Old City Self Guided Tour II (Self Guided), Pompei

2,000 years on, the secrets of Pompeii have not been fully revealed until today. Wonderful pieces of art have been found in the excavations of the ancient town. Enjoy the view of Vesuvius and touch the preserved walls, which keep the memories of Pompeii and its citizens alive. Take this tour and discover the town once buried under the thick layer of ash.
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Old City Self Guided Tour II Map

Guide Name: Old City Self Guided Tour II
Guide Location: Italy » Pompei (See other walking tours in Pompei)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 km
Author: Ella
1
Marine gate (Porta Marino) and Suburban Baths

1) Marine gate (Porta Marino) and Suburban Baths

Porta Marina is one of the two main gates which allowed access through the city walls and into the centre of Pompeii. Located in a fortified section of the stone walls, Porta Marina faces towards the sea – hence the name, Marine Gate. It is comprises of two arches – a smaller arch for people to pass through, and a larger arch for animals such as mules and donkeys.

Just outside the Porta Marina, you will find one of the city’s newly discovered treasures. Known as the Suburban Baths, this former public bath house was only discovered in 1958, several years after the Central Baths were unearthed in the city centre. The baths possess a couple of unusual features which have given a fresh insight into the social and cultural life of Pompeii.

Firstly, the dressing room, or apodyterium, is unusual, in that it is just that – only one room, without separate changing facilities for men and women. The decorations found in the dressing room are also remarkable. Whilst erotic art works have been found in various locations in Pompeii, the walls here feature a great number of highly erotic frescoes, which are more graphic than those seen elsewhere in the city. This suggests a far more relaxed attitude to sexual imagery than many historians had supposed.
2
Temple of Venus

2) Temple of Venus

Pompeii as a city is fairly compact, its grid of streets tightly packed onto a hillside. At the western edge of the centre, you reach the top of the hill close to the Temple of Venus. On a hot summer’s day in southern Italy, the uphill walk can be a struggle. A visit to the temple can be hard work, but visitors are rewarded with stunning views of the River Sarno and Gulf of Naples below. The temple was built here by the Sullans, a Roman faction who invaded Pompeii in 80 BC, fully enforcing Roman culture and language on the city for the first time.

As one of the first buildings completed under this new regime, the Temple of Venus was built in accordance with strict Roman architectural guidelines. Facing towards the sea, it was formed from a wide tufa podium, surrounded by porticos, with marble decoration throughout. Built as a symbol of the wealth and status of the Sullans, as well as a fitting place of worship for the Roman goddess of love, it is thought to have been the finest temple in Pompeii. Sadly, its prominent position, close to the city walls, made it a target for invaders, meaning it was largely ruined when first rediscovered two centuries ago.
3
Town Council

3) Town Council (must see)

Like most modern day cities, the ancient settlement of Pompeii had a civic centre at its heart, including markets (the Forum and Macellum), important places of worship, and a municipal office, from which the city’s rulers operated. The town council building stands on the southern edge of the Forum, and is comprised of three identical buildings. A number of distinct council offices ran from this site; the most important was the Duumviri, Pompeii’s highest authority. Others included the office of the Aediles, who maintained roads and buildings, and the Council of Decurions, a board of local figures that acted as a panel of councillors.

Whilst it is apparent that many local dignitaries used the buildings, historians cannot be certain which buildings housed the various offices. The building closest to the Basilica was probably the Curia – the seat of the town council. It still has a marble floor, and a number of niches in the wall to house statues. The central building of the three is believed to have belonged to the Duumviri. A square of small columns is thought to have once contained a podium that housed town records and files. The third building, on the left as you approach, is therefore thought to belong to the office of the Aediles.
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House of the Geometric Mozaic

4) House of the Geometric Mozaic

The House of the Geometric Mosaics is a large dwelling, comprised of more than sixty rooms. It is located on the south western slopes of the hill on which Pompeii stands, with scenic views of the Gulf of Naples behind it. It was originally two separate houses – the entrances, marked 14 and 16, can still be seen on the road outside. It is thought that the buildings were only converted following the earthquake in 62 AD. Following extensive damage, the external façade and walls of No.16 were restored. No.16 served as the main entrance to the house, and is the only part still open to the public.

