Pompeii (Pompeii in Latin and Pompei in Italian) is a city and ancient city located in the Italian region of Campania. It is famous for having been buried in the autumn of 79 during an eruption of Vesuvius, a volcano located 9 km to the northwest.

Coordinates 40° 45′ 04″ North, 14° 29′ 24″ East
Country Italy
Subdivision Province of Naples, Campania
Type Cultural
Criteria (iii) (iv) (v)
Area 98 ha
Buffer zone 24 ha
Identification number 829
Location Europe and North America **
Year of registration 1997 (21st session)
* UNESCO Official Description**
UNESCO Classification

The origins of the city are poorly known. It is assumed that it was founded by a local community from the Oscan groups who occupied the region alongside the Greeks and Etruscans, following the Greek colonization movement of the Tyrrhenian coast in the eighth – seventh century BC; the Etruscans then probably seized the city in the sixth century BC, and erected its first wall in pappamonte stone around 570 BC.

Subsequently, Pompeii was most certainly conquered by the Samnites around 425 BC, as evidenced by the numerous inscriptions in the Oscan language discovered in the excavations of the city. It fell into the Roman purse with the rest of the Samnite territory in 290 BC, without becoming a Roman city strictly speaking. Pompeii remained an Osco-speaking and Italic community until the turn of the Social War, during which it was besieged and taken by the Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sylla, who founded a Roman colony there by settling nearly 2,000 veterans. The Romanization and especially the Latinization of the city then accelerates to the probable detriment, in the early days, of the original Samnite community.

Leading a relatively prosperous life in a fertile region, Campania, Pompeii was hit by several natural disasters during the first century. of our era: first, a powerful earthquake in 62 that put out of order several thermal buildings and a good part of the running water network. Finally, Pompeii was destroyed at the same time as Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabies during the eruption of Vesuvius in the autumn of 79.

Buried under several meters of volcanic sediment, the city is the subject of brief attempts to recover various materials and riches during Antiquity, especially during the reign of Titus. The large quantity of eruptive materials, however, makes it impossible to systematically loot the site, which paradoxically protects it from all the common spoliations that were reached by ancient cities during the Middle Ages. The city sank into relative oblivion for fifteen centuries.

Despite some mentions in the poems of Stace and Martial (Ist century), oblivion quickly covers the plateau of Civita where the city is located. The first time, in 1592, the remains were affected by human activity during the construction of the Sarno Canal. But Pompeii is really rediscovered only in the seventeenth century. The ancient Roman city is in a remarkable state of preservation. The excavations undertaken from the eighteenth century, especially from 1748, will exhume a city that is a precious testimony of the urbanism and civilization of ancient Rome. Since 1997, the site has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with those of Herculaneum and Oplontis in Torre Annunziata.

Pompeii: the site

Pompeii: fertile land at the foot of Mount Vesuvius
Pompeii: fertile land at the foot of Mount Vesuvius.

The archaeological site of Pompeii is located on the west coast of Italy, south of Naples on the bay of the same name. The ancient city of Pompeii was at the heart of a rich region, Campania, which the Romans called the “Land of the Gods” for its fertility, proximity to the sea and climate. Today, a municipality in the Metropolitan City of Naples still bears this name (Pompei); the ancient site (Pompei Scavi) is a hamlet.

Fertile land

Pompeii is built on a volcanic plateau formed by an ancient lava tongue and steep on three sides. The southwest side dominates the Tyrrhenian Sea, but the whole is overlooked to the north by the volcano Vesuvius. Strabo described Vesuvius in the first century BC as “entirely covered with fertile fields except at the partially flat, but totally barren and ashy in appearance”.

The volcano, extinct for several centuries, was not a source of concern for the inhabitants of the region. However, they were not completely unaware of its nature, as evidenced by these few lines of Vitruvius (Ist century BC): “… It is said that the fires burning under this mountain once broke out with great force, and threw much flames in all the places around”. The land, rich as are all soils of volcanic origin, allowed, in particular, the cultivation of vines and thus favored the influx of population. The number of inhabitants of Pompeii at the time of its destruction was, according to an in-depth study dating from 2017, in a range between 7,500 and 13,500 people.

A strategic site

Pompeii is located near the mouth of the river Sarno (southeast) whose navigability makes the city, still according to Strabo, “a port to Nola, Nocera and Acherra”, cities located inland. The elevated location of the city built on a plateau (33 m) makes it a strategic post for the surveillance of the movement of ships in the Bay of Naples. But the city is not surrounded by springs and this is a disadvantage. The Romans, therefore, built rainwater cisterns, then an aqueduct starting from the Sarno River to ensure the supply of the city.

Pompeii was therefore a prosperous land when it was completely devastated by an eruption of Vesuvius. The date of August 24, 79, deduced from the account of Pliny the Younger, the direct witness of the eruption, is the one commonly retained (especially by UNESCO) but recent research indicates that the eruption was certainly later in the year, probably October 24.

This tragic end partly explains the fame of the city; As for archaeological excavations, they have brought to light a flourishing city, to revive an entire society and the richness of its history.

From the foundation of Pompeii to its destruction


Pompeii was founded before the sixth century BC. (perhaps in the seventh or eighth century BC), probably by the synœcism of five Saracist and Oscan villages (pumpe means five in Oscan) passed under the Etruscan influence, on an important trade route, a probably maritime outlet of Nuceria. The city first developed eastwards and then in the northwest and southeast directions until reaching nearly 66 hectares, of which 44 were dwellings, the rest being gardens and fields concentrated mainly north of the Abondance Way.

Various influences

In the sixth century BC, the Greeks introduced the cult of Apollo (construction of the temple of Apollo; construction of the Doric temple on the triangular agora). Pompeii is only a base for controlling the outlets of the hinterland, very fertile.

The city was subject to the Etruscans for almost fifty years (until 474 BC). when they occupied the inner part of Campania, as confirmed by the oldest inscriptions found at Pompeii in the Etruscan language, before being included in the area of expansion of the Samnites. The latter notoriously enlarged the city, building the historic center whose remains are still very important today. It is recognizable in particular by its older wall, the architecture of some houses (those characterized by the Tuscan-type atrium), the public buildings of the Triangular Forum and the Temple of Apollo in the Civil Forum.

From 474 to 424, the Greeks regained control of the city, restored the temples, developed a geometrically designed district (Region VI), and surrounded Pompeii with new walls.

In 424, Pompeii was reconquered by the Samnites who took the name of Campani when arriving in the plains. Oscan was once again spoken, a language common to the oldest occupants of Indo-European origin, the Oscans, and to the new occupants, the Samnites who extended the city walls.

Roman conquest

Meanwhile, Rome had begun its gradual advance towards southern Italy and had begun to challenge the resistance of the Italic populations. The Samnite peoples also had to submit to the Urbs, after fifty long years of war. With the conquest of Campania, Pompeii thus experienced the domination of the Romans, becoming socia, a status that included the maintenance of local autonomy.

Between 214 and 210 BC. J.-C. The Second Punic War takes place: Hannibal sets out to conquer Rome with his elephants. Pompeii, unlike other Samnite cities, remained loyal to Rome.

This long period of prosperity ended with the war waged against Rome by the Italic cities – including Pompeii – in order to obtain Roman citizenship. In March 90, the Samnite cities revolted against Rome during the Social War. This time, Pompeii joins them. The war is hard and the Romans led by Sylla take Pompeii. They stormed between the gate of Herculaneum and the gate of Vesuvius. In this sector, the wall still bears the traces of projectiles fired by Roman war machines. We still have another testimony of the siege of the city: oscan inscriptions have been found in different places – six in total – called eituns inscriptions because of a word that is found there regularly and intended to allow the defenders of the city to reach their post quickly without getting lost at the time of an assault.

The Romans did not rebuild a new city on that of the Samnites, but settled in Pompeii as it was at the time of the Samnites.

Roman colony

In 80 BC, Pompeii stormed and conquered by the troops of Lucius Cornelius Sulla, is transformed into a Roman colony. The Roman era begins. Many ancient Samnite families disappear replaced by Roman veterans who occupy the previous dwellings by renovating them with frescoes characterized by realistic representations of architecture influenced by theatrical scenes.

As in the past, Pompeii continued to expand and develop in all areas, especially in the economic sector, largely favored by its fertile hinterland and its enviable geographical position. All activities related to trade and maritime traffic increased. The wealth of Pompeii came from the land. The fertile volcanic soils were suitable for growing vines (one of the vineyards made from the Holconia grape, near the amphitheater suggests that the owner, the Holconii family, sold his wine directly to spectators, and the sea was full of fish. Even the stones of the region brought money to the locals: they made the best oil mill wheels in the whole country.

The result of this remarkable development was immediate: externally, it led to an increase in Pompeii compared to the other cities of Campania; Internally, the consequence was the general increase in the quality of life of a large part of the different social classes. Thus the class of merchants and entrepreneurs, who had made the fortune of Pompeii, did not cease to develop, favored by the export of oil, wine and perfumes from flowers (rose, cloves, crocus), leaves (myrtle, vine), roots (iris, valerian) or fruits (quince, myrtle, laurel).

The flourishing economy led to considerable population growth, an increase in the standard of living of the population, and the beautification of the city. The nouveau riche, eager to prevail over the aristocratic class traditionally in power, competed to flaunt their opulence through sumptuous mansions, precious objects and jewels. The earthquakes of the previous years having repeatedly damaged the villae of the rich patrician families, many of these familiae had left to settle in less seismogenic regions and had sold their properties to these newly rich, including freed slaves who had amassed handsome sums in trade, agriculture or other more or less shady activities. Urban expansion took place mainly along the Via dell’Abbondanza, the symbolic center of the new emerging class.

Politically and culturally, the importance of Pompeii remained less. The city owes its belated fame to the fact that it remained in the same state it was in at the time of the disaster. It offers us a direct insight into the life of the Romans of that time in a small provincial town.

In 59, an event occurred sufficiently notable for the historian Tacitus to consider it worthy of being related (Annals, XIV, 17): on the occasion of a gladiatorial show at the amphitheater, a bloody brawl broke out between the inhabitants of Pompeii and those of the nearby city of Nocera, causing deaths and injuries. The imperial authorities intervened and any gladiatorial show was banned in Pompeii for a period of ten years. A fresco of Pompeii found in the house I, 3, 23 preserves the testimony.

The end

On February 5, 62, Pompeii and the many settlements near Mount Vesuvius were damaged by a major earthquake that destroyed a large part of public and private buildings. The date is still debated, some authors believe that the earthquake took place in 63. The bas-reliefs found in the House of Lucius Caecilius Jucundus vividly illustrate the catastrophe. Restoration work began immediately, many of which were completed quickly—especially those involving private buildings. The most disadvantaged social class suffers serious consequences because their homes are destroyed. Most public and private buildings were still in the consolidation and restoration phase when Vesuvius erupted.

Around 70, the city underwent a new series of telluric tremors: some of the inhabitants – those who had the opportunity – left the city for safer places, selling their possessions at very low prices to other inhabitants, who thus acquired large properties.

In 79, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius led to the destruction of the city. Pliny the Younger, who was in Misene, describes the eruption in two of his Letters to Tacitus: “A cloud of unusual size and appearance… Its shape was reminiscent of a tree and, more precisely, that of a pine tree. It stood like a gigantic trunk and widened in the air in twigs.

Vesuvius begins by pouring on the city and on those of Herculaneum and Stabies, nearby, a huge mass of volcanic slag (especially pumice). Pompeii is engulfed under a thick layer of eruptive material, up to 2.8 m of slag (lapilli) and some 1.8 m of ash. In Herculaneum, deposits of eruptive material reach more than 20 m. The inhabitants who did not flee died as a result of the collapse of their houses under the weight of pumice stones or by asphyxiation, due to the burning clouds.

A later author, Cassius Dio (II e-IIIe), recounts the events more succinctly and mentions the wonders that would have accompanied them (giants resembling Titans would have appeared before and during the eruption).

The disaster was long dated to the 24 Aug 79, most of the manuscripts of Pliny’s correspondence mentioning the ninth day before the calends of September. However, some manuscripts bear different dates; in particular one of them indicates the calends of November (1st November). In other words, the eruption would have occurred on 24 October 79. Long neglected, this dating has again aroused the interest of historians in view of the increasing number of clues that lead to the place the event in autumn: dolia (large amphorae) seeming to contain freshly pressed wine, braziers lit on the day of the eruption, vegetation (walnuts, figs) corresponding to autumn.

According to work published in 2006, in particular that of the Italian archaeologist Grete Stefani, the analysis of a coin found in 1974 in the House of the Golden Bracelet and dating from the fifteenth imperial greeting of Titus occurred in early September 79, so necessarily later than the beginning of September 79, supports this dating. Finally, in 2018, during the excavations of region V of the city led by Massimo Osanna, an inscription was discovered, dating from the 16th day before the calends of November, or October 17, definitively eliminating the possibility that the eruption could have occurred in summer.
The long-prosperous city was in economic decline (Pompeian wine was increasingly competing with Gallic wine, which led to the conversion of less profitable land). This crisis and the lasting ruin of Pompeii partly explain why it was not rebuilt.

Political institutions

We can get an idea of the institutions of Pompeii in the Samnite period thanks to the Oscan inscriptions that have been found. The city was ruled by a magistrate called meddix tuvtiks assisted by one or more magistrates called aidilis and kvaisstur. There was also an assembly called kumbernnieis and a kind of senate called kumparakineis.

