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Herculaneum

Herculaneum

Herculaneum or Ercolano in Italian is located in Campania region of Italy 5 miles (8km) South- East of modern Naples.

 

 

 

Location: Via 4 Novembre, Ercolano (Herculaneum), Campania region Map

 

Destroyed: August 24th, 79 AD

 

Open: Apr- Oct 8:30am- 5:30pm

Nov- March 8:30am- 5pm

 

Closed: 1 Jan, 1 May, 25 Dec

 

Entrance Fee: €7.5

 

Museo Archeologico Virtuale

Via 4 Novembre 44

Open: 9am- 5:30 Tue- Sun

Entrance Fee: €7.50

 

 

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Description of Herculaneum Archaeological Site

Herculaneum is less famous victim of the Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii on August 24th, 79 AD. Beautiful Herculaneum was smaller in size and population (just 4000- 5000 citizen by modern estimation) yet people who lived here were richer and higher in status. Their homes indicate great care and wealth that they put into designs. Unlike its neighbor Pompeii, Herculaneum was destroyed by a series of six volcanic avalanches of pyroclastic flows (mixture of volcanic mud of high temperature that reach 500°C, hot volcanic gas, pumice, rocks and hot ash) that covered the city and instantly incinerated humans, organic matter and other objects. Ironically solidified volcanic tuff also preserved bones of Herculaneum residents and most importantly it carbonized wooden objects that usually rot and disappear quickly. This includes such fragile artifacts like tables, doors, food items, combs and even fragments of a cradle with baby bones. It gives a better idea of daily Roman life and ancient people.

 

Additionally, Herculaneum preserved oldest Christian home chapel with a Cross mounted on the wall. As far as we know this is the oldest example of Christian symbol anywhere in the former Roman Empire.

 

Today a large part of Herculaneum have been excavated in the volcanic rock. It gives an impression of the magnitude of natural might that was unleashed on Herculaneum. If you want to visit the archaeological site of Herculaneum in the summer months don't forget to take plenty of water, get some sun block and try to stay from the sun. It can get very hot here very quickly. The entrance fee to the site is 7.5 Euros good for one day. If you want to visit nearby Pompeii you can get a ticket for 20 Euros good for three days. If you get hungry you can get food in small stores just outside of Herculaneum Archaeological site. Don't forget to visit MAV (Museo Archeologico Virtuale), a history museum dedicated to the ancient Herculaneum and mementos that they left centuries ago. This ancient site might be interesting and entertaining to both adults and kids. Although the appearance of some of the frescoes might be inappropriate for small children.

Herculaneum  Herculaneum

History of Herculaneum

 

Herculaneum was found by Samnites in the 6th century, but soon thereafter became a Greek colony. Greeks named the city Ἡράκλειον after mythical hero Hercules or Herakles. Greek philosopher and historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus (circa 60 BC- after 7 BC) writes that Heracles was the founder of both Herculaneum and mount Vesuvius. Whatever might be the case the first time we see the name Herculaneum mentioned in the ancient texts is that of the Ancient Greek philosopher Theoprhrastus (circa 371 BC- 287 BC) who calls this city Heracleon.

 

The city served as a trading post that was visited by ships from all over the Mediterranean. In the 4th century Herculaneum was retaken by the Samnites. Finally it was captured by the Romans who captured the city in 89 BC under leadership of Titus Didius, a legate of Sulla. Under Roman rule Herculaneum underwent large expansion. Many private residencies and public buildings were constructed around the time. One of the main benefactors was proconsul Marcus Nonius Balbus who lived in the late first century BC. Originally born in Nuceria Alfaterna town of Campania he became a close friend and an ally of the first Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus. He donated large sums of money to construct beautiful buildings in Herculaneum. Here he spent last years of his life and eventually died here. Thankful residents honored their benefactor by erecting marble statues in his honor. Herculaneum continued to grow in size and population. By the time the city was destroyed it was home to 4,000- 5,000 inhabitants.

 

Roman rule and influence was not entirely positive however. We can see that in a types of residents that existed in Herculaneum,. Houses from the period of Samnites is very different from later residences constructed during reign of the Romans. They are fairly modest and equal in design and size. That is people before becoming part of the Roman Empire did not have resources and will to stand out with their wealth. Even rich people's houses were not much different from their neighbors. Once the Romans appear on the scene we see a different trend. Empire certainly makes some citizens rich and incredibly powerful, while predominant part of the society sinks to the bottom. Peasants couldn't compete with large farming businesses that employ work of slaves. Many families had to relocate to cities including Pompeii and Herculaneum and become servants or even slaves. Residents of the city are in a similar position. They sell their houses or simply loose them. A small minority of residents on the other hand enjoyed an opulent lifestyle. This is particularly notable in a design of houses they erected in the city. They grew in size and splendor. New area of this expansion was provided by demolishing houses of less fortunate neighbors who were forced to work for meager payment or even become slaves.