The house has a layout consistent with many others in Pompeii. The entrance door opens onto an atrium, with a square impluvium at its centre. The atrium is one of the largest in the city. Behind it, a tablinum leads up to a portico, with a peristyle behind that. The house is notable, perhaps unsurprisingly given its name, for its elaborate tiled artworks. A number of the floor decorations, made from signinum opus, have survived in a good condition. The most spectacular is a black and white tiled mosaic in a geometric pattern.
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Triangular Forum

5) Triangular Forum

The Triangular Forum stands at the highest point of Pompeii, on the brow of the hill on which the city was built. It is even visible from ships passing along the coast. A central public space, it has a number of important buildings around its perimeter. The large theatre connects to the forum via a stairway, whilst two gymnasiums and a bakery also back onto the open space. This was at odds with the Triangular Forum’s main purpose as a sacred, reflective spot.

A Doric temple built from Sarno limestone stands in the centre of the forum, dating from the 6th century BC. Believed to be a temple to Hercules, and later used by the cult of Minerva. A colonnade, formed of ninety-five columns, was built around the forum in the 2nd century BC to preserve the forum’s tranquility. It is thought that the temple was abandoned long before the disasters 250 years later, however.

A number of intriguing features remain in the Triangular Forum today. There is a mysterious tomb like structure at the foot of the ruined temple, thought to be a monument to the founder of Pompeii. You can also find the remains of three tuff stone altars, dated to the pre-Roman era, and a well flanked by Doric columns. Behind the well, a semi-circular tuff stone seat offers the city’s finest view over the Gulf of Naples to the west.
6
Samnite Palaestra

6) Samnite Palaestra

The Great Palaestra is a large rectangular building, flanked by porticoes on three sides, with a pool at its centre. Like many buildings in the city, it was commissioned under the empire of Augustus Caesar. It was used as an exercise complex by the youth associations which he set up, a Roman version of the youth branches of political parties we still see today. There was even a room, in the centre of the western portico, set aside for worship of the emperor. Behind the portico, a double row of sycamore trees provided a shaded area for attendees to relax and unwind.

The tree roots have been recreated with plaster casts. Like many natural organisms, from plant life to human beings, the roots were buried under the ash layers left by the deadly volcanic eruption, and decomposed. This left behind air pockets which were filled with plaster, creating exact replicas of the tree roots. At the time of the eruption in 79 AD the eastern portals and north wall were being restored, having been damaged in the earthquake of 62 AD. The complex even had toilet facilities – a latrine, served by water carried from the pool, can be seen on the south side of the building.
7
Great Theater and Quadroporticus

7) Great Theater and Quadroporticus (must see)

The Quadriporticus is a large four sided courtyard, flanked by colonnaded buildings. It resembles a larger version of the peristyle courtyards found in most Roman dwellings. There is some uncertainty over the function of the buildings here, although it is known that portions of the complex were used as barracks for the town’s gladiators. The courtyard was also used by the gladiators for training exercises, and was ideally located immediately next to the Great Theatre, where gladiatorial games were held regularly. It is shown in an ancient painting, now housed in Naples’ National Archaeological Museum, with a swimming pool in the centre of the courtyard. This may have been covered after the site was damaged in the earthquake of 62 AD.

Gladiatoral games are one of the most notorious rituals of ancient Rome, and have inspired paintings, novels and films throughout history. Graffiti carved by the gladiators in the columns of the Quadriporticus hint at public opposition to the violent games they took part in – and even call for wider condemnation. A large quantity of gladiatorial armour was also found at this site, including helmets, belts and shoulder protectors. They were marked with the letters NER, suggesting that the gladiators came from the Neroniam, Nero’s imperial school in nearby Capua.
8
Small Theater

8) Small Theater

Built around 80 BC, the Small Theater was likely intended for poetry and operas or other musical shows, since every sound uttered on stage could be heard in every part of the theater. It is also thought to have held performances of mimes. This is a perfectly-balanced Greek-style theatrical construction with a capacity of one thousand spectators, who would be covered in case of rain.
9
House of Menander

9) House of Menander (must see)

The House of Menander is a large villa, built in the Classical Greek style. It is located in the southern half of the city centre, close to the Large Theatre and Stabian Baths. An unusually large property so close to public amenities, it is believed that the owner, who remains a mystery, may have been one of Pompeii’s wealthiest residents. It is notable for the large columns in the peristyle, a hallmark of the Doric style of classical architecture.