When the city lost its independence at the beginning of the third century BC, these institutions were preserved, although the city no longer pursued an independent foreign policy. Becoming a Roman colony at the beginning of the first century BC, it adopted specifically Roman institutions, namely:

  • the popular assembly called comitium, composed of all male citizens: its only function was to elect magistrates and award honors;
  • the council, called ordo decurionum, which could be likened to a legislative assembly, whose decisions were implemented by the magistrates. Its members were called decurion, a kind of communal councilor. New members were admitted to the ordo every five years. Decurions had generally already exercised a magistracy, although this was not always the case. There is at least one proven case of a child admitted to the ordo decurionum, the young Numerius Popidius Celsinus, known from a famous inscription. The decurions had powers as diverse as the attribution of an honorary statue to a distinguished citizen or the decision to build the odeon;
  • Four elected magistrates called duumvirs or duoviri, operating in pairs, whose function was annual. The two senior magistrates were called duoviri iure dicundo. As their name suggests, they exercised justice and generally dealt with the administration of the city. They presided over the assembly of the ordo decurionum. Every five years, five-year duoviri were elected, a particularly prestigious and sought-after position, since they were responsible for carrying out a census of citizens and drawing up the list of those who were eligible for a magistracy. Two junior magistrates were called duoviri ædiles. These two mayors were responsible for public works, sacred buildings, and the organization of games (ludi in Latin).

Pompeii: an exceptional archaeological site

Examples of victim casts
Examples of casts of victims

Because of its remarkable state of preservation, Pompeii is an invaluable testimony to ancient Rome.

It is now possible to go further back in time, to the origins of the city. It has thus been found, in some places, up to three layers of sediment corresponding to three distinct centuries, the VIIIe, IVth and IIth centuries BC, providing valuable information on the colonization of Campania before the Roman era.

Excavations have uncovered a city frozen at the exact moment of the eruption, more than 1,900 years ago. The state of conservation of the site comes from the layer of eruptive material – up to seven meters – that covered the site and protected it from looting and bad weather. The ashes also burned all living tissue and then settled, creating both a protective sheath and a hollow image of the destroyed object.

Thanks to the ingenious casting technique developed by Giuseppe Fiorelli that casts plaster within the ash pockets (the decomposition of organic matter creates an empty space within these pockets) before breaking the hardened ash shell, we can see today the victims in the attitude where death surprised them. Some tried to flee, protect their children or shelter their money. Others remained holed up in their homes. Many residents probably fled while there was still time. During excavations since 1748, some 1,100 bodies have been found in Pompeii, victims of pumice rockfalls or the fiery clouds that followed. Even taking into account the bodies that may still be in the uncleared parts of the city and those that have not been counted, these figures are relatively low.

Some of these casts are exhibited at the Antiquarium, at the thermal baths of Stabies. Others were left at the very place of their discovery.

Three bodies were discovered recently: a pregnant woman, a dog and a horse.

Discovery of the site: around 1600

Soon after the burial of the city, people — both surviving owners and thieves — came to collect materials or valuables from various buildings, including marble statues. They left traces of their passage, as in a house where modern archaeologists found on a wall the following graffiti: “House dug”. In the following centuries, the city’s land was occupied sporadically. Its name and location were gradually forgotten, falling into the anonymity of the place called Cività, the city.

In 1592, during the digging of a canal to divert the Sarno River to feed the newly built village of Torre Annunziata, the architect Domenico Fontana discovered some marble slabs, coins and ancient buildings with walls covered with inscriptions or paintings: this is the first discovery, fortuitously, remains of Pompeii. He unearthed a stone bearing the inscription decurio pompeis (which must be translated as “decurion of Pompeii”, that is to say a member of the Senate of Pompeii), but it was believed that it was a villa belonging to the Roman general and statesman Pompey. The work finished, Fontana had the trench covered with earth. The decision to cover the paintings could be perceived both as an act of censorship (because of the erotic content of some paintings) and as a desire to preserve in the hostile climate of the Counter-Reformation.

In 1709, excavations were carried out in the region at the instigation of Prince Emmanuel-Maurice de Lorraine, Count of Elbeuf, a history buff. Having acquired a field where marble debris had been discovered, he dug wells and galleries and unearthed three statues which he offered to Prince Eugene of Savoy. He then discovered other statues that enriched the cabinet of curiosities of his villa in Portici. This villa was acquired in 1734 by the new King of Naples, Charles III of Spain, who took an interest in the objects it housed.

In 1738, he had the excavations resumed and entrusted the responsibility to the surveyor Roque Joaquín de Alcubierre. The discovery of an inscription then made it possible to identify the site with the ancient city of Herculaneum. In April 1748, Alcubierre interrupted the excavations of Herculaneum and undertook new excavations in the region of Torre Annunziata, at a place called Civita, where he thought he would discover the site of Stabies.

What made the particularity of this last site — which was not yet known as Pompeii — namely the ease of the work, is explained by the fact that the ash layer was much easier to extract than the solidified pyroclastic flow, which is more than 20 meters thick. which had covered Herculaneum. As the harvest of art objects determined priorities, spectacular new discoveries at Herculaneum nevertheless diverted Alcubierre from the site of Cività. Work did not resume until 1755. The excavation techniques were deplorable: the pieces deemed unworthy of display were destroyed and the buildings excavated were backfilled after the work. During his stay in Italy, the German scholar Johann Joachim Winckelmann was appalled by these practices and denounced them. His writings contributed to the fame of Herculaneum and Pompeii.

Site Identification: 1763

The identification of the site was confirmed with the discovery of an inscription referring to Res Publica Pompeianorum and then on the pedestal of a broken statue of white marble: “The tribune Titus Suedius Clemens, by order of the emperor Vespasian Augustus, having taken cognizance of the causes and had the measures recorded, returned to the city of Pompeii the lands of the public domain that had been invaded by private individuals ».

Karl Weber, who succeeded Alcubierre, put an end to the practice of destroying anything that was not interesting. He was also the first to draw up a plan of the excavations. Upon his death, a Spanish engineer officer, Francesco La Vega, succeeded him in 1764.

Permits to visit the site were granted sparingly, and those who obtained them were not allowed to take notes or make drawings or plans. Winckelmann wrote: “Foolish jealousy is pushed so far, that I was not allowed to walk with a regular step, because it was suspected that I wanted to take the dimensions of the place, as I also did indeed. At that time, every cultured individual had to make what was called the Grand Tour: a journey through Europe, of which a stay in Italy was an essential step to forge a classical culture, and the sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum soon became part of this circuit. Mozart visited Pompeii in 1770, Goethe in 1787.

In 1765, the discovery of the Odeon led to the cessation of excavations at Herculaneum. Henceforth all efforts would be focused on Pompeii. The discovery of the Temple of Isis in June of the same year aroused immense curiosity and was one of the triggers of Egyptomania. In 1769, Emperor Joseph II, whose sister had married the King of Naples, paid a visit to Pompeii that was not without consequences. The “discovery” of objects in a house, which has since been called the house of Emperor Joseph II (VIII, 2,39), had been staged for him. The emperor was not fooled, but was enthusiastic about the excavations and suggested to his brother-in-law to increase the number of workers on the site and to accelerate the work.

In 1771, the discovery of eighteen skeletons during the exhumation of the villa of Diomedes, aroused strong emotion. After the eruption of 1779, it was deemed more prudent to transfer the collections of the Villa de Portici to Naples. During the 1780s, La Vega tried to keep some paintings on site, rather than remove them, which was a further step forward. Elements of the upper structures of dwellings also began to be reconstructed. It was a question of preserving, with great care, the decoration of the walls and mosaics, as well as the objects of art or everyday life, in order to provide the visitor with a feeling of life with a strong emotional impact.

In 1799, after the entry of French troops into Naples and the proclamation of the Parthenopean Republic, General Championnet ordered partial excavations entrusted to Father Zarilli. A house discovered at that time bears the name of the general. In 1808, the arrival of Joachim Murat as King of Naples, with his wife Caroline, revived archaeological enthusiasm for the site. During his reign, the architect François Mazois published the first two volumes of his work, The Ruins of Pompeii. During this period, the direction of the excavations was entrusted to two competent and dedicated men, Michele Arditi and Pietro La Vega.

The return of the Bourbons was marked by a decline in activity on the site, due to lack of financial means. They went so far as to sell land that covered Pompeii, bought under Murat. Distinguished visitors continued to flock to the construction site, where they persisted in staging “discoveries” for them. Worse, now that paintings were left in place, for the pleasure of visitors, they were watered to enhance their colors. The king, who wanted his guests to visit Pompeii in comfort, even had some of the stones removed that allowed to cross the streets in antiquity, so that horse-drawn carriages could circulate there. In 1822, a new eruption of Mount Vesuvius deposited on the ruins a layer of ash that had to be cleared. In 1840, a railway line was created between Naples and the Marine Gate to facilitate access to the site.

Towards a Scientific Approach: 1860

A new phase began in 1860, with the director of excavations appointed by Victor Emmanuel II, Giuseppe Fiorelli, director of the National Museum of Naples and director of excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum, to whom we owe the ingenious method of molding thanks to which were reconstituted — by pouring liquid plaster into the empty spaces left in the layers of pumice and ashes by some 1,150 bodies humans, not to mention animals, trees and wooden objects — the shapes of all the organic bodies that remained trapped in the eruption flows. One can see the inhabitants of Pompeii in the attitude where death surprised them. There are some who try to run away, to protect their children… or to protect their money. Some of these casts were exhibited in the Antiquarium of Pompeii, destroyed during World War II.

Others were left in the same place where the bodies were once discovered. In the 2000s, archaeoanthropological studies conducted by Estelle Lazer on 300 petrified bodies show that, contrary to popular belief, the victims were not mostly elderly, women and children, but a very disparate sample, representative of the heterogeneous population (Oscans, Etruscans, Pelasgians, Samnites, Romans, Greeks, Jews). Following examination of bones, the estimated average height is 1.54 meters for women, 1.64 meters for men and 10% of skeletons show signs of osteoarthritis.

Giuseppe Fiorelli published a work that traced the history of excavations under the Bourbons (Pompeianorum Antiquitatum Historia published from 1860 to 1864 in three volumes) and cleared the houses from above rather than first clearing the streets and entering the houses from below. We owe him a map of the streets of Pompeii, which he divided into nine “regions”. These scientific excavations did not prevent owners of neighboring land from selling their own discoveries. After Fiorelli, the excavations were directed by two of his disciples, who continued the work in his spirit: Michele Ruggiero (1811-1900) and Giulio De Petra (1863-1943).

Twentieth century

The new method of excavation had a vigorous impetus in the twentieth century, first under the direction of Vittorio Spinazzola (1863-1943) who undertook to clear the street of Abundance over a length of 600 m, so as to connect the western sector of the excavations to the amphitheater, located at the eastern end of the city. These excavations made it possible to better understand the economic life of the city, by clearing its main commercial artery. Spinazzola also focused on reconstructing the houses in elevation, something that had been neglected by his predecessors. The direction of the excavations was then entrusted to Amedeo Maiuri (1924-1961), a researcher who tirelessly studied Pompeian and Campanian archaeology for thirty-seven years. Under his leadership, Regions I and II were almost completely cleared.

During the Second World War, on August 24, 1943and from September 13 to 26, Allied aircraft bombed the site, believing it was occupied by German troops. Several buildings were damaged.

On November 23, 1980, Pompeii experienced an earthquake that did little damage but weakened many buildings. A restoration took place in the 1980s and 1990s, wooden pillars replacing the reinforced concrete of the 1950s and the steel beams of the 1970s, but their choice proving equally questionable.

Century XXI

The beginning of the twenty-first century saw new doubts arise about the state of conservation of the site and the quality of the restoration work of the authorities, who used modern materials (concrete) far too heavily. In 2008, Pompeii was placed under the responsibility of the Civil Protection under a declaration of state of emergency, which had the effect of dispossessing the superintendence of the site and allowing restoration companies to derogate from public procurement procedures, a source of corruption and incompetence.

Following the collapse of the Schola Armaturarum (and not the barracks or the gladiators’ house, as many media outlets have erroneously claimed), also known as Schola Iuventutis (III, 3, 6), in November 2010, UNESCO sent experts in December of the same year to verify the dilapidated state of the remains, whereas in 2012, more than 10% of houses were open for visits and only five areas were open compared to fifty in the 1960s.

Since then, other collapses have occurred.

In March 2012, the “Great Pompeii Project” was launched, estimated at 105 million euros, including 41.8 million from the European Union: this project aims to restore five damaged houses and create a rainwater drainage system to protect the ruins from moisture. However, the Camorra is accused of putting pressure on the superintendents of the site since the opening of the excavations in the nineteenth century, of diverting restoration subsidies by extorting the companies called upon to intervene on the site and thus of having an interest in the landslides remaining to continue to benefit from public funding. This low hand of the mafia is probably linked to the indictment for corruption, repeated abuse of power, fraud, inflated bills and fraud at the expense of the State of Marcello Fiori, extraordinary commissioner of Civil Protection appointed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to manage Pompeii.

