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


Description of Herculaneum Archaeological Site

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


History of Herculaneum

According to legend, Dionysius of Halicarnassus narrates that Herculaneum was founded by Hercules, returning from Iberia with a herd of oxen taken from Geryon, in 1243 BC, while historically there is no certain information about its foundation due to lack of verification elements such as finds, which do not go beyond the 2nd century BC. Strabo claims that the city was founded by the Osci in the 12th century BC: the hypothesis could be true as some transcriptions from the Oscan language have been found, which would have remained in use in Herculaneum until the Roman conquest. According to others, however, the city was founded by the Etruscans between the 10th and 8th centuries BC, when the whole territory came under the influence of the Italic people.

In 479 BC. Herculaneum was conquered by the Greeks, precisely by the Pelasgians: under the influence of the Hellenic people, the urban layout proposed by Ippodamo da Mileto was adopted, similar to the nearby Neapolis, of which it is claimed that it was a suburb; under the Greeks the mention of Herculaneum appears for the first time, precisely in 314, in a writing by Theophrastus, with the Greek name of Ἡράκλεια. The city was later expanded during the 5th century BC. after the conquest of the Samnites; between the 4th and 3rd century BC it becomes part of the Roman orbit: if during the second Samnite war its position is uncertain, if deployed as an enemy of Rome together with Naples or as an ally with Pompeii, in the third Samnite war it is against the Romans, being subsequently defeated. It is in this period that the Romans begin to prefer villas along the Herculaneum coast, building sumptuous residences; during the social war, entered in the Nocerina confederation, the city was attacked and conquered in 89 BC. by a legate of Lucio Cornelio Silla, Tito Didio, thus ending its political independence and becoming a municipality of Rome, administered by a colony of veterans of the Sillano army. At the end of the republican age it had already become an established holiday center for the Roman aristocracy: Lucio Anneo Seneca, in his De ira, narrates that Gaius Julius Caesar would have destroyed a villa near the coast of Herculaneum in which the mother, avenging her. During the imperial era it experienced its period of maximum splendor thanks to the tribune, elected in 32 BC, and later declared patron, Marco Nonio Balbo, who promoted the construction of new buildings, such as the Basilica and the restoration of the walls: in the the same period was followed by the construction of the theatre, the aqueduct and two thermal complexes.

In 62 Herculaneum was hit by an earthquake which made renovation work necessary: an epigraph shows that Vespasian had the Basilica and a temple restored at his own expense. The restorations had not yet been completed when in 79, precisely on August 25, or in any case a period after this date, it was affected by the eruption of Vesuvius: compared to Pompeii, it did not suffer the rain of ashes and lapilli due to the direction of the wind, despite being on the slopes of the mountain. However during the night, following the collapse of the column of volcanic materials, it was hit by pyroclastic flows at a speed of over one hundred km/h at high temperatures, formed by water, mud, rock and liquefied pumice, which covered it under a stratum varying from ten to fifteen metres, which later reached twenty-five following other eruptions, such as that of 1631. Over the years, this material has solidified into pappamonte, a sort of tuff but softer, which has made it possible to conserve materials organic materials such as wood, papyrus and food, instantly charred by the high temperatures of the pyroclastic flows. Herculaneum therefore ceases to exist; after the eruption there is no recovery of an inhabited center: in 121 Hadrian orders the reopening of the coastal road that passes through the city and goes from Naples to Stabia and Nocera, along which some sporadic houses are built


Archaeological excavations, ☎ +39 081 8575347, pompei.info@beniculturali.it Full €11.00; Reduced €5.50. - From April 1st to October 31st: Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabiae: 8.30 - 19.30 (last admission 18.00). From November 1st to March 31st: Herculaneum, Oplontis and Sabia: 8.30 - 17.00 (last admission 15.30).


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

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

Suburban Thermae or Baths

The Sacred Area

Terrace of M. Nonius Balbus



Insula II

House of Aristide and the House of Argo

House of the Genius


Insula III

House of the Wooden Partition

House of the Skeleton

House of the Inn

House of the Bronze Herma

House of the Opus Craticium


Insula IV

House of the Alcove


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

House of the Mosaic Atrium


Other buildings in this part of Herculaneum include:

House of the Painted Papyrus, House of the Stofa


Insula V

House of the Bicentary

House of the Beautiful Courtyard

House of the Carbonised Furniture

House of the Corinthian Atrium

House of the Great Portal

House of the Neptune Mosaic

House of the Wooden Sacellum

Samnite House


Other buildings in this part of Herculaneum include:

H. of the Tailor, H. Apollo the Citharist


Insula VI

Collegial shrine of the Augustales

Central Thermae

House of the Tuscan Colonnade

House of the Double Atrium

House of the Black Hall


Insula VII

Basilica Noniana

House of Galba

Villa of the Papyri in 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.


Urban planning

Herculaneum was built in the central area of the Gulf of Naples, at the foot of Vesuvius, on a volcanic plateau overlooking the sea, protected at the north and south ends by two valleys in which two streams flowed; Lucio Cornelius Sisenna describes it thus:

«Oppidum tumulo in excelso loco propter mare, parvis moenibus, inter duos fluvios infra Vesuvium collocatum.»
(Lucius Cornelius Sisenna)

Strabone instead praises the healthy air and its strategic position along the coastal road. In its urban planning it retraces the Greek model proposed by Ippodamo da Mileto: protected by walls, it had the shape of a regular chessboard, divided into rectangular lots called insule, defined by two types of road axes, namely the decumani, which in Herculaneum were three and ran from east to west, following the coastline, and the hinges, which were five and ran from north to south, descended from Vesuvius to the sea; the streets were paved with volcanic or calcareous stone and had sidewalks on the sides sometimes covered by porticoes near the richest residences or, as in the case of the decumanus maximus, covered along its entire length. In total Herculaneum had an extension of about twenty hectares for a population which, at the time of the eruption, was between 4,000 and 5,000 units: most of the people managed to get to safety, few were found in the inside the buildings or on the streets, while a group of about three hundred bodies were found charred dead in the warehouses of the port, surprised in their sleep by the pyroclastic flows.

