Sunny greetings from the ancient volcanic wonder of Pompeii, blog-readers and skimmers! We woke up this morning in the wonderful Hotel Forum, whose gracious staff have made us feel very welcome. After a breakfast of good bread, fruits, meats, and fresh-squeezed orange juice, we set out with our intrepid Professor for the centre of Pompeii. Today was our second day of exploring the ruined city, and our first day of oral presentations of sites within the ruins. We spent at least 9 hours in the site today, and it was fantastic, though our feet may disagree with that assessment.
We began in the House of the Faun, one of the largest and most opulent houses in Pompeii. Cara led us through the zig-zagging path through the ruined atria and peristyles, past where beautiful mosaics of fish used to grace the dining rooms. She explained to us as we went how Roman houses like this one, whose occupant had the luck to own the rightfully famous Alexander Mosaic, manipulated the lines of sight of visitors, always drawing us around and around a central axis of vision, much as Greek temples or good sculptures do. It was magnificent in its ruinous state, and one can only wonder at the splendor that would have decorated the house before its destruction.
Then, we headed into the forum, and Brett showed us around what we call the Temple of Apollo Precinct. It is a relic of a pre-Roman settlement of this area, and as so often happens with these ancient temples, we are not completely sure to whom this temple was dedicated. Two statues of the gods Apollo and Diana with bows flank the entrance of the peristyle courtyard, which encircles the temple. The temple itself is confusing, combining elements of Roman aesthetic design with Greek, and thoroughly confusing us on the FSP.
Afterwards, we crossed the street and entered one of the primary civic spaces of Pompeii: the basilica. Bridget-Kate showed us around the building, which would have held law courts, public business, and pretty much anything else the Pompeiians could have required. Teddy was frustrated with the standard explanation of the repairs the Romans executed after the earthquake of 62 CE, and spent a long time staring at the toppled remains of columns, muttering about the stucco.
After a brief break from our reports to listen to Professor Ulrich’s discussion of the particulars of the Pompeiian forum, Kathleen, bubbling with excitement as usual, showed us the temples dedicated to worship of the Imperial family. There were two in Pompeii—the small temple outside of the forum to Augustan Fortune, and one much larger temple in the forum dedicated to the Divine Vespasian, ninth Emperor of Rome. It’s a bit strange to think of citizens of the Empire worshipping their deceased rulers, or even sometimes their living rulers, if they live in the provinces. These temples were lavish, outclassing the older temple to the Capitoline Triad that formed the focus of the forum.
Katelyn then gave her presentation on the so-called “Eumachia Building,” after the person who dedicated the building. Eumachia was a woman, making this building very interesting. There are theories that believe that this local wealthy woman was attempting to allude to the famous wife of Augustus, Livia, in taking charge of the family and dedicating buildings to other family members. We are not actually sure what the building was used for, frustratingly, but we do know it has a hidden, covered portico back behind its back wall known as a “cryptoporticus,” which has become one of my new favorite words.
Then, with our feet beginning to ache, and our eyes beginning to droop, Liz gave her presentation on the Stabian baths with gusto, despite a few rather annoying tour guides with booming voices. The oldest bathing complex in Rome, it underwent massive renovations throughout its lifetime, adding a massive outdoor recreation area, or palaestra, and a small swimming pool. The baths were segregated by sexes, so both men and women could use the baths at the same time. Much of the original stucco that adorned the walls is still in situ, making the whole site very cool to see, since often the stucco has chipped off or simply deteriorated beyond recognition.
And finally, we trooped out of the Nocera gate to visit the tombs just outside the city. We met our good friend Eumachia for the first time, since her monumental tomb was located just off the main road into the city. Professor Ulrich congratulated all of the wonderful people who gave their presentations, explained to us the metrics of the next paper, and then set us loose to wander the site to our hearts content. Well, at least until the site closed, of course.
All in all, it was a phenomenal day. Avete atque valete, noble readers!
Photos (by Yuhang):
“Is that marble I see?”
So much excitement for round two of the day's presentations.
Mt. Vesuvius peaks through the arch into the forum.
Jin struts her stuff along the forum.
Apses, apses, everywhere!
The tomb of Eumachia. Very nice, very nice.