The economic crisis that Italy suffered at the end of the 2000s and the consequent disengagement of the State mean that there are only 6 workers and 25 caretakers left daily on the huge site whose restoration is entrusted to incompetent private companies, which explains the existence of hidden landslides (9 out of 10 are not declared), clandestine searches, theft of objects or frescoes, stray dogs whose sterilization has proved ineffective, etc.

At the end of 2015, as part of the Great Pompeii Project, six restored domus, including the fullonica of Stephanus, were reopened to the public. In 2018 and 2019, on the occasion of securing the excavation front, several new buildings were unearthed such as the house of Leda and the swan, the house of Orion and the house of the Garden.

The city of Pompeii

We owe to Giuseppe Fiorelli the conventional division of the city into nine “regions”, themselves divided into islands (insulae), within which each house or shop is assigned a number, so as to identify a building by completing its best-known conventional name: for example, House of the Chaste Lovers, IX (region), 12 (block), 6 (building number). This official system is still in use.

Distribution of buildings by type
Religious buildings Pompeii
Religious buildings


  • Temple of Venus
  • Temple of Apollo
  • Temple of Jupiter
  • Macellum
  • Temple of the Lares
  • Temple of Vespasian
  • Eumachiia Building
  • Triangular Forum
  • Temple of Isis
  • Temple of Jupiter Meilichios
  • Not informed
The development phases of the city Pompeii
The development phases of the city


  • Foundation
  • 1st enlargement
  • 2nd enlargement
  • 3rd enlargement
Baths and sports buildings Pompeii
Baths and sports buildings


  • Suburban baths
  • Forum Baths
  • Central thermal baths
  • Thermal baths of Stabies
  • Not informed
  • Triangular Forum
  • Samnite Palestra
  • Great Palestra
  • Brothel
The main axes of the city Pompeii
The main axes of the city


  • Via Marinia
  • Via dell’Abondanza
  • Via di Porta Nocera
  • Via di Nola
  • Via di Stabia
  • Via di Mercurio
  • Via del Foro


Pompeii has an enclosure some 3,200 m long, which has undergone several phases of construction. It was only during the reign of Murat that the entire perimeter of these fortifications was recognized (1813-1814).

The first enclosure, built around 570 BC, was erected in local soft stones, a black tuff called pappamonte. Its length has been debated. It included Region VI, but certainly did not extend as far east as it does now. It would correspond to the Etruscan period of Pompeii.

In a second time, at the hinge of the sixth and fifth centuries BC, it was replaced by a wall with double curtain limestone, filled with blockage inside, whose technique is reminiscent of that of the enclosure of Cumae or Naples.

Around 300 BC, the first Samnite enclosure was built, made of Sarno limestone, in opus quadratum. The city reaches the dimensions we know it today. The double wall gives way to a wall reinforced inwards by an agger (embankment towards the interior of the fortifications) supported at its base by a small wall. The gates are also equipped with more sophisticated fortifications.

A little later, a second Samnite phase saw the reinforcement of the enclosure to the north, which was the most vulnerable sector. For this phase, Nocera tuff is used. We return to a double curtain wall, the inner curtain being higher, and the agger is enlarged.

During the last phase, at the end of the second century BC, some parts were restored in opus incertum and twelve towers were built at irregular intervals to the north, east and south. They are numbered counterclockwise from the south to the Herculaneum Gate, and had three floors with narrow loopholes on the lower floors and wider openings on the third to allow the use of throwing weapons. These towers were fitted with stucco cladding, parts of which remain.

The enclosure is pierced by seven gates: the Sea Gate, the Gate of Herculaneum, the Gate of Vesuvius, the Gate of Nola, the Gate of Sarno, the Gate of Nocera and the Gate of Stabies. These modern names are related to the different places to which they lead. In antiquity, they had different names: the gate of Herculaneum was called Porta Saliniensis or Porta Salis, that is, the Salt Gate, because it led to the neighboring salt pans.


Pompeii is divided by a network of streets that have evolved over the centuries. The layout of the streets has evolved with the different populations that have succeeded one another. The Oscan core of the city has a tortuous layout that contrasts with the rectilinear urbanism of the Greeks and Samnites. The primitive cardo (from north to south) of the city is materialized by the rue de Mercure. The oldest decumanus (east to west) is composed of the Rue de la Mer and part of the Voie de l’Abondance. These primitive axes are modified: the decumani are materialized in 79 by the axis from the Marine Gate to the Sarno Gate (Way of Abundance) and by the street of Nola for the second decumanus. The main cardo connects the Gate of Vesuvius to the Gate of Stabies.

The network of streets ensures fast communications between the peripheral forums (Civil Forum and Triangular Forum) and the amphitheater. At the crossroads of the main roads, the arteries widen to facilitate the circulation of those who frequented the baths located at the crossroads. Two types of traffic occupied the streets: vehicles and pedestrians. The roadway for vehicles was paved with polygonal blocks of green trachyte or basalt. The sidewalks were made of concrete or dirt for sections dating from 80 to 44 BC. We passed from one sidewalk to another thanks to large stones with rounded edges that allowed to cross the street when it was flooded by rain or the overflow of public fountains. The maintenance of the streets was the responsibility of the city councilors and that of the sidewalks was the responsibility of the owners of the houses, hence the diversity of materials of the sidewalks.

Street names

The ancient names of the streets of Pompeii remain unknown to us in their majority. An Oscan inscription near the gate of Stabies has yielded some names: via Pompeiana, via Decuviaris, via Iovia, but they are most likely arteries outside the city. Another Oscan inscription mentions a “viu Mefiu” which would be the street between the rue de l’Abondance and the rue de Nola.

It is possible that only the main arteries had a name and that the others were assigned a number, as seems to indicate by a street where a graffiti “Via III” was found. The current names of the streets are conventional names that archaeologists have given them for one or another reason, from the most important, such as the rue de l’Abondance, which owes its name to the sculpture of a cornucopia, to the most humble, such as the alley of the Skeletons, which owes its name to the discovery of the skeletons of four people.

Abundance Street

The Way of Abundance is the decumanus maximus (principal) of Pompeii. It goes from the Stabies Street to the Forum Civil and then from the Sea Street to the Porte Marine for its oldest layout. It connects the most important nuclei of the city: the Forum, the thermal baths of Stabies, the amphitheater and the Great Palestra. At its widest point, it is 8.50 m.

The Way of Abundance creates a crossroads with the rue de Stabies: the crossroads of Holconius. A laurel-crowned statue of Marcus Holconius Rufus had been placed next to one of the four pillars of the four-sided Arc de Triomphe that crowned the crossroads. On a corner of this same crossroads, a fountain with a basin decorated with a carved block representing the Concorde holding a cornucopia gave its name to the street.

The Way of Abundance is divided into three sections. The first goes from the Porte du Sarno and climbs slightly to the crossroads of the rue de Stabies. This stretch dates from the third – second century BC. It is 4 m wide and is paved with basalt blocks marked by deep furrows. The sidewalks are made of lava or gray tuff from Nocera and are 60 cm high. Many blocks of sidewalk edges near thermopolia have holes on their edges to attach the bridle of horses.

The second section goes from the Stabies crossroads to the Théâtre route. It is totally closed to traffic and has an altitude difference of 80 cm high filled by stairs. This difference in level allows water from the Forum to be evacuated into a sewer heading south, beyond the city limits. The third section dates from the sixth century BC and goes all the way to the Forum. It is lower than the Forum and a monumental staircase in grey tuff was necessary to reach the square. A monumental effect was given by the propylaea with columns and pediment as well as with the facades in large blocks of tuff composed of pilasters and cornices of the houses. The paving was replaced in the late 70s.

We must imagine this street as the most representative of Roman Pompeii. The swarming of customers, traders, peasants, inhabitants with shops with various goods, workshops, thermopolii and houses make it the liveliest street in the city.

Public buildings

Civil Forum

The forum was the center of the city, religious center (where stood the main temples such as that of Jupiter, father of all the gods, Apollo and the Lares) and political center, insofar as it was there that justice was exercised, and that municipal public institutions had their seat. Finally, it was also the economic center of the city, the place where negotiations and trade took place.

Food warehouses and, sometimes, the headquarters of the most representative categories of trades were also located there. In Julia Felix’s villa, we found a frieze known as “Scenes from the life of the Forum”, which gives a good idea of the animation of the place and the variety of activities that were carried out there: street vendors, a lady giving alms to a beggar, Two men probably dispensing justice… One of the most striking scenes is an outdoor classroom, where the students look away while one of them, with his buttocks bare, receives a correction.

The forum was a vast area located at a central point. That of Pompeii, which has a vast rectangular area whose perimeter measured more than 400 meters (38 m by 142 m), is located in the southwest district; It is therefore eccentric in relation to the inhabited center. The choice of this area was determined by contingent reasons such as the need to find a sufficiently large and flat terrain, something particularly difficult in Pompeii because of its location on a lava stage steeply inclined towards the sea.

The municipal forum developed at a later time than the triangular forum (see below), older and more central, although buildings dating back to the Samnite period, such as the Temple of Apollo, are not lacking. The construction of the municipal forum was decided as a result of socio-economic changes, population growth and incessant urban expansion that led to new needs, including that of a new public space more responsive to the requirements of the population and the very importance of the city.

This is how this area was chosen, which until the second century BC had been used for the market. The Forum of Pompeii is therefore located at the crossroads of the main streets of the city and, in particular, that of Abundance which was the most important center of this prosperous Roman city. The remains of this important center of social aggregation reveal only in part its past grandeur and beauty.

The image that the forum once gave of him was certainly more grandiose and monumental: it is enough to think that this place was traversed on its three sides by a long and elegant colonnade surmounted in turn by a vast gallery. Between the columns were placed statues of illustrious people, as well as the tribune intended to welcome the speakers.

On the background stood the grand staircase leading to the Temple of Jupiter which closed the square in a very scenographic way. This temple was the local equivalent of the temple of Capitoline Jupiter, protector of Rome.

Walking along the west side of the portico and along the temple of Apollo, we find, in a niche dug in the outer wall of the temple, the mensa ponderaria intended for the control of weights and measures. On the same side of the portico is located a grain warehouse (horreum).


The comitium is located in the southeast corner of the forum. This building was reserved for the elections of the magistrates of the city (aediles and duumvirs). It has an almost square shape of 21.20 m long by 17.20 m wide and did not have a roof. It has undergone two phases of development. The first phase is at the end of the second century BC. It had five entrances in the north wall and five other doors in the west wall. During elections, citizens entered through the entrances to the forum and exited through the doors overlooking the path of Abundance. The second phase is in 62, after the earthquake. Three entrances to the west wall and four to the north wall are condemned by a wall in opus incertum.

This was achieved because of the instability of the building. The east and south walls were clad in marble and polychrome stucco. In the east wall, four niches have been arranged to house honorary statues. The floor was paved with marble, of which only a few fragments remain at the foot of the walls. A staircase allowed access to a tribune leaning against the south wall where the highest magistrate of the city sat. The Comitium, which was being repaired, was therefore not in operation at the time of the eruption of 79.

Eumachia Building

The building of Eumachia (it) is located on the east side of the forum, between the temple of Vespasian and the Comitium. This building was excavated from 1819 to 1821. It was built in the last years of the first century BC, on an artificial terrace between the forum, the Way of Abundance and a small path passing behind the building. It is therefore prior to the forum on which it is not aligned, but slightly biased. During the excavations, two skeletons were discovered: one wearing a helmet and the other crushed by the fall of a column.

The name Eumachia is known from a long inscription on the architrave of the portico overlooking the forum. This same inscription is repeated on the entrance at the southeast corner of the building overlooking the Way of Abundance. Translated, it gives this: “Eumachia, daughter of Lucius, public priestess (of Venus) had built at her own expense in her name and in the name of her son Marcus Numistrius Fronto the chalcidicum, the cryptoporticus and the portico, and dedicated them to Piety and Augustan Concord. The Pompeian family of the Eumachii was made up of owners of vineyards and brick industries.

By taking the entrance of the forum, one enters a space called chalcidicum and which serves as a vestibule. It is a space between the colonnade of the forum and the façade of the building. It is 39.50 m long and 12.30 m wide. This vestibule has side accesses that could be closed by a gate, forcing people to enter through the forum. The roof was bricked, pouring rainwater west onto the forum and east into the building. The floor is paved with white marble and pedestals were leaning against the columns.

The façade is located at the bottom of the chalcidicum and its entrance is covered with a frieze carved on the pedestals and lintel. Acanthus scrolls with animals hiding in them are carved in marble. This type of sculpture recalls the sculpted relief of the Ara Pacis in Rome. After the earthquake of 62, the marble slabs were removed and stored in the small premises behind the façade. The façade was clad in bricks pending restoration. Two exedras with apses flanked by rectangular niches punctuate the façade.

The rectangular niches bear at their base elogia of Romulus and Aeneas whose statues were present. It is an iconographic program comparable to that of the Forum of Augustus in Rome. Two rectangular exedras are located at the ends of the façade. It was accessed by a few steps. These would be the forums for the auction of wool if we accept the hypothesis of a wool purse. A platform reserved for the declamation of elogia during imperial festivals is also possible. Two utility rooms are located behind the façade. The one to the north serves as a lodge for the guardian and the one to the south houses a large terracotta container embedded in a platform to receive urine (see below, the fullonica of Stephanus).

