Pompeii, located near Italy’s Bay of Naples, is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. It attracts over 10,000 visitors daily, on tours from Rome to Pompeii as well as from other nearby cities such as Naples and Sorrento, and truly captures the imagination of those who see it. The site is completely unique, and an absolute must-see if you’re in the area. Whether you’re planning a Pompeii day trip from Rome or you’re just curious about the city frozen in time and the volcano that destroyed it, then you’ll love these ten surprising facts about Pompeii…
1. Pompeii lies at the base of Mount Vesuvius
This is the volcano that erupted and destroyed the entire city, freezing it in time beneath layers of ash and pumice. It erupted in 79 A.D and killed many of the population - those who lived fled to nearby towns and cities, taking with them whatever they could carry. The volcano is categorized as a stratovolcano and could erupt at any time - nobody knows when, and an evacuation plan is permanently in place in case of any warning signs
2. Nobody knows the exact date of the eruption
Pliny the Younger, a Roman writer who provided an eye-witness account of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, noted the date as August 24th. However, based on the food and clothing preserved underneath the ash, researchers have suggested that this date may not be entirely accurate. This is often debated!
3. Pompeii is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site
In 1997, Pompeii was given the status of World Heritage Site. It is an incredibly important place in that it provides such a complete example of Roman life, architecture, community and history. So much has been learned from the excavations at Pompeii, in terms of history, science and sociology. It is an absolute must-visit if you are in Italy, and a Pompeii tour from Rome is the perfect way to do just that.
4. Bodies were cast by researchers
Plenty of bodies were discovered underneath all of the ash and pumice left behind by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Many of these had left holes within the ash layers after disintegrating, as noticed by Italian architect Giuseppe Fiorelli in 1863. He came up with the idea of injecting plaster into these gaps, thus creating plaster casts of the bodies of the people buried at Pompeii. This has been helpful to researchers and other architects ever since as they endeavor to understand more about what happened during this immense tragedy.
5. There is a LOT of graffiti
And not modern-day graffiti, either. Far from being the result of disrespectful visitors, the graffiti that covers Pompeii is from before the eruption. It gives visitors and historians an incredible insight into Roman society - examples include private messages, public announcements and election notices. You’ll be able to spot all of this graffiti on one of our Pompeii tours from Rome as you imagine yourself living day to day life in an ancient city!
6. Pink Floyd in Pompeii
Back in 1972, rock band Pink Floyd recorded a live performance in Pompeii’s Roman Amphitheater. There was no audience there to see it, but filmmaker Adrien Maben had brought his vision to life - the acoustics were fantastic, and it was undeniably a huge moment in rock history.
7. It was once occupied by Greeks
Researchers believe that before Pompeii was a Roman town, it originally belonged to - and was ruled and inhabited by - the ancient Greeks. They can’t be sure on the exact dates during which the area was occupied by the Greeks, but there are fragments of a Greek Doric Temple in Pompeii. This temple dates back to the 6th century BC - and you can get up close to it on a day trip from Rome.
8. The inhabitants had Hollywood smiles
Advances in technology mean that in recent years, Italian scientists and researchers have been able to do CT scans of the bodies buried at Pompeii. These have revealed many things, one of the most interesting being that the citizens of Pompeii had perfect teeth. While this is linked to their great diet, it is also likely to be related to the high fluorine content in the area because of the volcano.
9. It is famous in pop culture
Pompeii has been referenced and depicted in pop culture for years. It appears in the Italian Bob episode of The Simpsons, where they find the cast of an ancient Roman family who look just like them, and British-based band Bastille have a song called Pompeii. Their lead vocalist, Dan Smith, said that the song is ‘an imagined conversation between two charred corpses reflecting on the city’. Edward Buller-Lytton wrote a book entitled The Last Days of Pompeii in 1834, which has been transformed into many Italian movies as well as some British and French films too. Pompeii has also featured in video games, TV shows, art exhibitions and more.
10. The wind was simply blowing the wrong way
As simple as it seems, the reason that so many people died - and an entire city was buried for hundreds of years - when Vesuvius erupted was because the wind was blowing in a northwesterly direction. Typically, research suggests, the wind would have been blowing from the southwest instead. That would have meant that the debris was blown away from the city, instead of covering it as it did. It is incredible to think that such a small factor actually caused so much death and destruction, leaving behind a well-preserved Roman city.
As you can see, there are so many interesting facts about Pompeii. It is definitely worth a visit, especially for those interested in history and archaeology. No trip to Italy would be complete without taking a step back in time and visiting this ancient Roman city, marveling at how life in Pompeii used to be.