`We arrived in port at Naples and some went in to Naples (reporting it a fairly dirty and not-that-attractive industrial city). Our guide, Carmine, carefully explained the lay-out of the city, including the small doors (approximately 4′ 9″) where gladiators were housed. (One of the corpses found during the excavation was a wealthy woman who had, perhaps, paid to spend the night with a gladiator, which was a common occurrence.)
We opted to visit ancient Pompeii, a city that was buried by the volcanic ash from Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The inhabitants of the city did not die from lava, but from rocks thrown by the volcano and from the gas.
Many, in fact, left the city after the initial eruption only to return and die there at night. August 24, 79 AD was the date of the eruption. The violence of the eruption was such that the top part of the volcano collapsed, forming the present broad caldera.
The eruption devastated the entire coast between Herculaneum and Stabia for 3 days and the description of it has come down to us from letters written by Pliny the Younger and sent to Tacitus, to describe for him the death of his uncle, Pliny the Elder, the Admiral of the Fleet of Misenum.
Pompeii remained buried under a layer of ash more than 6 meters deep for more than 2 centuries. In fact the white house pictured at the bottom of this post was the residence of the man who bought the land, not realizing it was the former site of the disaster, which buried alive thousands of people. The house is to be preserved as it was.
A display of the discoveries made by archaeologists centuries later were on tour at the Field Museum about 5 years ago. It is also true that some of the excavators died from pockets of gas trapped underground, during their excavation.This tour lasted only 4 hours, but was rated a 3, which meant lots of walking in 104 degree heat over uneven surfaces and uphill, with little or no shade. We also had to hop on stones to cross ancient Pompeii streets, which was a little bit like the ice floe scene from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, hopping from ice floe to ice floe. This was done because ancient Pompeii had no sewer system and residents used the stones in the middle of the open-air sludge to keep from having to wade through human feces.