Once past the façade, one enters an inner courtyard surrounded by a portico with Corinthian marble columns on a possible double order of columns. This courtyard is paved with marble, 37.70 m long and 19.16 m wide. Along the east portico is a series of white marble pedestals and lightly hollowed stones. A cistern is located in the center of the west portico, on the courtyard side, closed by a slab still having its ring. The portico is 4 m wide. Its wall was covered with a base of African marble molded with arabesques. This setting has totally disappeared now, but remains described in books of the time.

In the axis of the entrance, between two blocking massifs carrying basins, there is an apse. The latter is supported by two square pillars and painted in green and red. Two columns surmounted by a tympanum preceded this apse. A statue of Concord was discovered in this apse, but the head was missing. It still bore traces of gilding and red paint. Two small gardens with two semicircular niches flanked the ends.

The cryptoporticus is entered through two doors on the west façade. It is a covered gallery with bays overlooking the portico. The walls were decorated with panels painted alternately yellow and red with small subjects in the middle. The basement was painted black with a decoration of red and yellow flowers and plants. In the center of the east gallery, a square niche painted in green and red with a black base houses a statue of Eumachia consecrated by the fullers with a pedestal bearing an inscription: Eumachia L[uci] f(iliae) sacerd(oti) publ(icae) fullones or “The fullers dedicated (this statue) to Eumachia, daughter of Licius, public priestess”. This statue was discovered on March 2, 1820, and it still bore traces of red and green color.

In the southeast corner, a corridor, decorated with black panel paintings separated by red pilasters now disappeared, led by a staircase on a 2.15 m door on the way of Abundance, just in front of the fountain of the same name. The fact that it is decorated by a figure holding a cornucopia is reminiscent of the statue of Concord in the Eumachia building and is an interesting parallel. A box flanks this entrance to the right of the corridor. There was a bronze kettle and painted walls. The façade was decorated with pilasters with rectangular pediments alternating with lunette pediments. The inscription mentioned above was engraved on the entablature

All the iconography found in the building of Eumachia is inspired by Augustan politics. This was to serve as electoral propaganda.


The basilica occupies the western corner of the forum. It was identified as such thanks to graffiti visible on the plaster of the walls. The building, 66 m by 27 m, dates from the second half of the second century BC as indicated by oscan marks on the tiles mentioning Numerius Popidius, a Samnite magistrate. The basilica houses the duumvirs presiding over justice. People also gathered there during the cold season for business meetings on legal and economic issues that were also dealt with on the Forum.

The main entrance is located on the east side overlooking the forum, preceded by a chalcidicum or vestibule. Five bays are bounded by pillars made of large blocks of gray tuff. The main hall was accessed by a staircase of four basalt steps and five doors, the central three were flanked by four Ionic columns, while the two lateral ones were delimited by pilasters. There is also an entrance on each of the north and south sides. These side entrances are carved into a brick wall connected to the two corner columns and side walls of the basilica.

The interior is divided into three naves by twenty-eight large Corinthian columns made of bricks covered with stucco. Twenty-four Ionic half-columns were leaning against the side walls. They were themselves surmounted by Corinthian half-columns. The walls bore a decoration of the first stucco style, of which fragments remain. A floor must have existed, but little is known about it. Several hypotheses have been put forward for the covering of the basilica. The most widespread is that of a central nave discovered, only the side naves had a roof. Now, it is more readily assumed a roof in frame covering the whole resting on a single tile farm with palmette antefixes.

At the back of the basilica, facing the main entrance, stands a 2 m high platform identified as the Tribunal, where the judges sat. Four Corinthian columns were placed between two corner columns. At the end of the court, six half-columns divide the wall.

In addition to these facilities, other more discreet rooms helped the proper functioning of the basilica. To the east of the basilica, a two-storey avant-corps houses an underground room which was accessed by two staircases framing the forebody. This may be the place where the archives are deposited. The court is also flanked by two square rooms opening onto two columns of antes. These rooms probably housed pharmacies related to the activities of the basilica.

Outside the building, in the southeast corner, a small rectangular room has a raised pavement compared to that of the basilica. This room is accessible from the chalcidicum probably by a wooden staircase. A well more than 21 m deep occupies the western part. The eastern part has a reservoir filling with water from the well thanks to a water wheel. It is not known what exactly this room was used for. Perhaps it fed a fountain inside the basilica, which was dismantled after the earthquake of 62. The well was blocked, probably it was abandoned with the arrival of Agrippa’s aqueduct which brought the waters of the Serino.


The Macellum is located in the northeast corner of the forum. It was the market where the population bought fish and meat. It is located on the forum because of a double necessity: to have a supply center in town and to have it on the sidelines of the forum so as not to interfere with the activities of the latter. Its construction dates from the second half of the second century BC. It had at that time a larger courtyard, a more advanced façade and a decoration of the Ist style.

It also had a vast prominence to the West before being reorganized. The current plan corresponds to a reworking of the Julio-Claudian period. It collapsed completely during the earthquake of 62. It is rebuilt and decorated with frescoes of the fourth style composed of small paintings with mythological scenes and still lifes. In 79, its reconstruction was still not completed. Between 62 and 79, the building is not in operation.

The main façade of the Macellum overlooks the forum. The building is not in the axis of the latter. To remedy this, the shops that occupy the façade are getting shallower and shallower from north to south. The portico of the forum hides the façade and creates with it a chalcidicum or vestibule. It is assumed that the shops on this façade must have been bureaux de change (tabernae argentariae). The monumental façade is furnished with two pedestals covered with marble. They supported two statues or two columns on which rested an architrave leaning on the side walls. In the entrance, a niche was confined by two Corinthian marble columns. The entrance was therefore limited in two modest accesses on the sides of this aedicula.

There are two other entries for the Macellum. An entrance is on the north side with next to it a niche where propitiatory snakes were painted. An entrance to the southeast overlooks the Hanging Balconies pathway.

Inside the building opens a large courtyard. It is surrounded by a portico on four sides. The south side has eleven shops open to this courtyard and possessing one floor. The shops on the west and north sides of the Macellum open to the outside and are isolated from it. In the center of the courtyard, twelve bases of columns are placed in a dodecagon. These columns bore a conical roof. A tholos occupied the center of the courtyard. It housed a counter for the preparation of fish. A fountain occupied the center and allowed to always have water available to clean the fish. The pavement of this tholos was made of pebbles surrounded by a marble listel that guided dirty water to an underlying duct. Ridges and scales have been found en masse in this duct.

The eastern part of the building is divided into three rooms. The central piece is actually a sacellum, a kind of temple. It is located in the axis of the tholos and the entrance overlooking the forum. It has a façade with a staircase flanked by two podiums. The room houses an aedicule of which only the base has been preserved. It served as a support for the statue of an emperor of which only an arm with a hand holding a sphere remains. The two side walls each have two niches. They housed the honorary statues of local personalities who adopted imperial iconography.

The room to the north of the sacellum houses a large room with a façade divided into three by two columns placed on a quadrangular plinth. The southeast corner of this room houses an aedicule in opus latericium. It must have housed a cult statue, as an altar covered with marble slabs is placed in front. The room is decorated with frescoes depicting a colonnade decorated with garlands with Amours in the center. This fresco has disappeared today and is known only from descriptions of the nineteenth century. This room was to house a religious college that held its religious banquets there. As proof of this, a bench covered with marble slabs is leaning against the south wall.

The room to the south of the sacellum houses two long “L” counters attached and dug with a channel allowing the continuous flow of water. It was in this room that the sale of fish took place. Its façade was arranged with two columns. Paintings of the fourth style still remain. One wall shows a painting featuring personifications of Sarno and Abundance surrounded by nymphs. The central wall has a panel with winged Genies carrying maidens on their shoulders. A second panel shows Penelope recognizing Ulysses surmounted by a still life. These frescoes have been recently restored.

Triangular Forum

The triangular forum occupies the end of a lava ridge southwest of the Grand Theatre and the Portico des Gladiateurs. It dominates the Sarno Valley. Its location has been occupied since the sixth century BC. Its current appearance corresponds to the Samnite period in the second century BC. The triangular forum constitutes a separate sanctuary area from the sanctuary of Apollo.

In the second century BC, the local elites decided to remodel the city according to monumental Hellenistic models. The facades of the street leading to the forum are redone with blocks of gray tuff from Nocera. Pilasters, columns and cornices make their appearance in the monuments.

The entrance to the forum is through propylaea — formed by six Ionic columns between two corner half-columns — which opens to the north. A fountain from the first century BC is located in front of the propylaea, on the forum side.

The forum occupies an almost triangular space, hence its name. A portico of ninety-five columns surrounds the forum on three sides. The fourth side, to the southwest, is equipped with a balustrade and opens onto the panorama of the Bay of Naples and the mouth of the Sarno. The colonnade and stylobate of the portico were restored in 62. On the north side of the portico, there is a fountain and the base of a statue of Marcellus. A low wall runs along the colonnade to the east. It thus creates a wide corridor from north to south. It is assumed that it is a track for athletic and equestrian races taking place during religious holidays.

An archaic Doric temple occupies the center of the forum. Only the podium remains. It is oriented northwest/southeast. The temple is in a poor state of preservation: it underwent many alterations during antiquity and was hit by a bombing in 1943. Four alterations were made between the end of the sixth century and the second century BC. According to the remains, the oldest period of the temple corresponds to the sixth century BC.

It is a peripteral Doric temple with seven columns in width and eleven columns in length. This number of columns does not meet classical standards probably because of the original wooden temple. The latter had four columns in width and six columns in length, but for better stability of the columns were added. The capitals of the columns have a very flattened backbone, which makes them date back to the sixth century BC. The pronaos is composed of two Corinthian columns dating from a later restoration. The east side of the cella has an off-center rectangular base. This demonstrates the existence of a second base on the opposite side. Two deities were to have their worship in this double-cella-celatte temple. It would be Minerva and Hercules according to the antefixes discovered. In 62 the temple is badly damaged, and in 79 it is still not restored.

A double rectangular enclosure is located in front of the façade of the temple. It probably represents the heron or place of worship of the founder of the city. Three tuff altars are adjacent to the temple and the heron.

After the heron, a tholos of seven Doric columns contains a well dug in the lava. An oscan inscription presents it as a building erected by the care of Numerius Trebius, meddix tuticus (the most important public office under the Samnites).

To the northwest of the temple, a semicircle seat with lion’s claws as feet corresponds to the schola. It was made by Lucius Spunius Sandilianus and Marcus Herennius Epidianus, the duumvirs under Augustus. A sundial was installed behind this schola.

Thermal baths

Forum Baths

The Baths of the Forum are built in the first century BC. under the government of Sylla and the only ones to function after the earthquake of the year 62.

They have two sections, one reserved for men and the other reserved for women; Both have a frigidarium (cold room), a tepidarium (warm room) and finally a caldarium (hot room). The heating and cooling system of the rooms was carried out through a piping system inserted in the interstices of the walls.

All rooms have elegant décor. In the men’s section — the best-preserved part — we can distinguish the room serving as a cloakroom (apodyterium), whose entrance overlooks via delle Terme, then the circular frigidarium decorated with large niches, stuccoes and paintings.

In the men’s tepidarium, you can admire a splendid barrel vault, worked in stucco, and a series of terracotta telamons (statues leaning against the pillars) placed between rectangular niches; In addition, the caldarium has a barrel vault and an apse in the background. The street-facing part of the building has several shops.

Finally, the thermal baths have a courtyard surrounded by arcades for outdoor gymnastic exercises, which, in the complexes carried out in succession, will be replaced by a large palaestra, usually equipped with a swimming pool.

Thermal baths of Stabies

The thermal baths of Stabies occupy a vast area between the alley of Lupanar, the crossroads of Olconius and the street of Stabiae. They are the oldest thermal complex in the city. Their construction dates from the time of the subjugation of Pompeii to Rome and they were enlarged and embellished several times thereafter to meet the new needs of the influx of the population. The original building, the one beyond the arcades, dates from the Samnite period. The most recent, which dates back to the restructuring of Roman times, is the part that gives the west side. These thermal baths are organized according to extremely functional criteria.

The thermal complex has a very ingenious system of baths distributed around a central area of trapezoidal plan serving as palaestra and surrounded by porticos on three sides. A swimming pool (natatio), for swimming, occupies the west side. The thermal baths of Stabies consist of three parts. First of all, the rooms in the northern sector, the ones that are the oldest, with a series of latrines. A second sector includes the group of private baths located behind the northern portico. The third sector is located in the eastern part: it consists of changing rooms, a vestibule and different rooms for cold baths (frigidarium), for warm baths (tepidarium) and for hot baths (caldarium). These baths have very marked divisions between the area reserved for men and the one reserved for women.

Both are organized in the same way, but the women’s section is simpler and more stripped down. The rooms are often decorated with very refined stuccoes and are among the most beautiful of Pompeian art.

It is also possible to discern the heating and cooling system of rooms operating through a network of pipes that conduct air and water at various temperatures in the gaps of the rooms.

In the third sector, the public baths are equipped with a swimming pool and rooms used for gym activities.

Suburban baths

Excavated in the 1980s, the suburban baths are, as their name suggests, located outside the walls, near the Porte de la Mer. These private baths, arranged on the ground floor of a private house around a large terrace, from which one enjoyed a view of the sea, are known for their cloakroom (apodyterium) decorated with paintings with erotic subjects, two of which represent group sexual intercourse. These paintings may have been inspired by Ovid’s The Art of Loving. Underneath these erotic paintings is a series of numbered basket paintings, the exact function of which is not explained. Unlike the other spas in Pompeii, there was no area reserved for women.