 

Mount Vesuvius Eruption

 

On a fateful summer day of August 24th, 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupted covering Herculaneum in 20 metres (60 feet) of ash and volcanic mud. Initially eruption started to spew ash from its crater which was blown in the South- East direction toward Pompeii, Oplontis and Stabiae. Herculaneum that was situated to the West of the mountain was initially spared. Only few inches of ash covered Herculaneum in light grey blanket. However subsequent pyroclastic flow caught the city and residents off guard. A huge mixture of hot gases and ash descended from a mountain with a speed of 100 mph or 160 km per hour. Many managed to escape Herculaneum across the bay. In fact for a long it was thought that everyone escaped the eruption. Only later did archaeologists realized that many of the city's residents were simply cornered along a sea shore. By the end of the day Herculaneum disappeared.

 

Location of Herculaneum was largely forgotten over centuries of human history. Eventually two cities of Portici and Resina (today renamed Ercalono after a city) was constructed on top of the ancient ruins. Only in the 18th century it was rediscovered at a depth of 50- 60 feet below surface under supervision of Rocco Gioacchino Alcubierre (or Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre) and his personal assistant Carlo Weber. They dug extensive underground tunnels through remains of Roman homes and businesses often causing great damage to old buildings. They were also the first to compile a map of ancient structures, which they described in a publication of Le Antichita di Ercolano (The Antiquities of Herculaneum).

Archaeological digs on a site of old Herculaneum continue to this day. The main problem that modern scientists face today is preservation of the site. Many of the previous foundlings were lost to collapse due to natural elements and erosion. Discovery of new insulas, residences and chops often take back seat to proper support and preservation of already discovered structures. One of the most disappointing parts of visiting Herculaneum is closure of some parts of the city for general public.

 

 

Map of Herculaneum

1. House of Aristide

2. H. of Argo

3. H. of the Inn

4. H. of the Genius

5. H. of the Skeleton

6. H. of the Bronze Herma

7. H. of the Opus Craticium

9. H. of Galba

 

11. H. of the double atrium

14. H. of the Alcove
15. H. of the Deer

17. Samnite House

18. H. of the Great Portal

20. H. of the Carbonised Furniture

23. H. of the Corinthian Atrium

24. H. of the Bicentary

Public buildings

A. City Baths

C. Palestra

G. Suburban Baths

I. Sacred Area

L. Terrace of M. Balbus

 

Much of Herculaneum is still covered by sediment and soil. Archaeological digs continue on this site as we speak. Although it is slightly smaller site than neighbouring Pompeii it is still easy to loose yourself here. For an ease of orientation we broke up the map of Herculaneum on insulas or city blocks. Each city block has several houses with numerous families that lived and died here. According to historian Lucius Cornelius Sisenna stated that settlement of Herculaneum was encircled by small defensive city walls that were constructed in the second century BC. Military fortifications had a rectangular shape that covered over over 20 hectares of land. After Herculaneum became part of the Roman empire walls lost much of its strategic purpose. They were simply incorporated into new buildings constructed around them. The city was ruled by political heads known as duumvirs. They were re- elected annually. At the time of its destruction it had a population of approximately 4000 residents. City arteries, its roads included five cardos and tri decumanus. City blocks were known as insula or insulae. Layout of the settlement is still broken into insula for ease of orientation.

 

Roman House

 

Suburban District (Herculaneum)

 

Boat docks of Herculaneum

View of the Suburban District of the ancient Herculaneum. This was the sea shore of the old town of Herculaneum before eruption didn't move the shore line half a mile further away by depositing geological sediments in the sea. The bottom row of arches is the boat docks where over 300 skeletons of women, men and children were discovered. On the extreme right you can see a rectangular building of the Suburban Thermae or Baths. Next to it is a terrace with an altar and a statue of town's benefactor M. Nonius Balbus. On the extreme left is the terrace that is known as The Sacred Area of Herculaneum.

 

Boat docks (Herculaneum)

Boat docks is a series of covered arched buildings intended to preserve Herculaneum fishermen's boats against sea storms. This was the ancient shore at the time of the eruption and this is also the furthest that citizens of Herculaneum made it. When the city was first discovered in the 18th century it was widely believed that all people of the city managed to flee the volcano mud slide unlike their neighbors in Pompeii. This assumptions turned out to be erroneous. First skeleton in Herculaneum was discovered in 1831 in the House of the Skeleton those pictures you can below. However it was these boat houses that completely dispelled the idea that most of the citizens of Herculaneum made to safety. They merely took a refuge here. Their hopes for escape were proven wrong. Instead of safe haven boat docks turned into a death trap for dozens.

