Pompeii will become an archaeological park and will be headed by a director-manager, as well as the new autonomous museums, chosen by an international selection. It is the umpteenth piece of the Italian Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini’s reform that was rumored for some time in the long corridors of the headquarters of the ministry in Via del Collegio Romano. The decree was presented yesterday to the Higher Council of Culture and the unions and it was shown in Rome at a press conference by the head of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism that outlined the reorganization of the Special Commission for the Colosseum and the Central Archaeological Area of Rome and the Superintendence of Pompeii.
The Colosseum of Rome, the other flagship of Italian archeology, in fact follow the Pompeii model with which it shares the podium of the most visited places of art of the country: even the Flavian Amphitheatre, in fact, will become an Archaeological Park along with Palatine, the Forum and the Domus Aurea, and it will be “decoupled” from the special archaeological Superintendency. Pompeii has returned autonomous from Naples in 2014 and in a few months was "separate" also from Herculaneum, another archaeological park recently established by the minister.
In fact, apart from the name, Pompeii will also be an archaeological park as Paestum, Herculaneum, the Campi Flegrei. However, for a while nothing should change for the site of Vesuvius : Massimo Osanna, the archaeologist from the University of Basilicata who is heading the Superintence since 2014, which led the ancient Roman city out of the dust of the collapses, known for making it shine for continuous new openings and re-openings and also for the organization of extraordinary events - 2016 was the year of Mitoraj, Elton John, David Gilmour and the statues of pharaohs under Vesuvius - for participation in major exhibitions abroad and for the collaboration agreements with prestigious national and international structures, will remain until the expiry of his term, at the beginning of 2019 .
His successor, who will have the same skills in the protection and enhancement, will be chosen by an international competition, also open to European citizens, as happened with all new museum directors made autonomous from Franceschini reform.
Finally, an important innovation is arriving in 2017. "This year, as Superintendent I will launch a ticket valid for two days, just to encourage the permanence and lengthen the average stay," says Massimo Osanna. A novelty that will be welcomed, especially, among the traders and hoteliers of Pompeii to counter the hit and run tourism. The city's associations already show high hopes and good intentions for 2017. "It 'obvious that if a visitor decides to sleep one night in Pompeii or in the surrounding area, they must then find welcoming and safe places, with good hospitality and an efficient transport system. Otherwise it is likely to be useless” concludes, then, Massimo Osanna who seems to want to give confidence in the potential, as well as that of the old city, also of the modern city of Pompeii.
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Today we are going to talk about the amphitheater of ancient Pompeii, one of the most important attractions of the ruins and a suggestive place chosen by artists like Elton John or David Gilmour as location for their spectacular concerts made last summer.
The amphitheater of Pompeii is the earliest known permanent stone amphitheater in Italy (and the rest of the Roman world). It was constructed after 70 BC, and belongs to the period of the Roman conquest and colonization of the town. It includes several features that were to become standard elements of amphitheater design across the Roman Empire. The form derives from the duplication of the structure of the theatre (amphitheater means "double theatre" or "circular theatre"): it is an elliptical structure situated in a depression in the ground and backing onto embankments. It consists of a large cavea around which are the steps, divided into sections, which cover the entire perimeter of the construction. Unlike the other Roman amphitheater, the one in Pompeii does not have an underground section. It was equipped with a velarium, that is a cover which was stretched over the complex in case of rain: the rings to which the canopy was fixed can still be seen.
It hosted all the circus shows and the gladiatorial games so dear to the Pompeians, who devoted most of their spare time to these performances. Sports and games in the form of gladiatorial combat was almost a prerequisite to any self-respecting city including a provisional city such as Pompeii.
The amphitheater survived the deadly eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, but most of the structure remained buried under volcanic debris. It was initially revealed in 1823 when the overlying material was cleared by Michele Arditi and Antonio Bonnucci. However, the whole site was systematically excavated in the twentieth century by the famous Italian archeologist Amedeo Maiuri. We know of earlier amphitheaters from written sources, but these were built at least partially of wood and so have not survived.
An inscription tells us that two local officials, Quinctius Valgus and Marcius Porcius built the amphitheater at private expense. With this inscription the two men made sure to underline their generosity for posterity, and for the attention of the voting public. These men would have expected this act to enhance their personal power and prestige, and we know from graffiti found throughout the town that gladiatorial games were extremely popular and a good occasion to catch people’s consent.
The amphitheater could seat around 20,000 people, is 445 by 341 feet (136 by 104 meters) and served not only Pompeii but also the inhabitants of surrounding towns. In AD 59, we know from written sources that there was a riot in the amphitheater, in which spectators from Pompeii and the nearby town of Nuceria fought each other, with the result that the Emperor Nero banned games at Pompeii for a period of ten years.
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Pompeii has been often called the city of love, dedicated to the passions of eros and evident in its customs. But this is not completely true.
Over time this rumor was mistakenly fed by myths and legends born around the Vesuvian city since its discovery. Erotic objects, bold written and obscene written messages have created the myth of the rough town, but in Pompeii they're not practicing love/sex neither more nor less than in any other Roman cities.
The sexual freedom was certainly greater than modern taboos and the places of pleasure were not absolutely deemed indecent. Prostitutes, in fact, played a major role in society, allowing the men their freedom and the women to be able to remain honest and virtuous according to the mos maiorum.
Prostitution was not a crime and the harlots held quite freely their profession, selling themselves on the streets or employed by a pimp inside taverns or brothels. The clothing of a prostitute was trumpery: succinct and transparent garments, marked makeup and hair dyed bright colors like red or blond to attract potential customers. Among the many graffiti found on the walls of Pompeii, there are many made by prostitutes about the opinions of their clients or their specialties and prices. The rates ranged from a minimum of 2 axes (equivalent to a glass of wine) up to a maximum of 16 axes.
In the Latin vocabulary there were so many names for prostitutes. Meretrix comes from the verb merere, indicating a gain behind a performance; the meretrix was not a common prostitute, but an experienced courtesan specialized in the ars amateur, music, dance and song: a real entertainer, usually with an exotic name, greek or oriental.
Often the prostitute was a slave who came from distant lands or a humble class woman. But there were also real professionals such as Novellia Primigenia, a mime of Nocera often frequented wealthy men, of which there are about 20 graffitis in Pompeii. The wolf, on the contrary, was a low-class prostitute and from here comes the word lupanare (place of lupae, used to describe the Pompeian brothel).
But there were also the fornicatrix, who worked as a prostitute under the bridge (fornices); the bustuaria, who practiced at the cemeteries, where there were marble busts of the deceased; the circulatrix, who was walking by seeking customers. Usually, the social class of customers was average; the rich people could freely dispose of male and female slaves directly in their domus (house).
It is curious to find out that on April 23rd the Roman calendar included a festival dedicated to female prostitutes and on April 25th, however, the party was for male prostitutes. It was not uncommon, in fact, to find guys who sold their bodies: homosexuality itself was accepted. In Pompeii there are several testimonies of male prostitutes: some graffiti tells us of the performances and the prices of a man named Menander.
The number of places where prostitution was being practiced in Pompeii is uncertain, because often it is given the name of brothel in places where there were only graffiti, raising the number to 34: the figure is disproportionate both to the modest size of the city and to the number of inhabitants.
Take a tour of Pompeii with us and time travel to the past! Start by viewing our guided Pompeii tours here. Or call our Pompeii office at +39 081 1877 7006.
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.