Theaters in Pompeii

Grand Theater

It is a wonderful example of a Roman theatre built in the second century BC and whose scene was subsequently transformed. Its typology refers to that of Greek theatres insofar as its architecture adapts to the natural shape of the terrain. It was enlarged in the time of Augustus by the duumvirs Marcus Holconius Rufus and Marcus Holconius Celer. On the occasion of shows, it could be covered by a velarium, but it did not have stable equipment like the Odeon. Its capacity could reach 5,000 seats. There were comedies and tragedies.

A peculiarity of this theater was the background from which the stage could benefit: the view extended over the splendid crown of mountains located in the background of Pompeii. In the southern part of the theatre, a colonnade was intended to accommodate spectators during intermissions or at the end of performances.

Of the elements that constituted it, only the lower tiers (ima cavea) remain, intended for the most important characters of the city. They are covered with marble slabs. We can also see a small part of the middle area of the cavea (media cavea), as well as the remains of the typical Roman scene with niches and aedicules, restored after the earthquake of 62. Three doors allowed the actors to move to the back, in the postscaenium used as a dressing room. Remains of basins found during excavation attempts below the level of the orchestra which, contrary to ancient Greek usage, was not used for stage performances, prove the use of water features, particularly widespread in the Roman world.

At the time of the eruption of Vesuvius, repairs to the ’62 earthquake had not yet been completed and the bleachers, as well as much of the stage, were not rebuilt.

Small Theater (or Odeon)

Built in the first century BC. by the duumvirs Gaius Quinctius Valgus and Marcus Porcius, the Odeon represented one of the most harmonious and balanced examples of architecture of this kind. It was according to the dedication of the duumvirs of a covered theater (theatrum tectum). The roof was fundamental to the acoustics of the building; The presence of this element, along with other architectural features, has made it possible to identify the building as an Odeon. Several frescoes of the second style that decorated the scene, now unfortunately disappeared, confirm the unitary date of the building.

It could only hold a thousand spectators, hence its name of a small theater. It is fairly well preserved and enjoys a typical Greek theatre layout with a structure encased on a natural slope of the land. It hosted many theatrical and musical events. It is here in particular that the mimic representations were played.


It is an imposing building, elliptical in shape, measuring 140 m by 105 outside, which could hold 12,000 spectators (some sources advance the number of 20,000) and in which gladiatorial fights took place, much appreciated by the Pompeians, as evidenced by many graffiti as well as the “edicta munerum“, that is to say, the announcements of the programs of the games, of which 75 copies were found. The amphitheater, built around 70 BC, is the oldest in the Roman world discovered to date.

Great palaestra

The great gymnasium, also called palaestra, was excavated by Amedeo Maiuri along the Rue de l’Abondance. Built under Augustus, it measures approximately 142 by 107 meters. It is surrounded on three sides by a portico of 118 columns, while the fourth side, towards the amphitheater, was endowed with three monumental entrances. The courtyard was planted with two rows of plane trees, traces of which archaeologists have found.

Some of these trees were a hundred years old at the time of the eruption of 79 and had therefore been planted in the time of Augustus. Unlike a gymnasium in Greek times, the palaestra did not have a running track. On the other hand, in its center was dug a swimming pool (natatio) of 34.50 m × 22 m whose bottom was sloping (from 0.90 m to 2.60 m). The drain from the pool was also used to clean nearby latrines (foricae). The palaestra served as a sports field as well as a slave market or a place of instruction for Pompeian youth.

The palaestra had suffered great damage during the earthquake of 62, especially in the supply pipes of the pool.

Gladiator Barracks

The “Gladiator Barracks” is in fact the quadriportico of the Great Theater of Pompeii (porticus post scænam). It is located behind the stage of the same theater and between it and the Odeon. It was built immediately after the theater, at the end of the second century BC. It is one of the oldest quadriporticos attached to a theatre in Italy. It is planned for the walk of spectators between two shows.

Its main entrance is located to the north, taking the way of Stabies by a wide passage behind the Odeon. Three Ionic columns erected at the top of a three-degree staircase make up the monumental entrance. Seventy-four Doric make up this quadriportico.

In 62, following the earthquake and the growing interest in gladiatorial fights, the quadriportico was transformed into barracks. The monumental entrance is walled up and a guardhouse is posted next to a secondary entrance. The walls are clad in opus mixtum and the pilasters of a large hall are clad in brick.

To the northeast is the dining area. A large kitchen with a giant four-burner fireplace, deposits and an exedra preceded by four pillars, probably used as a dining room, make up this part of the building. A wooden balcony is built on the first floor where the apartment of the laniste (coach) is located. The other sides are composed of chambers intended for gladiators. It was in these rooms that parade weapons were discovered: fifteen helmets, leggings, metal belts and a retiary shoulder guard. The decorations of the walls are composed of frescoes of the fourth style. A fresco depicts Mars and Venus in the dining room. The rooms are decorated with gladiatorial weapon trophies.

Many skeletons were discovered: eighteen corpses, including that of a newborn in a basket. Two skeletons were unearthed in a dungeon with vines still adhering to the bones. The skeleton of a richly harnessed horse was also excavated. It was from the barracks that the procession of gladiators and animals who went to fight in the amphitheater began.

Water supply network

Just inside the enclosure, near the gate of Vesuvius, the water tower (castellum aquæ) distributed water from the aqueduct of Serino (built under Augustus, which also supplied Naples and Misene), to public fountains, public buildings (swimming pools, baths, latrines, etc.). and private homes. It was located on the highest point of the city. Inside, several grids were used to filter the water, which then circulated throughout the city in fistulas. As the terrain was sloping and the pressure could burst the pipes, the water was directed to water towers (castella secunda) scattered throughout the city.

Fourteen of them were found, some six meters high, usually located on street corners, each serving the fountains and houses of a neighborhood. The richest houses had pools (nymphaeums), fountains and even private baths. More than forty fountains were excavated on street corners so that most Pompeians lived within 80 meters of one of them. These fountains were usually made of basalt, sometimes travertine or marble, and the most recent were built of gray tuff. They were formed by a rectangular basin, surmounted by a stone carved in the shape of a mascaron — simple shield, rosette, silene or lion muffle, the motifs are varied — from which the water gushed.

Half of these fountains are working again today, partly as in antiquity, but having been connected in the 1930s to the network of the modern city of Pompeii, sometimes at the cost of adding cement to the original stones, with long-term deleterious effects on the conservation of the latter. For this reason, from 2012, as part of the various restorations planned in the “Great Pompeii Project” of the European Union, among the forty fountains listed, twelve have been meticulously restored thanks to a sum of about € 150,000. Of these twelve restored fountains, eight were prepared in such a way as to actually be part of those offering drinking water to tourists. In 2017, it was expected that those fountains not part of the group of twelve concerned by this project would also be gradually restored, but on the basis of more traditional funding of the archaeological site.

Religious centers in Pompeii

Temple of Isis

The Temple of Isis is located north of the Great Theatre, between the Samnite Gymnasium and the Temple of Zeus Meilichios. The first construction of the temple dates back to around the end of the second century BC. An inscription tells us that it was restored after the earthquake of 62 by the care of a six-year-old child, Numerius Popidius Celsinus, son of a rich freedman, Numerius Popidius Ampliatus.

The temple stands in the center of a portico with four arches, with columns, which rests on the surrounding wall of this sacred area. The cella, wider than long, is placed on a high podium, preceded by a pronaos with four columns on the façade and two on the sides. A staircase, facing the building, is the main access. A small staircase giving access to a secondary door is to the south.

On either side of the cella and outside the columns of the pronaos, two niches surmounted by triangular tympanums housed the statues of Anubis and Harpocrates who are two deities related to the cult of Isis.

Temple of Augustus Fortune

The Temple of Fortune Augustus was discovered on October 23, 1823. It is located at the corner of Rue de la Fortune and Rue du Forum. It was built at the beginning of the first century BC, on the initiative of Marcus Tullius, duumvir of the time, of the gens Tullia, as we learn from the inscription of the architrave of the sanctuary. Another inscription with the name of Marcus Tullius tells us that the land on which the temple is built belongs to him. It was read on a block of stone sunk into the ground, to the right of the temple, in a small plot to the south. A house, probably his, communicates with the sanctuary. The land was previously occupied by shops and a house whose crushed brick pavement can be seen against and under the podium on the south side.

The building is 24.30 m long and 9.30 m wide. Its façade faces west. In rather small proportions, it has characteristics similar to those of the temple of Jupiter of the forum. The first flight of stairs is interrupted in the middle by an altar. An iron gate surrounded the end of this staircase. A landing allows the start of a staircase of nine steps leading to the pronaos.

The latter is located at the top of the podium and is decorated with eight beautiful Corinthian columns including four for the façade and two for each side. The whole building was made of brick covered with white marble. The cella is 7.10 m wide and 10.85 m deep. The walls still rise 4.50 m. One plaque still bore a fragment of inscription. A large apse occupies the back wall. In the center, an aedicule supported by two columns was to be arranged for the statue of Fortune with its attributes (oar and drawbar).

The side walls each have two rectangular niches that must have contained honorary statues, two of which were discovered during excavations carried out in the nineteenth century. The first, which has been attributed to the emperor Augustus, depicts a man in a toga with traces of paint for his hair, face and eyes as well as purple color for the toga. The second is a statue of a woman, without the head, whose tunic had a red and gold border. In 1859, the base of the temple was excavated and yielded four fragments of turtle shell.

Damaged by the earthquake of 62, the temple was restored only in the part relating to the cella, while the portico was still on the ground at the time of the eruption. The building had been stripped of its marble slabs. According to a recent study of the style and size of the plates, they may have been reused in the temple of Vespasian. The gens Tullia settled in Pompeii following Sylla. Cicero owned a villa outside the city. Marcus Tullius is actually a descendant of Marcus Tullius Cicero and a follower of Emperor Augustus who gave him the title of military tribune, allowing him to become a knight. To attend to worship, Marcus Tullius financed a college, whose members are called Ministers of Religion, of which there are two inscriptions on two marble bases placed in the cella.

Temple of Jupiter

Located on the north side of the forum, the temple of Jupiter was probably already dedicated to Jupiter in the second century BC, then, after 80 BC, it was dedicated to the Capitoline triad, Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, as part of the process of Romanization of the city.

Built of lava and stones covered with stucco, it closed this side of the square devoid of arcades. The temple, which dates back to the second century BC, was built in two phases. Of the first building, only the podium. The second, projected towards the beginning of the following century, led to the enlargement of the architectural structure. The building has preserved on the façade the remains of high crenelated columns: they also continued along the sides until the cella which appears ample and quite elongated.

The colossal “head of Jupiter” found is on display today at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.

The building, which was severely damaged during the earthquake of the year 62, as seems to demonstrate the almost total absence of ornamental elements, had not yet regained its former splendor at the time of the eruption of the year 79. On each side, however, two triumphal arches remained almost intact.

Under the podium were three vaulted underground rooms that probably served as a favissa, that is, a shed for sacred objects, or a deposit of the city’s treasure (aerarium), such as the temple of Saturn in Rome.

Temple of Apollo

The Temple of Apollo is an integral part of the forum district, while being anterior to it. It is probably the original religious heart of the city. It goes back, at least as far as its primitive part, its foundations, to the sixth century BC. It is difficult to know to whom to attribute it, Apollo being venerated by both the Greeks and the Etruscans. Excavations have found buccheri (ceramics) bearing Etruscan inscriptions. Of this building of Italo-Etruscan style, probably made of wood, only a few elements remain.

In the second century BC, it was replaced by a masonry building. However, later, in the civil and religious life of Pompeii, the worship of the god Apollo was reconsidered in favor of the father of the gods, Jupiter, to whom was dedicated the most important temple of the forum. Later, the temple of Apollo was transformed again: the part overlooking the forum was closed. It was embellished at the beginning of the first century: the altar was replaced. It underwent further transformations after the earthquake of 62, under Emperor Nero.

The building has architectural elements derived from Italic and Greek styles and has a rectangular peristyle shape: it is surrounded by 48 columns. The inner cella, raised on its podium, is accessed by a long staircase. Towards the bottom of the cella, an omphalos refers to the cult of the Apollo of Delphi. The Opposite is the sacrificial area. The central part, the one that contains the altar of the god, is surrounded by columns.

Two statues embellish the sanctuary: “Apollo archer” on the east side of the portico and “Artemis” on the west side (the originals are preserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples).

A sundial is arranged at the top of a marble Ionic column to the left of the staircase leading to the cella. The shaft is decorated with an inscription that recalls the two donors, the duumvirs Lucius Sepunius Sandilianus and Marcus Herennius Epidianus.

Temple of Vespasian

The Temple of Vespasian was a small building of worship that has preserved part of its façade and peristyle structure. The side walls are adorned with false windows with a pediment — and cella raised on a pedestal. This one, placed above a podium, was formerly preceded by four crenelated columns supporting a pediment. Opposite is a white marble altar, decorated with bas-reliefs. The one facing the forum represents the sacrifice of a bull. The side bas-reliefs represent the instruments of the rite, while on the back side, one can see an oak wreath surrounded by laurels.