 

Herculaneum Victim  Boat docks of Herculaneum

Herculaneum gave us an interesting clues about lives of the ancient people. Ancient Romans practiced cremation so we have very few skeletal remains that made it to our days. This is a rare exception. Analyzing the bones we can tell the diets that people had, their lifestyle, number of kids they might have or any statistical anomalies. For example we an interesting relatively low number of people in the age group of 16 to 25. If you take in consideration that the region was struck by a powerful earthquake in 62/63 AD it would there is such a drastic dip in birth rate and survival rate. People born 16- 17 years prior to the eruption or earlier probably had higher mortality rate after food sources became scarce and granaries with food were destroyed.

 

Forensic doctors also concluded that the average height for a man in the city of Herculaneum was about 1.70 metres, while for a woman it was around 1.55 metres. Children under the age of 10 years comprised 20.3% of population while another 8.4% of individuals were older than 50 years. The bodies surprisingly had good teeth despite low advancements in dental hygiene and care. However they didn't eat a lot of sugar like we do today so the anaerobic bacteria had less chances to proliferate around teeth. Increased concentration of strontium in the bones of Herculaneum citizens indicated a diet rich in sea food. On the negative side the bodies indicated a lead poisoning. It was particularly visible in bodies those diets was worse indicating their low socio- economic level. It is possible that they got lead poisoning after drinking cheap wine that was artificially sweetened by syrup that was boiled in lead pots. Some of the their symptoms included abdominal pain, cognitive difficulties, weight loss, fatigue, sluggishness and many others. These further decrease their chance of surviving the eruption and escaping to safety. About 27 % of all bodies had some degree of hypoplastic line in the dental enamel. This would suggest that lengthily childhood illnesses were quiet common. Citizens of Herculaneum also showed decreased rate of growing, however the residents were taller than modern day Neapolitans.

 

One of the most famous victims in Herculaneum is the "Ring Lady" on the top left photo. Judging by her bones analysis and amount of gold that she wore, she must have been a very rich person. She had good bones and fairly good teeth, but there were signs of early periodontal disease. She was about 46 years old. At a height of 157 cm she was actually above average for her time period and probably gave birth to two or three children in her lifetime. She probably ran here in hopes to buy herself boat ride across the bay to safety. Like many residents of Herculaneum she perished.

Boat docks of HerculaneumAnother notable body is that of a young teenage girl who died while holding a baby in her arms. Judging by the skeleton shape, the victim never gave birth so it couldn't be her child. Furthermore girl's remains clearly point out to a very harsh life and even malnourishment as a child. This lies in drastic contrast to the bones of the baby she was holding. The baby was well nourished and probably was a child of the owners who probably had the girl as their slave in the household. Apparently the slave girl tried to save master's baby, but they both were buried inside boat's chambers.

 

Archaeologists who worked here also discovered an interesting skeleton is that of a soldier. He was about 37 years old when he died. At his height of 175 cm he was a giant by the standards of the time. He carried a sword on his right side, uniform and a bag with several coins. The man served for a long time and his left femur (thigh) still carries marks of a stab wound, probably a sword wound. Additionally three of his front teeth were missing either due to a battle or a bar fight. He lies at the entrance of the boat houses so it is logically to assume that he was trying to organize people and calm them down. Once he saw that everyone found their refuge he also entered what looked like a safe haven for them.

Boat docks of Herculaneum

Boat docks of HerculaneumCarbonized Herculaneum boat was discovered in one of the docks in 1982. It measured 9 metres in length and apparently was overturn by a natural force of a volcanic avalanche. A skeleton of an oarsman was discovered near by. There was also another body of a soldier with a swords, belt and military uniform found next to him. It is possible that the fisherman and a soldier were killed before they could escape. It is somewhat strange that no one tried to escape the Herculaneum using this vessels after the death of its owner. It is quiet probably that two men simply made runs across the bay of Naples. On one of these runs they was caught by a pyroclastic flow that killed him.

 

Herculaneum boat is currently can be seen in a site museum known as Padiglione Della Barca or a Boat Exhibit that's been on display since 16 July 2009.

 

 

Suburban Thermae or Baths of Herculaneum (Terme Suburbane)

Suburban Thermae or Baths of Herculaneum (Terme Suburbane)

 

Suburban Thermae or Baths of Herculaneum were constructed on a former shore line of a Bay of Naples. The money for construction of this luxurious building were donated by proconsul Marcus Nonius Balbus who also lived in Herculaneum. The baths were not segregated by sexes so it is possible that the bath was use interchangeably by women and men on different days. The central vestibule of the baths has a chalice in the middle. A bust of an Apollo stands on pedestal that had a hidden tubes inside. A stream of water was shooting from a small hole from underneath the hole into a large cup. In the North East corner of the vestibule there was a small passageway that led to the House of the Relief of Telephus, which probably belonged to proconsul Balbus himself. Walls were decorated by beautiful frescoes and floor was lined with marble of different colors. Large windows opened to serene panorama of the Mediterranean Sea and a Bay of Naples.

