom of the temple is an altar in Greek Marble dedicated shortly after 80 A.C. by Marcus Portius, Lucius Sestilius, Cneus Cornelius and Aulus Cornelius, quattuorviri of Pompeii.
TEMPLE OF JUPITER OR CAPITOLIUM
This was the main centre of religious life in Pompeii. Situated on the northern side of the Forum, it is dedicated to the highest divinity of ancient times - actually it was built in honour of the Jupter, Juno and Minerva triad - and towers above a wide staircase with two large arches either side which have remained virtually intact. The temple, dating back to the 2nd century B.C., was built in two stages, the second of which, scheduled towards the end of the same century, led to the expansion of the architectural structure.
TEMPLE OF THE PUBLIC LARES
This sanctuary was dedicated to the protector gods of the house and was built by the Pompeians as a token of their gratitude for having escaped the perilous earthquake. Executed in brick, it has a rectangular plan enlivened at the far end by an apse with fine ornamental columns and with niches on either side. The Lares were the tutelary deities of the house and were probably to be identified with the deceased: they protected the property and the family. Each house had a site or a small temple dedicated to them.
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Staff at Flashback Journey to Pompeii. Our goal is to bring you up-to-date information on events, continuing archeological excavations and more on Pompeii.