The building was still incomplete at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius. All now agree that the building was dedicated to an emperor; however, it is not certain that it was Vespasian, as the hypothesis would have it that the edifice rebuilt after the earthquake was totally new. The attribution of a previous temple to the genius of Augustus remains possible. Under this emperor, in fact, a profound restructuring of the forum had taken place.

Pompeian houses and villas

The site of Pompeii was the first that revealed to the modern world the precise architecture of Roman houses in their entirety by the distribution and function of the various rooms, the elevation of the walls, the furniture and the interior decoration. The model of the Pompeian house provided the typical plan of the suburban villa. Nevertheless, it should be noted that another form of specialized housing, the multi-storey apartment building (usually called insula) where tenants of modest conditions are crammed, is absent in Pompeii.

The urbanization spreads on the surface, the houses have at most one floor, and we see that Pompeii is largely a social mix, because we have not really identified a poor neighborhood. The vast and luxurious dwellings adjoin, in the same block, others more modest, shops, restaurants and workshops of craftsmen. Wealthy owners with a domus in a busy artery took advantage of this situation to build shops on the street front. The latter had a mezzanine floor used as a bedroom, which was called pergula.

Urban houses

Centennial House (IX, 8, 6)

The Centenary House is one of the largest dwellings (nearly 1,800 m2) found during the excavations of Pompeii. It is formed by the meeting of three houses (end of the first century BC – early first century), which gives it a rather complex appearance. Found in 1879, the year of the eighteenth centenary of the eruption of Vesuvius (hence its name), the villa provides at the level of its architecture as its decoration, of different styles, clues of the various periods of its construction.

There was found in the peristyle a statuette (“Little Satyr carrying a wineskin”) serving as a fountain’s mouth. It is kept in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. The decoration of the villa is characterized by arcades on a yellow background, with a representation of several deities and floral motifs that adorn the rooms next to the tablinum and peristyle thanks to a series of decorative motifs formed by fish and birds. The peristyle was also decorated with a swimming pool and fountains.

House of Meleager (VI, 9, 2)

Built-in the Samnite period, its decoration dates from successive eras. The part reserved for receptions, characterized by a beautiful colonnade with Corinthian capitals, is remarkable. The peristyle, which has arcades all around the perimeter of the central pool, is also very elegant. This rich residence, with pictorial decoration completely renovated during the last years of existence of Pompeii, is an interesting example of the fourth style, the sumptuous decoration of a vast triclinium in particular, which overlooks the northwest corner of the peristyle.

House of the Centauri (VI, 9, 3)

The entrance by the rue de Mercure represents the fusion of several houses into one. The cubiculum is a fine example of interior decoration. It consists of the aggregation of three previous dwellings.

House of Beaver and Pollux (VI, 9, 6)

The house of Castor and Pollux is made up of the union of smaller houses renovated at different times. The atrium is of particular interest, with its splendid colonnade with Corinthian capitals. The pictorial decoration of several rooms is also very pretty, with the series of paintings of mythological scenes representing “Apollo and Daphne”, “Adonis”, “Silene” and “Scilla”. The House of Castor and Pollux or the Dioscuri owes its name to the representation of the “Dioscuri” decorating the entrance and which is now exhibited in the Museum of Naples with other paintings that adorned the other rooms.

House of Lucius Caecilius Jucundus (VI, 1, 26)

It was excavated in 1875-76. In July 1875, a chest containing 154 wax tablets was found upstairs in this house. Although the wax melted, the stylus used to write left marks on the wood, so that the text can still be read. These documents of the greatest interest, which constituted the archives of a certain Lucius Caecilius Jucundus, concern financial transactions.

To the left of the entrance is the larary which was decorated with bas-reliefs recalling the earthquake of 62: one representing the temple of Jupiter shaken, the other the collapse of the gate of Vesuvius. One of the bas-reliefs was stolen, while the other was sheltered.

In the atrium was a hermes that supported the bronze bust of a middle-aged man bearing the inscription: “Felix, freed, has erected this to our Lucius. This realistic portrait to the point of showing a wart could be Lucius Caecilius Jucundus himself or perhaps the father of the famous banker. This precious sculptural work is currently on display at the Archaeological Museum of Naples.

The triclinium was decorated with mythological paintings, the only well-preserved panel of which depicts Theseus abandoning Ariadne. It is in the Archaeological Museum of Naples.

House of Marcus Lucretius Fronto (V, 4, a)

It belonged to a notable of Pompeii who held, among other things, the office of the priest of Mars. It is an affluent building whose rooms are finely decorated with paintings of the third style preserved in the Museum of Naples. The surviving decorations present illusory architectural effects, as well as mythological scenes, representations of “Little Loves” and a large painting representing the triumph of Bacchus (Ist century AD). The garden area is elevated compared to the rest of the house and embellished by statues, niches and fountains.

House of the Faun (VI, 12, 2-5)

The Maison du Faune is a residence of impressive proportions (about 3,000 m2), but harmoniously balanced, and whose rooms are elegantly decorated. It is the classic type of Domus. It surely belonged to one of the most prominent figures in the city, Sylla’s nephew who took care of the political organization of the city.

Its construction dates from the first part of the second century BC, but the aspect in which we see it today goes back to the transformations of the late second century BC.

The Tuscan atrium belongs to the period and has a stone floor. On the other hand, the second atrium is of Hellenistic type and has four Corinthian columns.

Its fame and name are essentially linked to the small bronze sculpture found in 1830, representing a “Dancing Faun”, a small masterpiece of ancient statuary art. However, we must not forget the mosaic of the “Battle of Issos”, preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Naples. Located in the great exedra between the first and second peristyle before being deposited, it is exceptional by its dimensions (it measures 3.5 m by 6 m) and the number of tesserae used (one and a half million), but also by its expressive power: we see a crowd of soldiers, of spears and horses seized at the moment when Alexander, now victorious and proud of his troops, is about to inflict the coup de grace on the fleeing enemy.

Among the other pieces, the two peristyles are particularly worth mentioning: the first has an Ionic colonnade, also partly decorated with mosaic on the subject of the flora and fauna of the Nile region; The second, larger, is decorated with a Doric colonnade running around the garden.

Villa of Julia Felix (II, 4, 2)

Julia Felix’s villa is an imposing property (prædia) that occupies the entire insula IV. Excavated in 1757, it was then buried again. The complex was again completely cleared in 1951-52. It consists of the union of a Roman villa, a thermal complex conceded for public use and a set of shops.

The house itself, with two entrances, is large and luxurious. In the past, many paintings embellished it. Some have been left in place; others were deposited and are now kept in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. The Louvre Museum also has a few. Among the most famous are the Scenes from the life of the forum, which adorned the atrium.

The garden, decorated with fountains, bridges and columns, is suggestive. In the triclinary room, the beds are made of marble. All the baths (frigidarium, tepidarium, caldarium and also sauna) are organized according to the scheme of public baths and also have an outdoor swimming pool. Originally closely linked to the villa, this complex was later intended for the use of the inhabitants of the city in exchange for the payment of a rental tax as evidenced by an inscription found on site.

The complex of shops and rooms along the alley, to the west, was also made by the hostess to be rented. At the back of the villa stretches a large area intended for the cultivation of fruits and vegetables.

House of Vettii (VI, 15, 1)

A very precious witness to Pompeian painting, this house was one of the most beautiful and interesting in the city. Its state of preservation made it possible a few years ago, several centuries away, to appreciate the magnificence achieved by the residences of the wealthiest social class of Pompeii and to observe how the rich local bourgeoisie tended to display its prestige and its lifestyle by equaling, if not surpassing, in decorative riches the aristocratic dwellings.

The house of Vettii, which belonged to Aulus Vettius Restitutus and Aulus Vettius Conviva, expressed like others the economic situation that was theirs towards the end of the first century. In fact, the realization of a large part of the pictorial decoration represents a striking testimony of the painting of the fourth style, in the period following the earthquake of the year 62.

Discovered in 1894, the house remained virtually intact for a long time or was painstakingly rebuilt. The garden, meanwhile, has been reconstructed from the footprints of roots left in the ground or objects unearthed during successive excavations. Similarly, a clever work of reconstruction has made the peristyle find its original forms, the fusion of architectural, sculptural and pictorial elements.

In the vestibule, there is a famous apotropaic painting: the god Priapus, whose gigantic phallus rests on one of the arms of a scale, while on the other is a silver purse.

The decoration of the atrium – consisting of two safes where the owners kept their precious objects – is about “Little Loves” and “Psyche“. The roof has been completely recreated in order to offer a truer picture of this era. The rooms overlooking the atrium are decorated with paintings with mythological scenes, some of which have an expressive and immediate characters.

The large triclinium north of the peristyle is famous for its paintings. These cover almost entirely the walls (part has been lost) and stand out against a red background; the figurations of great mythological scenes are inserted in false frames: “Perseus and Andromeda”, “Ariadne and Dionysus”, “Daphne and Apollo”, “Poseidon and Amimone”. The long frieze, on a black background and all around the walls, represents “Little Loves” performing various trades, of a very refined invoice (“Loves reaching a target, Loves wearing a garland of flowers, Loves selling perfumes, Loves on chariots, Loves goldsmiths, Loves dyers, Loves celebrating sacred rites, Loves during the harvest, Loves celebrating Bacchus“).

In an equally famous room located northeast of the peristyle, the decoration develops on three registers: the bottom of the wall is occupied by a false marble plinth, while in the middle register are paintings placed in the middle of red panels representing “Daedalus entrusting a wooden mare to Pasiphae”, “Ixion tortured”, and “Dionysus discovering Ariadne asleep”. Finally, in the upper register are deployed architectural stagings.

In another room in the same sector, at the southeast corner of the peristyle, paintings placed in the middle of ochre yellow panels framing imaginary architectures represent: “Hercules killing the serpent”, “the torture of Dirce” and “the torture of Pentheus”.

A small peristyle, located north of the great peristyle, also contains mythological paintings: “Heracles Surprising Augé” and “Achilles disguised as a woman recognized by Ulysses in Skyros”.

The commons, especially the kitchen, make it possible to reconstitute domestic life.

House of Golden Loves (VI, 16.7)

Particularly luxurious, it would have belonged to Gn. Poppæus Habitus, probably a member of the gens Poppeia, which included Poppea, wife of Nero. Its state of conservation makes it possible to appreciate especially its pictorial ensemble as well as its balanced and harmonious architecture. The relatively small size of this house, rather irregular, seems to have served as a stimulus to the refinement of decoration and objects, in order to give it a greater sense of pomp and rich elegance.

It owes its name to the decoration of incised glass medallions of love figures inlaid with gold leaf, now disappeared, located in one of the cubicula: the light figures are painted on gold leaf. The presence of large theatrical masks is one of the characteristics of this house.

The layout of the house testifies to the evolution of the Italic domus under the influence of Hellenistic taste. The atrium, which was the focal point of the house, is dethroned in favor of the peristyle, around which the reception rooms are arranged.

The house has two larariums. At the southwest corner of the peristyle is a beautiful sacellum (small sanctuary) decorated with figures of Isis, Osiris, Anubis and Harpocrates: among the eastern cults present at Pompeii, the most prominent was that of Isis. On the opposite side is another sacellum dedicated to the Capitoline triad, Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.

One side of the peristyle – probably the most beautiful part of this house – is raised (Rhodian peristyle) and surmounted by a pediment and has practically the shape of a theater stage: this reveals an inclination of the owner for the search for new solutions and effect that do not lack elegance and sobriety. The triclinium with its paintings depicting mythological scenes such as Thetis in the studio of Vulcan, Broken and Patroclus, Jason and Pelias. This space was perhaps intended for representations, as the staircase and the three accesses suggest.

The decoration of some rooms must be highlighted here: it generally belongs to the IIIrd style and has for subject “Episodes and mythological characters”.

House of the Tragic Poet (VI, 8, 5)

The House of the Tragic Poet is so called because of the presence of a mosaic representing a “Theater Master”. Dating back to the imperial era, it was a luxurious residence with several rooms embellished with beautiful decorations. The architecture appears composite, but harmonious, with modest dimensions, typical of the middle class that had become rich during the last period of Pompeian life. The presence of two shops near the dwelling suggests that the owner, who would be called Aninus, was a nouveau richer, engaged in a commercial activity.

At the entrance stands out the famous Cave canem (“Beware of the Dog”), one of the most famous representations of Pompeii. The atrium, which comes next, with the impluvium, was adorned with scenes from the Iliad. It has two usual cubicula on the side, while the small stairs lead to the upper floor. In the tablinum there is a representation of the “tragic poet” who gave his name to the house, as well as several other paintings such as Admetus and Alceste. The series of paintings of the triclinium is about mythological scenes: Theseus and Ariadne, Venus and Loves. Other paintings with mythological subjects decorate the walls of the cubicula. The fresco of the “Sacrifice of Iphigenia” kept in the Archaeological Museum of Naples is very beautiful. Several experts have recognized in it a copy of the Greek painter Timanthus, from the fifth century BC.

It is from the house of the Tragic Poet that the writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton was inspired for the home of Glaucus, the main character of his novel The Last Days of Pompeii. In France, she also inspired Prince Jerome Napoleon to furnish his apartment on Avenue Montaigne in Paris, where he and his friends dressed as Romans.

House of Menander (I, 10, 4)

The House of Menander is one of the largest and richest Pompeian houses, with valuable decoration and a very complex layout of rooms. Its name derives from the portrait of Menander, but it is also known as the “House of Silverware” because of the impressive collection of objects (a total of 118 pieces of silverware) found in 1930 in a box placed in its cellars, as well as many others in gold and coins that are currently exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Naples.

