Pompeii…unlike any other day and it can't all be attributed to having a Halloween treat a couple of weeks early. Not sure what it is, tootsie rolls were never a big hit when I was a kid (in fact, if someone dropped a tootsie roll in my plastic pumpkin head there was a good chance that person would be putting out a "flaming tootsie roll" on their doorstep) but now they've achieved "magical" status.
I got there early on a gray and rainy morning and the first pic is the clearest glimpse I had of Mount Vesuvius all day. The ancient town of Pompeii started up around the 7th century BC…BC…Speaking of BC, I went to Boston a few years ago and remember (yes, Kirk, I do remember something from the trip) being impressed by churches, say, 300-400 years old. There were frescoes preserved here that were almost 3000 years old--I think the oldest dated back to 2000-2200 BC. According to some religions, the world didn't even exist that long ago.
Brief historical note: Somehow they trace the town of Pompeii back to the 6th-8th century BC. The Romans conquered in 80 BC to gain a stronghold in the Campania region of Italy. Back in this time, Pompeii boasted both a port and fertile lands at the base of the volcano. In 62 AD, the town of Pompeii suffered an earthquake hindcasted as 5-6 on our modern richter scale. A lot of the Roman citizens left at this time but many others stayed to rebuild. The eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD buried the community for 1500 years.
Sound familiar? I hesitate to compare Pompeii to New Orleans because there are so many differences but I can't help but think if New Orleans was covered in Delta silt and uncovered in a thousand years or so that astro-archeologists would uncover similar paintings to the fresco in pic#2.
Sorry, I should've warned you at the beginning that this is Pompeii uncut. Seriously, the longest line in a 100+ acres of ruins was for a brothel, or Lupinare. In addition to what customers could request, there is also names of favorite, um, hostesses and the diseases of the not-so-favorite ones. As I was walking away I heard the following conversation between a concerned mother and a guide:
June: Was this like the slum of Pompeii?
Guide: It's hard to say, ma'am. There were 88 brothels in the city.
June: Oh my, was…was (looking back towards her completely disinterested pre-teen daughter) was this typical behavior?
Guide: For the slaves (hence the dark depictions of the male), the merchants and ruling class would have the girls come to their houses so as not to embarrass their wives and family by frequenting these places.
June: (Stunned silence…ashen, if you will)
Well, Pompeii wasn't all about sex there was rock-n-roll too. Though the anfiteatro (pic#3) reminded me a little of the Greek Theater in Berkeley, the performers on the stage were a very different kind of rock star. The audio tour did not mention anything re: Christian bloodbaths but when the haunting intonation described the ferocious entrance of the lions you could almost smell the fear and blood and sweat and courage of the gladiator as he faced potential death-mostly fear. Looking down the entry tunnels reminded me how different entertainment is today. Nowadays performers generally survive a bad day on the stage, if they didn't, Bob Dylan wouldn't have survived the Eighties. Think of the ratings if the contestants (and judges) on American Idol were torn apart by wild beasts after a poor performance--I'd watch!
Not that Pompeii was all fun and games, ask the guy in pic#4. The excavation team used plaster casts to give "dramatic substance" to the victims. They had these plaster mummies stashed everywhere and some even had feral guard dogs (pic#5), this one was about as feral as Snoopy. They did have some mangier ones walking the streets of Pompeii...which makes you wonder just how well the ash preserved the living. The vibrant colors of the frescos were certainly well maintained!
Sex, rock-n-roll, and preservation pretty much sums up Pompeii...still, I have a few more pix and stories to share before leaving the South and West Coast for good on the trip so without further ado the dreaded to be continued...no who shot JR cliffhanger but no who shot Mr. Burns either.