Thursday, October 02, 2008
Pompeii: The City
Back in about 5th Grade, I bought a two pack of books from the Scholastic Catalog that was sent around every month to us impressionable kids. I got the set because it had a book about the Titanic, and I was a huge Titanic nut as kid. The second book was initially just a throw away book.
Soon though The Secrets of Vesuvius captured my grade school imagination, and sparked a fascination with the lost towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. I even remember a conversation with my mother where I expressed a strong desire to travel to Naples, far from Italy's most beautiful city, solely to see the ruins.
I wasn't going to travel all the way to Italy and NOT make it down to Pompeii. Nick and I checked the train schedule, got up early, and caught a Eurostar train from Rome to Naples, than hopped on a smaller local train to Pompei station.
More than any other bit of the Roman empire, Pompeii really humanized the ancient Italians. I would be hard pressed to come up with another archaeological site that so compellingly shows the day to day lives of a people from so long ago. As you wander the city you can see homes, temples, shops, streets, baths, theaters, graffiti and more. You see that while fashions and tastes change, people stay people.
Of course, the other lesson of Pompeii is a bit more somber. The glimpse of a city destroyed in the blink of an eye, it's citizens frozen in their final agony. It is sobering material, and a good lesson for us all.
I'll admit to being a tad disappointed in the restrictions placed on visitors. Many of the structures were off limits. I also would have liked the guide book to be a bit more detailed. It was sometimes difficult to figure out where in the maze of ruined streets we were, and finding specific building was almost impossible.
Despite that, I had a wonderful time meandering through the roofless buildings, even in the late July heat. I'd love to go back, and take in the smaller neighbor city of Herculaneum, as well as make the trip to the top of Mt. Vesuvius.
Though I'll be ok if I don't have to deal with the stench from the bathroom on the local train between Napoli and Pompei stations. Whoa.