 

The Sacred Area of Herculaneum

 

The Sacred Area of Herculaneum is a ritualistic area that is located on the former shores of the Bay of Naples. This part of the municipality contained the Temple of Venus as well as temple dedicated to the four gods of Minerva, Vulcan, Mercury and Neptune. The temple is situated in front of the marble altars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terrace of M. Nonius Balbus (Terrazza di M. Nonio Balbo) (Herculaneum)

 

Terrace of M. Nonius Balbus (Terrazza di M. Nonio Balbo) (Herculaneum)Terrace of M. Nonius Balbus was dedicated to the famous proconsul who served under first Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus. He donated large sums of money to Herculaneum and its citizens. After his death a terrace was named after him, a statue of proconsul erected and an altar in his honor was constructed here. An inscriptions on the altar state:

 

"In view of the proposal of Marcus Ofillius Celer, twice duumvir, that the dignity of the township required recognition of the merits of Marcus Nonius Balbus, the Council resolved the following:
Seeing that Marcus Nonius Balbus, so long as he lived here showed a parental disposition of extraordinary generosity to individuals and the community, the councillors decided that an equestrian statue be erected to him at public expense in the most frequented spot with the inscription:
To Marcus Nonius Balbus, praetor, proconsul, patron, (from) the entire Council of the people of Herculaneum in recognition of his merits.
Further, at the spot where his ashes are laid a marble altar should be made and erected, and publicly inscribed:
To Marcus Nonius Balbus son of Marcus and that the procession of Parentalia should part from this spot, and that at the customary athletic games one day should be dedicated to his honour, and on the occasion of performances at the theatre a seat should be placed for him.
Resolved."

 

Theatre (Herculaneum)

Theatre (Herculaneum)

Theatre of Herculaneum was an important place for recreational as well as social and religious gatherings. Along with performances and choir concerts Theatre could serve as a place of gathering of the city residents to discuss important matters of the town and its business. Additionally religious ceremonies were held here since its size allowed large number of the adult population to gather at one place. At its completion theatre could seat about 2500 spectators or much of adults in the city. Theatre was surrounded by two rows of arches and pillars. A the top tier that had a semi- circle shape bronze statues of notable citizens and members of the royal family stood as part of the state propaganda. The stage itself was paved with precious red, yellow, magenta and black marble. Unfortunately most of the damage to Theatre was performed by amateur archaeologists who simply dug for ancient wealth rather than learn about history of the Ancient Rome. They caused serious damage to the original structure of theatre. Bronze statues were removed from their original location. Most of Theatre is still buried under volcano rock. It is only accessible from the modern streets of Ercolano through old tunnels that were dug by grave diggers- archaeologists of the 18th century.

 

 

Insula II of Herculaneum

 

House of Aristide and the House of Argo (Casa di Aristide e Casa d'Argo) (Herculaneum)

House of Aristide and the House of Argo (Casa di Aristide e Casa d'Argo) (Herculaneum)

The name Argo comes from a writing on a wall "Io and Argo" and was supposed to describe the theme of the frescoes. The paintings are long gone, but the name stuck with this residence. The House of Aristides on the other hand was given by accident. First archaeologists that discovered this site found a statue that they believed to be that of Aristide, famous Greek politician. Later it was concluded that the statue was that of famous Greek statesman and Attic orator Aeschines. It is plausible that the owner of the house was a prominent public and political figure who paid special respect to the teachers of the past. Attic orators were famous through the ancient world as one of the best in their art. Ten of the most famous orators lived in 5th and 4th centuries. However the name stuck since no one wanted to change it. Both houses were badly damaged by early archaeologists during Bourbon reign. Tunnels that they dug through the insula stand out and clearly visible. Additionally parts of the walls were knocked down to ease the access.

House of the Genius (Casa del Genio) (Herculaneum)

 

House of the Genius (Casa del Genio) (Herculaneum)House of the Genius or Casa del Genio is only partially uncovered. It was named after a small marble statue of a Cupid or genius of the building. As a side note it is probably important to add few things about Roman theology. Ancient Romans believed in multiple gods and were hence polytheists or pagans. Besides official pantheon of gods each family had its own genius, personal god who took care about the house and a family. Guests who visited the house had to bring a small gift to appease the genius of the family, otherwise this lack of respect could have infuriated little guy. Roman society was generally speaking open tolerant of all religions as long as people respected and paid homage to the Roman gods of various levels. If they didn't bring sacrifices this could spell trouble for the residents of this particular and house and empire as a whole. Needless to say this became a serious problem for the Christians who didn't want to participate in idolatry. The refusal to bring gifts or sacrifices made them an easy target for the official religion. House of Genius was excavated in 1828- 1850, but it wasn't completed since parts of the ruins are situated below modern day Ercolano.