This house would have belonged to the gens Poppæa, which included Poppea, the wife of Emperor Nero. This is what suggests the discovery of a skeleton with a ring on its finger bearing the name of Q. Poppæus Eros. It was built in successive phases. Begun in the third century BC, it was embellished and enlarged thereafter. At the time of the eruption of Vesuvius, restoration work was underway.

From the entrance – characterized by two pillars decorated with Corinthian capitals – one reaches the atrium (Tuscan type), quite well preserved and made very suggestive by its decoration of the fourth style, by the graceful small lararium with double pediment, located in an angle, and especially by the wooden awning, Very pronounced, open in the center to allow the passage of light and to collect water more easily. The rooms to the left of the entrance contain paintings with scenes from episodes of the Iliad.

After the tablinum, is the peristyle, an elegant piece enriched with a beautiful painted colonnade. From here a series of rooms leave: on the right we find the kitchen and baths area; On the left opens the triclinium flanked by two rooms whose walls are covered with frescoes. The exedra, located beyond the rooms intended for the accommodation of servants, possess refined paintings relating to mythology and theater (masks); you can also admire the portrait of the poet Menander.

The western part of the house is occupied by the area reserved for hot baths: the caldarium is very beautiful, with its decoration made of mosaics and paintings remained almost intact. An area of the dwelling was reserved for the superintendent of the property, a freedman named Eros (his name is inscribed on the seal found on his body) who looked after the property of the house under the title of procurator.

In the 1920s, the excavators of Amedeo Maiuri’s team counted eighteen bodies: ten in the corridor, between the noble rooms and the slave housing, three in the stable, two in the room of the intendant of the estate. Who were these dead? Members of this rich family of owners or slaves housed next door in order to be always available? Above all, behind the entrance to a dining room, three other bodies, including a child or teenager, were found next to picks and pickaxes. These were probably looters, trapped by the collapse of the slag while they were exploring the house some time after the eruption.

Remaining among the most opulent in the city, Menander’s house was not free of defects. His situation, for example. It does not overlook the main street of the city, the rue de l’Abondance, but is located just behind, a little behind, a little behind, in a street of lesser importance. In addition, in the year 79, it was already a fairly old house. The front part, which represents the heart of this property, probably dates from the second century BC. Hence the small size of the atrium.

House of G-d. Octavius Quartio (II, 2,2)

The house of D. Octavius Quartio owes its name to a certain Octavius Quartio, whose bronze stamp has been found. Some authors believe that this is the last owner of the house. It is also known by the curious name of “House of Loreius Tiburtinus” because of the election posters on its facade that mention a certain Loreius and a man named Tiburtinus who seem to be different characters.

The entrance opens onto the traditional Tuscan atrium which allows you to go directly to the peristyle, of very small dimensions, but in the center of richly decorated rooms. The room on the right seems to be assigned to the cult of Isis, especially because of the obvious evocations of Egyptian style that can be recognized in the garden. It has a large pictorial decoration executed with high technical perfection, which is one of the most significant examples of Pompeian paintings of the fourth style.

On the opposite side of the small peristyle opens the large triclinary room, decorated with pictorial scenes on two registers: the upper register represents the struggle of Hercules against Laomedon, king of Troy, and the lower register of scenes from the Trojan War. Both lead to a loggia with arcades, long and original, shaded by an arbor and bordered by one of the canals (called euripi in Latin) that constitute the distinctive elements of the splendid and vast garden below. The water intended to feed another long euripus that ran the entire length of the garden flowed from the small four-columned temple that rises in the center of the arcades. It was decorated like the first, with sculptures evoking Egyptian mythology. The hydraulic inventions thanks to which water from the canals could periodically flow into the garden, simulating the flooding of the Nile, are clearly reminiscent of Egypt.

House of Venus (II, 3, 3)

It was the home of a wealthy family, as can be deduced from the richness of the materials used. In addition to the very pure representation of “doves, fountains and flowers”, the large fresco “Venus Swimming” located on the garden wall is remarkable. The scene is of a pleasant aspect: the goddess, in a shell, furrows the waters while the little Amours escort her. The scene is populated by birds and flowers. On one side, is represented the god “Mars bearing arms”. Other rooms are decorated with paintings, including some on a black background of the most beautiful effect.

The house of Venus was being repaired at the time of the great cataclysm of the year 79. It was damaged by bombs in 1943. Restored in 1952, it was again in the area affected by the last earthquake in 1980.

House of the Indian Statuette (I, 8, 5)

This house owes its name to the discovery in 1938 of an Indian ivory statuette representing a Hindu deity. It is not known how it reached Pompeii. This object highlights the problematic relations between the Roman Empire and India and more generally the Far East.

House of the Ephebe (I, 7, 11)

A mural of the lararium of the House of the Ephebe has gained some notoriety because of the representation of an enigmatic fruit that the Italian botanist Domenico Casella believed he could identify in 1950 as a pineapple, thus raising the question of possible maritime relations between the Old World and the New World, especially South America. This fruit was later identified as the cone of an umbrella pine (Pinus pinea). The fresco is kept in the Archaeological Museum of Naples.

House of Orion

A house in Via di Nola, first excavated in the 18th century, was renamed “House of Jupiter” because of a small painting of the Roman god found in the lararium. Further excavations have provided a more complete view of the architecture, décor and history. In 2018, archaeologists discovered “an exceptional mosaic illustrating a most enigmatic myth: that of Orion”.

Suburban villas

Villa de Diomède

The Villa of Diomedes is located on the road to the Sepulchres, outside the gate of Herculaneum. It was unearthed during the second half of the eighteenth century. It is considered the dwelling of Arrius Diomedes, simply because it is located in front of his tomb.

It is one of the masterpieces of Pompeian architecture, especially because of the very different concept behind the construction of this house. As a result, while retaining some important characteristics of the Roman-type house, it occupies large bright spaces and above all it rises on several floors able to follow the shape of the land and structure the house in a more airy and original way. Located along the rue des Tombeaux, this house has vast dimensions.

The main core is that of the garden, decorated with a swimming pool. The rooms overlook one side of the garden and are arranged in turn around the peristyle that communicates directly with the outside. The large room with the apse is characterized by its spacious appearance and the wide view it enjoys. The gallery also offers beautiful views of the gulf, as well as the terrace that once extended along the entire length of the arcades.

At the entrance of the villa are the baths, equipped with a small swimming pool. A series of small staircases connect the different floors of the house together, floors that are staggered apart, which offers the general architecture an additional movement. One of these stairs leads to the cryptoporticus, that is to say to the underground of the dwelling. In this house, eighteen bodies were found, a new testimony to the cataclysm that struck Pompeii in 79.

Villa of Mysteries

The Villa of Mysteries is located on the outskirts of Pompeii, some 300 m from the Herculaneum Gate. It was partially excavated between 1909 and 1910, and again in 1929-1930 under the direction of Amedeo Maiuri. Grandiose by its proportions and famous because of its superb cycle of frescoes, it has aroused the enthusiasm of specialists since the discovery of its first pieces as well for the complexity, the particularity of its architecture as for the wonderful pictorial cycle and for the interpretation of the latter, related to religious cults that existed alongside the official religion.

The villa was built around the second century BC, but it was renovated and embellished in the imperial era, during which time it acquired the splendor that is still its today, although partly devoid of the furniture and precious objects that were lost after the earthquake of the year 62 when it was abandoned by its owner. A fresco 3 meters high by 17 meters wide depicts a scene whose content is debated: according to Gilles Sauron, the fresco tells the phases of the initiation of a young bride to the cult dedicated to the god Bacchus. Paul Veyne notes that the accumulation of details corresponds to a pastos, a matrimonial painting that presents the Dionysian stereotypes of conventional iconography, probably inspired by a locally adapted Greek original. According to the latter, the fresco simply depicts the preparations for a rich wedding and the festivities that accompany it.

The architectural structure

The villa has a square plan. To adapt to the terrain that presents irregularities and unevenness in this place and unlike the villa of Diomedes where the problem was solved by a complex articulation of the structure and by connecting stairs, the Villa des Mystères was based on a base expressly made so that the dwelling could be tiered on a single level and thus assume a very regular and balanced appearance. A long arcade gallery and a series of gardens then connect the house to the surrounding environment, creating a truly pleasant and harmonious whole.

The villa is accessed by an exedra, a kind of bright veranda overlooking the outside; On the sides are arranged viridariums (terraces with gardens) and arcades. This is followed by the tablinum and the atrium; the first offers the vision of a pictorial decoration on a black background, with delicate miniatures (IIIrd style). The cubiculæ, that is to say the rooms, located next to the atrium, offer splendid decorations of the second style reproducing beautiful perspectives. On the part at the rear is the peristyle with sixteen Doric columns. Beyond begin the inner courtyard and the commons. The villa is equipped with two ovens and rooms used for winemaking. Several rooms are also equipped with bathing facilities.


Fullonica of Stephanus (I, 6,7)

The slaves of the fullonic, trampled (trampled on) the cloths in basins of urine, water and sulfur in order to bleach new or old fabrics. Then they would hang out the laundry to dry. But the life expectancy of slaves decreased sharply in these working conditions.

One of the best-preserved fullonicæ is that of Stephanus. The fullonica of Stephanus was excavated between 1912 and 1914 by Vittorio Spinazzola. The name of the owner comes from the electoral registrations of the façade. It is a house of the second century BC. which was transformed into fullonica after the earthquake of 62. The decoration of the IInd style still remains in the peristyle.

A painting of the façade serves as a sign for the business. It is a fresco depicting Venus standing on a boat pulled by elephants and accompanied by an inscription extolling the quality of the fullonica‘s work. A wooden gate closed from the outside blocked the entrance. A mold was made of it during the excavations. Several skeletons were discovered behind this door, including one accompanied by a large sum of money (1089.5 sesterces). The latter was to be either the recipe of the day or the fortune of the victim.

The entrance of the fullonica was very wide in order to facilitate the passage of customers. To the right of the entrance, a room was to be reserved for the administration of commerce and the deposit of linen to be taken back or left. In the vestibule, the remains of a torcular or press for ironing laundry were discovered.

The impluvium was transformed into a washing basin with the addition of a parapet. Since it was separate from the washing area at the back of the house, it is assumed that it was to be used to wash fragile fabrics such as linen. The roof of the atrium is flat and the compluvium has been replaced by a dormer. Thanks to this unusual layout, there is a terrace upstairs for drying laundry. A lounge opened onto this transformed atrium where customers could wait while waiting for their laundry.

A peristyle then opened and at the bottom of it was the washing area. Three large vats communicating with each other at different heights occupied the majority of the space. Five smaller basins, three to the east and two to the west, completed the system. The foot treading of the fabrics took place in the small basins with a mixture of water and alkaline products (soda or urine) to degrease the tissues. After crushing, the cloth was softened with a clay called fuller’s earth to degrease and soften the fabric. Washing and rinsing were carried out in the large vats. Once clean, the fabrics were put to dry on the terrace. A kitchen with a hob and all utensils were made available to the workers as well as latrines.

The living room is decorated with a decoration of the IVth style made after 62. These are large red panels divided into architectural compartments with a winged figure in the center. The upper part of the décor had a white background with fantastic architectures and paintings with still lifes and rock sanctuaries.

Bakery of Modestus (VII, 1, 36)

The thick screed of ash produced by the eruption of 79 has preserved for centuries, among the many testimonies exceptionally preserved in Pompeii, a complete bakery, with its equipment: the millstones, made of two lava elements, capable of working one inside the other, the counters for kneading bread and the oven for baking.

Everything is organized efficiently, so as to coordinate the work of the staff employed in the different tasks with criteria that surprise by their modernity. One of the millstones has been restored, thanks to the reconstruction of the wooden parts, thus making it possible to demonstrate its operation which, in the past, was carried out by the strength of the arms of slaves or, more often, by the force of donkeys.

In the oven were found 81 charred loaves, round in shape with raised parts, similar to those that appear in different scenes of everyday life painted or carved, presented to customers in baskets or shelves.

Several inscriptions show that the sale of bread and cakes in Pompeii was entrusted to street vendors, in addition to the usual shops.

Lupanar (VII, 12, 18)

The Lupanar of Pompeii located at the corner of the Balcony Alley and the Lupanar Alley in Region VII is the only building in Pompeii clearly devoted exclusively to prostitution. Usually, pleasure houses are located on the first floor of hostels, taverns or in a room directly overlooking the street. According to the inscriptions, the last tenants were named Africanus and Victor.

Two entrances exist on the ground floor of the building. An entrance is located at No. 18 rue du Lupanar and the second overlooks an alley leading to the Forum.

These two entrances open onto a small room where five bedrooms with masonry beds open. A mattress was probably placed on the masonry. Latrines are set up on the west side of the room, behind a low wall. The walls of the rooms are covered with graffiti inscribed in graphium. More than 120 inscriptions are legible (boasting, advertising, satisfaction, jealousy, regret, etc.). The interior was probably redesigned shortly before the eruption of 79. The plaster of one of the rooms retains the imprint of a coin after 72 BC. The walls of the entrance hall are decorated with stylized frames and garlands on a white background. Paintings with erotic scenes are painted above the doors. In the center of the north wall, next to entrance No. 18, a Priapus is painted in front of a fig tree holding its two phallus.

