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Culture Bite: Pompeii and Herculaneum


The stunning bay of Positano!

This June I went to Positano with my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin.
It was a glorious holiday with stunning weather, a sweet little hotel on the beach and some delicious food and drink!

But enough bragging! I’ll get to my point;
Whilst we were there, we went to visit Pompeii and Herculaneum. Needless to say, it was awe-inspiring and staggering to see the scale of such a catastrophe and the level of preservation is incredible, especially in Herculaneum, where the pyroclastic flow carbonised and preserved a huge number of artefacts.

pompNot to mention the frescoes that have survived, in both Herculaneum and Pompeii!

I’ve always loved the classical periods – Ancient Greece is my passion, but the Romans were pretty interesting too – and to be able to walk in the footsteps of those people from thousands of years ago and see how they worked, played and lived their lives was incredible for me.

Anyway, the point is, as were were being shown around the city, we quickly foundlife out that a vast number of the artefacts that would normally be there were actually in an exhibit somewhere else…London! We’d come all the way to Italy and half of the most interesting and striking artefacts were back in London!

So, today I met my Aunt for lunch and we decided to pop in to the Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibit at the British Museum. She’s a member so we got to skip the queues and go straight in! Lucky us, acting all VIP!

The exhibit is extraordinary. It is laid out in the plan of The House of the Tragic Poet, one of the most magnificently preserved villas in Pompeii, which we walked around whilst we were there. You are taken from room to room and the artefacts within are all related to the area of the home;

  • Vestibule – Sort of the entrance hall, and it was hilarious to see signs that were erected between neighbouring houses to resolve ‘boundary’ issues – some things never change!
  • Atrium – This room was spectacularly decorated in Pompeii and the frescoes on the walls were still incredibly vivid and striking. You can see carbonised stools, tables, chests – which are all beautifully carved and ornate – as well as gorgeous mosaics where the detail is incredible and the preservation near immaculate.
  • Cubicula – The bedroom. Here there is a wonderful selection of make up and beauty products! Carved mirrors, ornate and stunning jewellery and tiny perfdoggume bottles, tweezers, make-up pots and dishes and cleaning products; I was rather jealous of the Roman womens’ collection!
  • Culina – The kitchen. Here there are even the carbonised remains of food – you can really see the walnuts, figs, pomegranates and almonds and it turns out they really liked to eat doormouse, so much so that they had special terracotta ‘jars’ in which to fatten up the mice!

Obviously this doesn’t even scratch the surface, but these were some of the things that stood out to me, and of course the plaster casts of the voids left by the people that were trapped and killed by the ash were very poignant and moving to see.

Then of course there is the proliferance of the phallus…

I find that, often, learning about different cultures and different times can really affect and inform my view of my own life. It can make you stop and think…look at the similarities between ourselves and the Romans over 2000 years ago, and we’re still making the same mistakes…but it can also fill you with joy for the human race! The celebration of love and life in Pompeii and Herculaneum was adundant, and we should try to bring that to our lives now! Learn about our past, go to exhibitions and let our human history inform your human future!

Me and the cus amongst some ruins...

Me and the cus amongst some ruins…


2 responses »

  1. I also went to Pompeii earlier this year and I thought it was amazing how well preserved some parts of it were – I could just imagine life carrying on there almost 2000 years ago, and it was very ominous to look over and see Vesuvius looming!

    • Yes, there is a sense on impending doom in the area! My cousin was reading ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’ at the time and he said that it made the whole experience of Pompeii and Herculaneum much more vivid, so I’m thinking I might read that at some point…it’s another time period which I could picture myself living in quite nicely (aside from the volcano threat obviously!)


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