 

 

Insula III of Herculaneum

 

House of the Wooden Partition (Casa del Tramezzo di Legno) (Herculaneum)

House of the Wooden Partition (Casa del Tramezzo di Legno) (Herculaneum)

House of the Wooden Partition is one of the best preserved residences in Herculaneum, both on the outside as well as inside. It was constructed in the late Republican period in the first century BC and later remodelled in the first century AD. Well preserved Wooden Partition in the middle of the room is the reason why the insula got its name. It consists of several panels with two central panels were hinged with bronze handles. Thus it could be opened by the owners of the building. The floor of the house was covered by mosaics and walls were covered in plaster and intricate frescoes with many ornaments.

 

 

House of the Skeleton (Casa dello Scheletro) (Herculaneum)

 House of the Skeleton (Casa dello Scheletro) (Herculaneum)

House of the Skeleton is named after a first skeleton that was found in Herculaneum in 1831. It was presumed that lack of skeletons meant that most of citizens of Herculaneum survived the eruption and fled their home town. We know now that it is not true. They simply died in clustered locations along the former sea shore including that of the old boat house described previously. It is hard to explain why would anyone return to the city while most of city residents gathered along the shores of the Mediterranean sea. It might have been its owner who was foolish enough to return to gather some valuables. However it is also probable that the skeleton belonged to a marauder who tried to steal riches in the abandoned homes. He was caught by natural disaster and killed in the process of a crime.

This building is a residential complex that consists of three houses. One of them contains has an indoor atrium.  In the back of the atrium there are two Nymphea or sanctuary dedicated to nymphs. Interestingly the House of the Skeleton doesn't have usual impluvium or reservoir to collect rain water. Whether it was done on purpose or owners of the residents did not have the resources to add this feature we don't know.

House of the Inn (Casa dell' Albergo) (Herculaneum)

 

House of the Inn or Casa dell' Albergo of Herculaneum was constructed during the reign of Emperor Augustus. Earthquake of 62 AD greatly damaged this private residence and it was sold to new owners. Apparently new landlord did not intend to stay here so he divided the house into many different rooms and sold it for business. It is possible that the House of the Inn had higher levels intended for residence of private families. However upper stories were destroyed by mud slides of the eruption and even more by early archaeologists who dug tunnels through ancient structures.

 

House of the Bronze Herma (Casa dell'Erma di bronzo) (Herculaneum)

Herculaneum bustThis narrow Samnite style house of Herculaneum was named so after a bronze bust of the apparent owner of the private residence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

House of the Opus Craticium (Casa a Graticcio) (Herculaneum)

House of the Opus Craticium (Casa a Graticcio) (Herculaneum) 

House of the Opus Craticium or Casa a Graticcio is famous for its ingenious building technology. It consists of a wooden frame filled by stones. Apparently it was a very cheap and effective way to erect residences for middle and lower class citizens of Herculaneum. This residence is the best preserved example of such structure. It was inhabited by several families who lived together in this Ancient Roman apartment building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Insula IV of Herculaneum

 

House of the Alcove (Casa dell'Alcova) (Herculaneum)

House of the Alcove (Casa dell'Alcova) (Herculaneum)

House of the Alcove of Herculaneum consists of two buildings. One part consists of a fairly modest interior, while another is much better decorated. It is named after small semi- circular alcove that is lightened by natural light from a small square window.

 

Fullonica (Herculaneum)

Fullonica or cleaning service is a small business that survived the eruption. It is adjacent to the House of the Alcove and many archeologists suggested that it once belonged to the owner of the house. During archeological digs scientists discovered tanks for cleaning. Ancient Romans used acidity of urine to wash off dirt. Ancient Roman cities even had a job position that involved a worker walk around the city and ask for some urine for their business. In addition to the business part of the buildings, residential area of its workers was also found here. Living in the place that smelled like a giant toilet was probably pretty bad.

 

House of the Deer (Casa del Cervi) (Herculaneum)

House of the Deer (Casa del Cervi) (Herculaneum)

H. of the Deer is one of the most impressive estates in the city of Herculaneum. In the ancient times then the water front ran down the boat docks. The owners of the estate had a great view of the harbor as they walked through their garden. Today the Bay of Naples retreated and we can only imagine of the great view that once opened here. Archaeologists discovered carbonized loaf of bread with a mark of Q. Granius Verus. Thus the owner of the estate was identified. He was a former slave who gained freedom shortly before the eruption. The residence was named after a statue of a deer that was found within former garden. Additionally several other statues were discovered along with a small marble table.

