Pondering and protecting Pliny’s Pompeii

“Although the popular image of Pompeii is of a town frozen in time, it has always been in a state of flux. With roughly a third of the town still unexcavated, there is understandable excitement at this week’s news that archaeologists have started to dig a new area of the site. Not least because recent finds in Region 5 (another newly excavated area) have been wonderful: the House of the Dolphins with its gorgeous entrance hall painted with birds as well as the dolphins that named it; brightly painted political graffiti on the façade of a house; and not omitting the fresco of Priapus, weighing his gigantic erection on a set of scales. Once seen, I doubt that’s ever forgotten.” “Before 79, Pompeii was not a particularly well-known place. It’s rarely mentioned by historical sources of its time. A small town in Campania, it was too unfashionable for Rome’s elite to summer there: instead they went to Baiae, across the Bay of Naples. And when Pompeii came to Rome’s attention, it was rarely for a good reason. In 59AD, it held gladiatorial games in which the violence spilled onto the streets from the arena. People visiting Pompeii from nearby Nuceria were so badly beaten that survivors dragged their battered bodies to Rome to protest. Pompeii was banned from holding games for 10 years. Ironically it was the obliteration of the town – along with others nearby – that put it on the map. And at least in part that’s because we have Pliny’s eye-witness account. But there is still a huge amount we don’t know. Even the date of the fateful eruption is contested.” “While the new dig is about preservation rather than discovery, revelations and increased understanding of Pompeii will occur just the same. Archaeologists will be digging earth out of Region 9, preventing collapses that could easily damage the ruins that remain. Will they find another eye-catching fresco of Leda and Jupiter (in his disguise as a swan) as they dig? Or further proof of the little town’s contact with a much wider world? One of the most remarkable finds from Pompeii is an ivory statuette of the Indian goddess Yakshi.” “… Pliny survives, as does his mother and their friend. The story of this disaster will live for ever, he tells Tacitus: semper victurus. And as the archaeologists dig up a little more of Pompeii, and the world waits and watches, he is right.”—”Treasures from new digs reveal that Pompeii is far from ‘frozen in time’

Hermetic Library Pondering and Protecting Pliny's Pompeii 6mar2023