Pompeii and Herculaneum
Introduction to P and H
Pompeii and Herculaneum were thriving cities in southern Italy until they were destroyed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79AD. The eruption had a devastating effect upon the economy, society and topography of the surrounding area, destroying towns, villages, villas and farms. The landscape, including the coastline and the course of the Sarnus river, were altered irrevocably. Pompeii and Herculaneum are situated along the coast in the bay of Naples. Herculaneum sits on the northwest side of Vesuvius and Pompeii to the south. It is difficult to imagine today what the Vesuvius area looked like prior to the eruption of 79 AD as the topography of the area was changed substantially. This is resultant of the eruption and numerous smaller eruptions that would occur later. Tacitus - 'Capri used to look out over a very beautiful bay, before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius changed the regions appearance Statius - 'Will future generations, believe, when the crops and these now deserted places once more thrive again, that cities and peoples are buried belo and that ancestral lands have disappeared, having shared in the same fate? Not yet does the mountain top cease to threaten death. During the eruption, the mouth of the Sarnus River and the shallow bay to the south were filled in by volcanic deposits, which pushed the coastline of Pompeii outwards by more than one kilometre. Introduction to Sources
Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (c. 56 - c. 117AD), Roman Historian. His surviving works are life Agricola, Germania, Histories and Annals. Tacitus wrote about the eruption of Versuvius and the death of Pliny the Elder about 25 years after the event. He wrote to his friend, Pliny the Younger, asking for an accurate description of events 'Thank you for asking me to write to you about my uncle's death so that you can pass on more accurate account to future generations' -Gaius Cornelius Tacitus Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus (23-79AD), known as Pliny the Elder, was born in Como, northern Italy, to a noble Roman family. He was educated in Rome by his father's friend, the poet and military commander, P. Pomponius Secundus, who inspired him with a lifelong love of learning. At 23, he began his military career and served in Germany, rising to the rank of cavalry commander. Of his writings, only the Natural Histories survives. At the time of the eruption of Mt Versuvius, Pliny was Commander of the Imperial Fleet at the naval base of Misenum, one of the two Roman naval bases protecting Italy. Statius
Publius Papinius Statius (c. 45- c. 96AD), writer born in Naples. He is best known for his collection of poems called Silvae, meaning 'forests' or 'groves' in Latin. Strabo
Of Pontus (c.62-c.24AD), was a Greek geographer and historian, wrote Geographia in 17 books. Was one of the first to realise Vesuvius was a volcano. He had incorrectly identified the volcano as dormant. Non-examinable background
stages of occupation
Oscans and the Greeks towards end of 7th Century BC.Oscan settlements inc. Pompeii and HerculaneumGreek Colonies at Ischia, Cumae and later, Cumae's colony: Neapolis indicate Greek settlement
| Scattered finds (Oscans)Greek coloniesWorship of Apollo at Neapolis and PompeiiHerculaneum most likely derived from the name of the Greek hero, Herakles, known to Romans as Hercules (Patron God of town)
| Archaeologist Maiuri maintains the grid-like layout of Herculaneum was Greek.Greek artefacts have been uncovered at Pompeii and Herculaneum (E.g Alexander Mosaic in the House of the Faun)Pliny the Elder in his Natural History states that the area had been 'In the hands of the Oscans, Greeks, Umbrians, Etruscans and Campanians.
| The Etruscans next to occupy and suggested to dominate the area.
| The destruction of this wall (see right) coincides with the defeat of the Etruscans by the Greeks in 474BC.
| Pompeii's first city wall of Pappamonte...
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