House of the Mosaic Atrium (Casa dell'Atrio a Mosaico) (Herculaneum)

House of the Mosaic Atrium (Casa dell'Atrio a Mosaico) (Herculaneum)

House of the Mosaic Atrium of Herculaneum gets its name from white and black mosaic that covers the atrium of the residence. The floor of the house bucked under hot ash from an eruption. It turns out that the shape of lines repeats the shape of the older walls from a house that was demolished to make room for a new bigger mansion. We don't know the name of the owners of this building, but it was probably a young family with a small child. Archaeologists discovered a wooden table and a wooden baby cradle. The house contained a large peristyle garden as well as great view of the Bay of Naples. In the centre of the garden there was a marble lined pool with a small fountain. The walls of the building are covered by beautiful frescoes. Some were destroyed by heat of the eruption while some are well preserved and clearly visible. This includes portrayal of Diana and Acteon and Punishment of Dirce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other buildings in this part of Herculaneum include:

House of the Painted Papyrus, House of the Stofa

 

 

Insula V of Herculaneum

 

House of the Bicentary (Casa del Bicentenario) (Herculaneum)

Herculaneum CrossThis private residence looked just like any other house in Herculaneum when it was uncovered in the 1930's by the archeologists. However the surprise lay in a small room hidden in the back of the residence. A small room of this house kept some furniture that was carbonized and thus preserved. One of the walls had a distinct indentation of a cross that once hanged here. Appearance of a Christian community in Herculaneum is not surprising. Apostle Paul visited Puteoli (today it is known as Pozzuoli) located on Phlegrean peninsula that forms the North side of the Bay of Naples, just few miles from Herculaneum.

 

Acts 28

13 From there we cast off and arrived at Rhegium, and after one day a south wind sprang up and on the second day we came to Puteoli.

14 There we found some brothers and were invited to stay with them seven days. And in this way we came to Rome.

 

A small community apparently formed in the region surrounding Herculaneum in the 60's. Existence of a cross in this building is the only thing left any physical evidence of its presence. The cross was probably hidden by something else since Christianity at the time was a persecuted religion. It could have been a painting or some type of a cabinet that hanged on two nails situated on both sides of a cross. If you were discovered you could easily find yourself on the arena with wild animals or burned alive. The owner of the house was probably caught and the wooden cross that was safely bolted to the wall was torn off before the eruption that buried the city. We can only guess what happened to the Christian or Christians who lived here, but it is highly unlikely that he/ she/ they survived harsh punishment.

 

House of the Beautiful Courtyard (Casa del Bel Cortile) (Herculaneum)

House of the Beautiful Courtyard (Casa del Bel Cortile) (Herculaneum)

H. of the Beautiful Courtyard was constructed in Herculaneum in the first century AD. Its layout is unusual for the ancient Roman homes and Herculaneum in particular. Courtyard is raised above the vestibule of the residence. To the south of it is tablinum, a large room that covers almost half of the house. A small display case shows human remains that were discovered here then the house was uncovered. The walls of the house is covered by paintings including of a small angel and black and white mosaics. Entrance to the kitchen of the estate is notable by its low entrance. It might have been designed this way if the owners of the residence didn't want to smell the cooking that was done by their servants and slaves.

 

House of the Carbonised Furniture (Casa del Mobilio Carbonizzato) (Herculaneum)

House of the Carbonised Furniture (Casa del Mobilio Carbonizzato) (Herculaneum)

H. of the Carbonised Furniture or Casa del Mobilio Carbonizzato of Herculaneum is named so after remains of a wooden frame of a couch fit for ancient version of Homer Simpson. The residence was constructed during pre- Roman Samnite times and features a small backyard with a garden. The courtyard contains impluvium for collection of water and a small shrine seen on the left photo. This temple like lararium is supported by two columns and a roof that probably housed depiction of a private deity that protected owners of the estate. It is one of the oldest houses in Herculaneum and even renovation undertaken during Claudian era (1st century AD) did not hide its distinctly different appearance. Walls of the apartment preserved beautiful red frescoes with mythological scenes as well as portrayal of birds and plants.

 

House of the Corinthian Atrium (Casa dell' Atrio Corinzio) (Herculaneum)

House of the Corinthian Atrium (Casa dell' Atrio Corinzio) (Herculaneum)

H. of the Corinthian Atrium of Herculaneum is named so after an atrium around a small fountain in the center and six Corinthian columns around its perimeter. Columns are made of tuff rock and covered by marble stucco. A cheap way to make your column appear as they were made of solid marble was to mix well grinded marble powder with flour and water. You could apply this mixture to walls and columns and once it dried out it gave an appearance of a solid marble. Additionally beautiful mosaics are also well preserved, although frescoes are less noticeable due to poor preservation. They probably crackled during the eruption and fell off.

 

 

 

 

 

House of the Great Portal (Casa del Gran Portale) (Herculaneum)

House of the Great Portal (Casa del Gran Portale) (Herculaneum)

H. of the Great Portal of Herculaneum obviously refers to a distinct entrance of the apartment. It is lined by Corinthians columns made from red brick on each side with depiction of goddess of Victory (Nicaea) on top of each. The inside walls of the residence is painted lavishly with animals, plants and birds. Additionally they are scenes from Roman- Greek mythology including portrayal of god Dionysius (god of wine and parties). The owner of the estate was probably a very rich man in Herculaneum, but even he seems to ran into financial troubles. Corner room of the building was separated from the rest of the residence and was rented as a small shop to support the family that occupied the rest of the estate.

