Wednesday, November 21, 2012

They Loved Hercules!

Hopefully you've already checked out our post on our trip to Pompeii, but if not you can read it over here

Our second stop of the day after Pompeii was the similarly-devastated ancient city of Herculaneum. Although it has always lived in Pompeii's shadow, Herculaneum offers a very different (and overall, probably better) experience than Pompeii. Other than the fact that they were both Roman cities and destroyed forever by the eruption of Vesuvius, they have very few similarities.

The excavations sit just below the modern city of Ercolano

Many of the buildings are still fairly intact

Herculaneum (named after Hercules...a guy they seem to have really taken a liking to) was a coastal port city located between Naples and Pompeii. Unlike Pompeii, it was not pelted by flying rock and ash; instead, it was covered, from the bottom up, with a pyroclastic flow of boiling mud. This resulted in very little damage to the buildings, compared to those seen in Pompeii, and amazing preservation of the site itself. Many of the buildings have multiple stories and extremely well preserved frescoes, mosaics, and sculpture. There's even a lot of the wood (doors, beams, etc.) still intact after being instantly carbonized by the intense heat. 

Some of the frescoes - amazingly preserved after all this time

Pottery still where it was found

Cofferred arch details still intact

Wood instantly carbonized by the intense heat

Another nice feature of Herculaneum is the fact that it is in the middle of a bustling city. This means that it is largely inaccessible to tour groups and buses. When we arrived at Herculaneum, there were probably only 20 other people at the site which meant that we got to explore and take photos in relative peace. 

Calli by a pot!

Travis by some wall paintings!

The site is much smaller than Pompeii, mainly due to the fact that a city surrounds it on all sides, but does have some extremely impressive buildings including the College of the Augustales with its frescoes depicting myths of Hercules, and the Villa of the Papyri with its library containing 1785 carbonized papyrus scrolls. 

Small place for worship

Floor mosaics

Some beautiful columns

Much of the excavations have stopped in favor preservation efforts, mainly due to the unfortunate location of the site under the modern day city. Some buildings have even been covered back up using modern mining techniques to try and preserve them until they can be safely excavated.

Statue of Marcus Nonius Balbus - a major benefactor to Herculaneum

At the end of the day, we enjoyed each site for different reasons, but the combination of the two into one exhaustive daytrip proved to be all the more rewarding. The vastness and location of Pompeii combined with the completeness and preservation of Herculaneum are truly amazing in their own right and worth of the millions of tourists that visit them every year.

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Hey there!

Calli and Travis returned from a four month trip through Europe more excited than ever to hit the open road. Who knows where they'll end up next...

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