The floor is accessed by a staircase whose door opens onto the alley leading to the Forum. A window punctuates the staircase. The latter leads to a balcony on which five bedrooms open. Wooden beds must have been installed in these rooms. These are larger, with a decor of the fourth style more refined and devoid of any erotic scene.

Prostitution was an infamous profession in the same way as the professions of actor and usurer. Many women bore Greek and Oriental names, renowned for their exoticism. The price of a meeting was very low, on average two aces, the equivalent of two glasses of wine. These establishments were frequented by disadvantaged social strata and slaves, hence the low price. Caligula had created a tax on prostitution equivalent to one client per day. Prostitutes could not testify in court or inherit. They could eventually obtain the title of matron by marrying.

Thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus (I, 8, 9)

This thermopolium has a beautiful lararium, one of the best-preserved aedicules and assigned to ancestor worship, a cult spread in most dwellings in the Roman world. It was a kind of small miniature temple, with small columns surmounted by Corinthian capitals, placed to the right of the counter. Inside were represented on either side of a scene of sacrifice two deities protectors of the commercial activity that took place here: Mercury, patron of trade, and Dionysus, god of wine. Below, two snakes frame an altar.

This “bar” was equipped with an L-shaped sales counter, in which large jars (dolia) were inserted. In one of the dolia were found more than 1,600 coins for an amount of 585 sesterces, with a total weight of about three kilos, the equivalent of perhaps the recipe of the day.

The back room communicated with the owner’s house. It was tastefully furnished, although small, with a triclinium decorated with beautiful refined frescoes of the third style. The latter is characterized by typical decorative elements that extended on the walls around mythological frames, including a representation of the Rapture of Europa, the Phoenician princess with whom Zeus fell in love, not hesitating to take the form of a bull to remove her.


As is the case for all Roman cities, the necropolises were relegated outside Pompeii, along the access roads. The tombs are an important source of information on the social composition of the city. The tombs of the elite are erected prominently near the gates, while those of the little people are usually located further away. There are individual graves, but also collective burials. Most of the tombs date from the period from the middle of the first century BC in the middle of the first century AD.

The method of burial can also vary: burial or — this is the most frequent case for the Roman period — cremation. The most sumptuous tombs present a great architectural diversity. The most imposing are monuments to be hated. Others have the shape of an altar or evoke a temple. Semicircular benches (schola) are sometimes found to allow passers-by to rest, but also family members to sit when performing funeral rituals. In some cases, a terracotta conduit connected to the funeral urn allows the family to make libations. Two large necropolises have been cleared so far, that of the Herculaneum Gate, from 1763 to 1838, and that of the Nocera Gate, from 1951 to 1953.

Art in Pompeii


The walls of the houses of Pompeii are often covered with inscriptions which, like the current graffiti, are of a very diverse nature.

They deal with the most disparate subjects and make it possible to imagine a social life taken on the spot and unvarnished: silly jokes, comments on a person or an event, caricatures of characters, amorous thoughts, judgments on a beautiful woman or on enjoyment behind closed doors, in the lupanar. Some also concern the sale and purchase of materials or livestock, or merchandise accounts. Others refer to municipal shows or praise champions who have distinguished themselves in struggles. Finally, some graffiti can be attributed to children.

Finally, there are about 3,000 electoral registrations in Pompeii and most of them relate to the last year of the city’s existence: usually, previous inscriptions were erased to make way for new ones, painted (sometimes engraved) on the walls of houses. These inscriptions, in red or black color, and for the most part in capital letters, were written by professional writers who also dealt with official communications, court sentences, the purchase and sale of slaves, and public proceedings.

The four styles of fresco in Pompeii

Pompeii left to posterity endearing testimonies, often very beautiful and sometimes absurd, of the mode of existence of its inhabitants. The excavations of Pompeii have unearthed countless well-preserved paintings. Most of them have survived intact and still seem to be alive. The extraordinary diversity of treasures shows that art was everywhere in Pompeii. Often, almost every wall of a house was decorated with mythological scenes or family portraits. Mosaics, full of color and detail showing landscapes, battle or theater scenes, were cemented on the ground.

The walls surrounding the gardens were often painted with brightly colored subjects. The fashionable themes were hunting scenes, country and marine landscapes. The interior rooms featured a wider variety of subjects: mythological scenes, still lifes, birds and other animals. What is striking above all in Pompeian painting is the illusion of reality. Animals and birds seemed to animate gardens and interiors. Like this dog represented in a mosaic on the floor of a corridor (cave canem), so true that it seems to bark at the visitor.

These paintings transformed the Pompeian house into an imaginary museum. One enters, in a way, into the spiritual universe of the Pompeians. They were men faithful to nature, who loved well-being and good food.

The four styles of Pompeian painting

Traditionally, Pompeian painting has been divided into four “styles” (we are dealing more with a style of patterns and rules than with styles, which designate something very personal). They were defined by the German archaeologist August Mau from the texts of Vitruvius and from Book XXXV of the Natural History of Pliny the Elder. The mural often uses models and images of the easel painting (now disappeared), which allows us to get an idea.

First style

The first style appears in the second century BC. It is also called inlay style, pictorial style, or masonry style. The decoration of public buildings extends to private houses. It originates from the Hellenistic world and Macedonian painting, with its decorations in large marble slabs divided into three registers (basement, intermediate zone and upper zone). This architectural decoration is reproduced with polychrome stucco imitating colored marble. Protruding elements appear as pedestals, large relief panels, upper registers with smaller tiles, cornices and pillars always in stucco divide the wall. We look for the effects of materials, the printing of reliefs… This style will continue to be used at the same time as the other styles.

Second style

The second style or architectural style appears in 100 BC and ends around 20 BC. There is no more stucco relief, it is a fully painted style. It is an illusionistic and architectural style inspired by Hellenistic palaces and theater sets. The wall opens outwards through doors, windows… The theater sets and architectural imitations, such as cityscapes seen from a window, are painted in trompe-l’oeil, and light and relief are taken into account, the details are intended to be realistic.

In the last phase of this style, small independent paintings with figurative scenes appear and announce the third style. Figurative, mythological scenes and megalographies impose themselves as at the Villa of Mysteries. We also see the appearance of garden decorations (horti conclusi) and still lifes (xenta)

Third style

The third style, or ornamental style, appears gradually around 30 BC. and disappeared around 50 AD. It is a style of reaction against the illusionism of the second style and the exuberance, the chaos of its trompe-l’oeil architectures. The walls close and the decorations are simpler. Solid colored horizontal and vertical lines divide the wall. The architectural elements are very fine, stretched, and purely decorative, we speak then of candelabra style. Brightly colored miniature decorations are made on black or white backgrounds. Interest shifts to (more impressionist) paintings, and a large painting occupies the central part of the wall. It is placed inside an aedicule flanked by panels. The themes are drawn from mythology, religion or idyllic. Decorative bands with Egyptian-inspired motifs punctuate the wall. The upper level of the fresco still shows some trompe-l’oeil architecture.

In a second phase, we find something more complex, more charged in terms of the exterior décor. We return to architectural elements, and we multiply paintings and paintings, whose subjects reproduce easel painting.

Fourth style

The fourth style, or fantasy style, ranges from 50 to 79. This style makes a return to architectural perspectives and illusionism. It is a synthesis of the two previous styles and the direct extension of the third style. The ornamental taste remains with exuberant decorations, gilding and stucco reliefs. The colors are sharper and chromatic oppositions appear. The architecture is painted in trompe-l’oeil on a podium and the central area, which is highlighted, of the fresco is divided into three by multi-storey porticoes. The themes are mythological, naturalistic, show scenes of everyday life, very faithful still lifes or portraits. These scenes are painted with an impressionist technique. Trompe-l’oeil carpets appear on the walls with small figurines in the center.

Restoration of the Pompeian frescoes

The restoration of the great Pompeian frescoes is a delicate work to which the computer now provides significant help. It is indeed possible to define on screen the exact shade that will best restore the missing parts: a missing color is obtained by making the weighted average of all those present on the fresco.


The sculptures that have come down to us show a predilection for statuary of small dimensions because it was designed for the purpose of furnishing to be inserted into rooms or decorations for gardens, fountains, atriums, or tablinums. The large statues, i.e. those with a commemorative function, were mostly located inside the Forum. The preferred material was bronze, but there is no shortage of small masterpieces made of marble, tuff and terracotta. The “Dancing Faun”, the “Drunken Silene”, the “Boar Assailed” are among the works whose freshness and immediacy are accompanied by an exquisite invoice. The “Doryphorus” deserves a special mention: it is a beautiful copy of a splendid Greek sculpture. Several fragments of statues mostly from the Forum district and temples dedicated to the Capitoline Triad have also been found.


The fashion of mosaics, which came from Greece in the first century BC, found wide application in the decoration of the houses of Pompeii. They were often used as paving. The oldest are made with simple geometric patterns, with coarse tesserae in terms of their workmanship and humble in terms of materials. On the other hand, the composition of the most recent is sought, both in terms of chromatic taste and the finesse of the tesserae used.

The technique used is that of the opus vermiculatum, whose tesserae are particularly tiny. The owners of large domus appreciated emblemata, that is, paintings inserted in another motif. The famous mosaic of a threatening dog accompanied by the inscription “cave canem ” (beware of the dog), located at the entrance of the house of the Tragic Poet, is undoubtedly one of the most famous subjects. The panel representing the “Battle of Issos”, preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Naples and coming from the House of the Faun, is, on the other hand, one of the most grandiose testimonies.

Pompeii in the arts


  • Pliny the Younger
  • Arria Marcella, short story by Théophile Gautier
  • Jettatura (short story), a short story by Théophile Gautier
  • The Temple of Isis. Memory of Pompeii by Gérard de Nerval
  • La fête et la cendre, poem by Jean Tardieu
  • Gradiva, Pompeian Fantasy, a 1902 short story by the German writer Wilhelm Jensen This short story is the starting point of Sigmund Freud’s book, Delirium and Dreams in W’s “Gradiva”. Jensen, published 1907
  • The Slave of Pompeii, Annie Jay, Hachette Jeunesse
  • The Bride of Pompeii, Annie Jay, Hachette Jeunesse
  • The Last Days of Pompeii, E. Bulwer Lytton
  • The Secrets of Pompeii, Caroline Lawrence, collection “The Roman Mysteries”, Milan Poche History
  • The Pirates of Pompeii, Caroline Lawrence, collection “The Roman Mysteries”, Milan Poche History
  • Pompeii, Robert Harris
  • Peplum, Amélie Nothomb
  • The Mysteries of Pompeii, Cristina Rodríguez, Editions du Masque, 2008
  • Les derniers jeux de Pompeii, Anne Pouget-Tolu, Éditions Casterman, 2011, 2013

Film and television

  • The Last Days of Pompeii, directed by Walter R. Booth (1900)
  • The Last Days of Pompeii (Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei), directed by Arturo Ambrosio and Luigi Maggi (1908)
  • The Last Days of Pompeii (Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei), directed by Mario Caserini and Eleutrio Rodolfi (1913)
  • Jone ovvero gli ultimi giorni di Pompei, directed by Giovanni Enrico Vidali and Ubaldo Maria Del Colle (1913)
  • The Last Days of Pompeii (Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei), directed by Carmine Gallone and Amleto Palermi (1926)
  • The Last Days of Pompeii, directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper (1935)
  • The Last Days of Pompeii, film directed by Marcel L’Herbier and Paolo Moffa (1950)
  • The Curse of the Faceless Man, directed by Edward L. Cahn (1958)
  • The Last Days of Pompeii (Gli Ultimi giorni di Pompei), film directed by Mario Bonnard and Sergio Leone, with Steve Reeves, Fernando Rey (1959)
  • Up Pompeii, directed by Bob Kellett (1971)
  • Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii directed by Adrian Maben (1972)
  • Warrior Queen, directed by Chuck Vincent (1987)
  • 1984: The Last Days of Pompeii, an Italian-French-British mini-series by Peter Hunt, starring Sir Laurence Olivier, Duncan Regehr, Nicholas Clay, Olivia Hussey, Linda Purl, Franco Nero, Lesley-Anne Down, Ernest Borgnine, Ned Beatty and Siobhán McKenna;
  • The Last Day of Pompeii, a docufiction directed by Peter Nicholson (2003)
  • ” The Fall of Pompeii “, 2nd episode of the fourth season of the television series Doctor Who
  • Pompeii, directed by Paul W. S. Anderson (2014)
  • A fight from part 5 of the manga (1996-1999) and anime (2018) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure takes place in Pompeii. We can recognize several places of the site including the mosaic cave canem
  • The Variant, the second installment in the Marvel Studios Loki series


  • Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii, a 1971 film set in the ruins of the city
  • Bastille: Pompeii, released on February 22, 2013, on the album Bad Blood
  • Live at Pompeii, album and film of the concert by David Gilmour released on September 29, 2017
  • Pompeii: musical by David Tainturier.
  • Pompeii (album), a 1977 album by German progressive rock band Triumvirate


  • Pompeii in Paris, an exhibition of the main monuments of Pompeii reproduced by photosculpture and exhibited in Paris in 1874

Video games

  • Pompeii: The Wrath of the Volcano, an educational video game published by Cryo Interactive in 2000

References (sources)