 

House of the Neptune Mosaic (Casa di Nettuno e Amfitrite) (Herculaneum)

House of the Neptune Mosaic (Casa di Nettuno e Amfitrite) (Herculaneum)

H. of the Neptune Mosaic is a large residential home of the keeper of wine store which was quiet popular with the people of Herculaneum. Part of the mansion served as a private residence, while a room close to street served as a wine shop. Carbonized wooden shelves with amphorae survived the eruption. Business was apparently good and shop owner managed to construct a good residential area. One of the most beautiful parts of the house is the nympheum covered by intricate ornaments, mask of Silenus and mosaics of mythological figures. Nympheum is a small grotto in an ancient Roman house with a water supply, usually with a fountain or another source of water.

 

House of the Wooden Sacellum (Casa del tramezzo di legno) (Herculaneum)

H. of the Wooden Sacellum in Herculaneum was named after sacellum that was discovered here. Sacellum is a small private shrine. It derives its name from a Latin word "sacre", which is translated as "belonging to a god". In this particular case it looked like a wooden cabinet that survived the periclastic flow. Inside the owners of the house kept their household gods that protected the family that lived here. Additionally there were perfume bottles, dish of garlic and buttons. They probably served some superstitious purpose. The rest of the home is less preserved. Many of the frescoes were destroyed so we can only guess what it looked like.

 

Samnite House (Casa Sannitica) (Herculaneum)

Samnite House (Casa Sannitica) (Herculaneum)

The Samnite House of Herculaneum was constructed in the 2nd century BC. It is one of the oldest residences in Herculaneum. In the course of the first century AD the house underwent changes and reconstruction. Rooms at the upper floor were rented out. Its residents had their own smaller entrance to the left of the main entrance.

 

Other buildings in this part of Herculaneum include:

H. of the Tailor, H. Apollo the Citharist

 

 

Insula VI of Herculaneum

 

Collegial shrine of the Augustales (Sacello degli Augustali) (Herculaneum)

Collegial shrine of the Augustales (Sacello degli Augustali) (Herculaneum)

The buildings of Collegial shrine of the Augustales is situated on the main street of ancient Herculaneum, Decumanus Maximus. It is no surprise that it was chosen as a sight for worship of the first Roman Emperor. Collegial shrine of the Augustales was an important central temple of Augustales (priests) of Imperial cult of Octavian Augustus who was proclaimed god after his death. The building had two entrances. One led to the main road, while another was located at the side of the main hall. The central room itself was divided into three naves. The sun entered this space through the skylights situated at the roof. One of the most beautiful frescoes of the house is that depicting the myth of Hercules (pictured on the left). This ancient Greek and Roman hero was the inspiration for the name of the town.

 

Central Thermae (Terme Centrali) (Herculaneum)

Central Thermae (Terme Centrali) (Herculaneum)

The Central Thermae of Herculaneum is a massive bath complex constructed in the first century AD. It was more than just a place to take a shower and clean yourself. Baths in the Ancient Roman cities were places for social gathering where people could discuss politics, make deals and strike agreements in different areas of daily lives. Baths consisted of Hot Baths, Cold Baths and Palaestra or open air gym area where people could  work out and practice. Romans Thermae had separate areas for women and men. Herculaneum Baths were no exception.

 

 

 

House of the Tuscan Colonnade (Casa del Colonnato Tuscanico) (Herculaneum)

House of the Tuscan Colonnade (Casa del Colonnato Tuscanico) (Herculaneum)

H. of the Tuscan Colonnade or Casa del Colonnato Tuscanico of Herculaneum is a private residence that was constructed from tuff rock during Samnite period. it seems that after earthquake of 62 AD the owner was hit pretty hard financially along with many other citizens of Herculaneum. He had to convert parts of the residence into small rooms and rent it for workshops and small private shops. Nevertheless archeologists discovered a wealthy stack of golden coins that were worth 1400 sesterces. The name of the residence is derived from the Tuscan columns that made up a beautiful peristyle.

 

House of the Double Atrium (Casa a due atri) (Herculaneum)

H. of the Double Atrium facade is preserved to the second level. The entrance door is located on the ground floor and the second floor has two small windows that probably led to the bedroom of the owners. A mask of uncertain deity, probably Gorgon, is situated between the two windows. This architectural element was probably added to ward off the evil eye from the residents of the home. Little was preserved from the original decorations, but it has an interesting layout with atrium and its kitchen is well preserved.

 

House of the Black Hall (Casa del Salone Nero) (Herculaneum)

House of the Black Hall (Casa del Salone Nero) (Herculaneum)

H. of the Black Hall Herculaneum was named after usual color choice by the residents of the building. They chose to paint their walls of one of the rooms in a black color probably to underline the eccentric character of the owner. It is one of the largest and most elaborate residences in Herculaneum, which stood on the main road of the city, Decumanus Maximus. Its monumental entrance is well preserved including huge wooden timbers that line the entrance. Just to the right of the timber you can see a small frescoes advertising near by wine shop.