The economy of Herculaneum was not based on manufacturing activity but was mainly based on fishing, with the port area favored by the two inlets at the mouth of the rivers, one larger to the east, the other smaller to the west, and on agriculture with the cultivation of olive trees, wheat, figs and vines and the production of wine such as Lacrima Christi and Lympha Vesuviana. The city was equipped with a forum and the main economic activities were given by the shops and the rental of commercial premises and restored houses.

Having a mostly residential function, the city enjoyed less cultural autonomy and this favored the field of innovation, also visible in the architecture: in fact, the Herculaneum house, compared to the Pompeian one, was smaller but sometimes decorated more sumptuous, with the use of frescoes, mosaics and marbles with the opus sectile technique. The most luxurious houses were located along the edge of the hill, overlooking the sea, or just outside the urban centre, such as the Villa dei Papiri for example: the houses had running water but not all were equipped with a sewer. Furthermore, compared to Pompeii, no electoral posters were found along the walls in Herculaneum, just as the language of the graffiti appears to be less ironic. The city was equipped with three thermal complexes including the Suburban Baths and those of the Forum, a Palaestra, a Theater capable of accommodating 2,500 people, several temples and public buildings such as the Basilica and the Basilica Noniana, while the walls, originally built for defensive purposes with large pebbles of lava stone and pumice and in which narrow doors opened, which became useless after the Roman conquest and were partly incorporated into the buildings.


Archaeological excavations

Between 1709 and 1710 during the construction of a well, a farmer came across some pieces of marble: he had found the theater of ancient Herculaneum; of the first excavations, through underground tunnels, were conducted at the behest of Prince Emanuele Maurizio d'Elbeuf, but interrupted shortly after by the judiciary for fear of collapse of the buildings above. New explorations took place starting from 1738 at the request of Roque Joaquín de Alcubierre to Charles of Bourbon, who was joined in 1750 by Karl Jakob Weber: with the discovery of Pompeii and the movement of vehicles and men towards the new site, the investigations in Herculaneum they ceased definitively in 1780.

During the 19th century two short campaigns were carried out, this time using the open-air excavation technique: the first from 1828 to 1855 commissioned by Francesco I delle Due Sicilie, the second from 1869 to 1875 led by Giuseppe Fiorelli, both suspended for few finds.

A turning point in the investigations took place in 1924 with the superintendent Amedeo Maiuri, followed later by Antonio De Franciscis: after a long process of expropriations, in about twenty years of excavation he brought to light four hectares, which correspond to the extension of the current archaeological park, out of the total twenty of the ancient city, which was followed by consolidation and restoration works. Small excavation campaigns also took place during the second half of the 20th century, when the site was mostly maintained: in 1997 the archaeological excavations of Herculaneum, together with those of Pompeii and Oplontis, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site of humanity. The majority of the finds found in Herculaneum are kept in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples: they are objects of daily use, paintings, mosaics and statues. In the Herculaneum houses, thanks to the layer of pappamonte that was formed following the eruption, it is possible to see the remains of pieces of charred wood, furniture and partitions and it is precisely due to the solid layer of rock that the site over the years it is protected from looting, due to the difficulty of digging and the considerable depth.


Mass culture

The ancient Herculaneum and its findings have been the subject of several films and documentaries. In 1962 the film directed by Gianfranco Parolini, Year 79 - The destruction of Herculaneum, the city is the backdrop to the events of the tribune Marco Tiberio and the slave Livia in the hours of the eruption of Vesuvius.

The documentary Gli skeletri del Mistero, which involved the archaeologist Mario Pagano, the volcanologist Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo and the anthropologist Pierpaolo Petrone, dates back to 2002: the theme is that of the discovery of the skeletons along the ancient beach of Herculaneum.

Other documentaries are Herculaneum diaries of darkness and light, by director Marcellino de Baggis and The secrets of Herculaneum, made by Rai in 2019. Alberto Angela has dealt with Herculaneum several times: in particular in the documentary Stanotte a Pompei and in the last episode of the fourth edition of Meraviglie - The peninsula of treasures, where he focused on the theater.


Getting here

By plane
The nearest airport is that of Naples Capodichino Airport wikivoyagewikipediacommons (IATA: NAP).

By train
There are several train stations in Ercolano. Ercolano is connected to two railway networks that work independently of each other.

The Portici - Ercolano railway station is operated by Trenitalia and is part of the Naples - Salerno line.

The Ercolano - Scavi and Ercolano - Miglio d'Oro stations belong to the EAV-Circumvesuviana and are on the Naples-Sorrento and Naples - Poggiomarino lines.

By bus
Ercolano is served by several bus lines from different operators. There are both national and local bus connections.

From Naples, Ercolano can be reached by bus with the operating company EAV.

In the street
The toll motorway A3 A3 Napoli - Salerno - Reggio di Calabria passes close to the town and can be reached via the symbol: AS Ercolano.


Practical Information while you travel to Herculaneum


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.