 

 

Insula VII of Herculaneum

 

Basilica Noniana of Herculaneum (Basilica Noniana) (Herculaneum)

Basilica Noniana of Herculaneum was accidentally discovered by Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre in the 18th century. It was a huge political building on the Decumaus Maximus, largest and most important street of the city. Judging by the inscriptions found here it was constructed after the earthquake of 62 AD with donations from a generous proconsul Marcus Nonius Balbus. Although much of the building remain buried, tunnels that were dug here in the 18th century (aka Bourbon tunnels) give some idea of the former grandiosity of this building. It measured 29 metres by 16.5 metres with a large apse at its southern end. Beautiful wall decorations covered every inch of the building. A figure of proconsul Nonius on a horseback was also discovered. Additionally archaeologists discovered a marble head of a woman during their digs in Herculaneum. Unlike many other ancient Roman statues this head kept traces of its original color suggesting that in the Antiquity marble statues were also painted to give them more life like appearance.

House of Galba (Casa di Galba) (Herculaneum)

House of Galba of Herculaneum is named after bust of emperor Galba. He did not serve for too long. He replaced Emperor Nero in 68, but the next year he lost his throne. It is possible that the residence belonged to a family that suffered from murderous reign of Nero or someone who might have supported Galba. The residence contains peristyle with Doric columns made of tuff rock and covered with stucco.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum

Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum

Villa of the Papyri is situated at some distance from the rest of the unearthed city of Herculaneum. This magnificent villa ran parallel to the ancient shore of the Bay of Naples and was constructed by father- in- law of Julius Caesar, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, who lived in Herculaneum. Even though much of this largest ancient Roman estate ever found (measuring over 250 meters in length) is hidden underground it might be one of the most important buildings in the city. Aside of beautiful statues, and rich decor Villa of Papyri is famous for its collection of papyrus scrolls that was carbonized and preserved for centuries. Only today we can open this time capsules and read their contents.

 

Lucius Calpurnius Piso was rich literate man who patronized arts and sciences of his country and Herculaneum in particular. He managed to collect one of the largest libraries of his time that he kept in the city. Numerous works of ancient authors might bring us works of ancient authors that were fought to be destroyed. The manor was discovered in 1752. First archeologists under supervision of Karl Weber were basically looters who recovered many statues and valuable artifacts for their king Charles II, the Bourbon king of Naples. They dug several tunnels through destroyed city of Herculaneum and retreated everything they fought was pretty and valuable for the Palace. About 90 magnificent statues were retreated from a villa. Some were later given away as gifts to various heads of states. Small items were left in place or simply discarded. Eventually the digs were completed in 1765 under pressure from local citizens who feared their homes would be swallowed by collapsing underground passages.

 

Many of the first documents were destroyed by diggers who uncovered Herculaneum. Attempts to read them also failed. Remaining documents crumbled and fell apart. Thanks to priest from the Vatican Library, Antonio Piaggio, texts were saved. He designed mechanical device that slowly unrolled the papyrus making it visible and relatively unbroken. However he managed to read only few original documents of Herculaneum. Only centuries later with modern technologies we can appreciate over 1800 rolls of documents that were previously ignored. Eruption cloud that engulfed the city raised the temperature to 750 degrees Fahrenheit killing all inhabitants, but miraculously preserving works of ancient authors. Scientists managed to discover a huge collection of works of Greek Epicurean philosopher Philodemus, who actually lived here on grounds of villa thanks to generous owner who invited him here.

 

Unfortunately digging through Herculaneum is no easy task. While Pompeii were covered by layers of ash that are relatively easy to dig through, Herculaneum was covered by hot mud that solidified over centuries. It preserved wooden furniture and papyrus scrolls, but it makes work of archeologists extremely difficult. Additionally much of modern day Herculaneum (or Ercolano) sits right on top of the ancient one. In order to uncover the ancient treasure trove of ancient work one would have to clear many modern buildings including Town Hall that sits on top.

Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum  Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum  Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum

If you want to see what the Villa of Papyri looked like in the past, but don't want to travel to Herculaneum you can go to California. Here architect Paul Getty reconstructed ancient Herculaneum estate in 1970's. His villa follows plans of Karl Weber, the original discoverer of the splendid estate.

Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum

 

 

Herculaneum  Herculaneum

Herculaneum streets and shops. The stones on the road were designed to allow citizens to pass the streets that were often muddy, but at the same time it would not prohibit wheels of carts to pass. Parts of the central street of Herculaneum, Decumanus Maximus, were closed to wagons and carts. Apparently these parts of the road were used as a forum of a city.

Practical Information while you travel to Herculaneum

Tips

  • Summers in this part of Italy might be unbearable. Keep hydrated and protect yourself from the sun and heat. Wear a hat and take some bottled water with you.

  • Keep an eye on your belongings.

  • Take some cash with you. If you want to buy something locally you probably won't be able to use your credit card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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