It is also entirely possible that the owner was a tourist, and the house is a very early version of the modern holiday home. Tourism played a major part in Pompeii’s development – the Greek influence on architecture stemmed from Greeks visiting the city from the 6th century, whilst residents of Rome would visit Pompeii in summer due to its hot Mediterranean climate.

The house features a number of intricate frescoes, including, in a niche on the peristyle wall, an image of Menander, the Ancient Greek dramatist. He is pictured seated and reading, against a red and yellow background typical of artworks in many wealthy homes in Pompeii. A neat slogan, of the type for which Menander was renowned is inscribed, in the atrium by the owner – it simply says ‘welcome, money’.
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House of the Ship Europa

10) House of the Ship Europa

The House of the Ship Europa is found in the south east of the city. It is named after a large drawing on the north wall of the peristyle, which depicts a ship bearing the name Europa. It is not thought to be a real ship, but instead an allegory of the goddess Europa, who was kidnapped at sea by Jupiter, disguised as a bull. Beyond the peristyle lies the feature for which the house is renowned; a long, narrow garden, several times larger than the buildings at the front of the house.

This garden was used to grow an impressive array of fruits and vegetables, including beans, onions and cabbage, as well as grapes, used to produce wine. In the Roman era the production of wine was largely home based, with many houses having the facilities to press grapes. Trees bearing exotic fruits such as cherries and apricots are believed to have been planted here, having arrived from the Far East from the first century BC. Lemons were also grown here; the Romans continued the Hebrew tradition of using lemons to kill bacteria and thus fight infection. The stalls at the back of the garden were used to rear animals.
11
Garden of Fugitives

11) Garden of Fugitives

The many historical wonders of Pompeii tell us much about how people lived in this ancient city. One quiet corner amongst its maze of buildings gives a poignant insight into the disaster that destroyed this city overnight. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD is believed to have been one of the most catastrophic volcanic events of all time. It threw a deadly cloud of ash and stone up to 20 miles into the air, and ultimately released enough thermal energy to make a hundred thousand atomic bombs. Those unable to flee Pompeii, just a few miles from the volcano, were killed by lava flows that swept through the city. When the ash cloud fell to earth, it buried Pompeii, and an estimated 16,000 victims of the deadly eruption.

When they began excavating Pompeii in the 19th century, archaeologists began finding decomposed bodies of people and animals. By pouring plaster into air pockets left in the rubble, they were able to create casts of many victims. At the Garden of the Fugitives, an area thought to have been a small orchard, thirteen bodies were found, and their casts have been laid out as they were discovered. It is a poignant memorial to those that perished in the eruption that preserved the city for modern visitors. A woman can be seen holding her child, whilst others were clearly trying to protect themselves, in vain, from the deadly lava flow.
12
House of the Garden of Hercules

12) House of the Garden of Hercules

The House of the Garden of Hercules is built in the row house style, which was popular in the 3rd century BC. Many of the surrounding houses in Regio I and II, which occupy the southeastern corner of Pompeii, are built in the same style. The house is laid out in a long, narrow formation from the entrance, with bedrooms either side of the hallway, and an atrium at the back leading onto the garden. Like the nearby House of the Ship Europa, this building is known for its large garden. Created in the 1st century BC, it replaced as many as five similar ‘row house’ dwellings which once stood here.

Botanical analysts believe that the garden was used to grow herbs for the manufacture of fragrances and medicines. The house is often referred to as ‘the house of the perfumer’. Amongst the rows of herbs, there is a triclinium built into the garden’s east wall, which would have been used for dining outdoors. Next to it, there is an altar and aedicule dedicated to the worship of Hercules, the great mythical figure of Ancient Greece. A marble statue of Hercules was found next to the altar, giving the house and garden its name.

Walking Tours in Pompei, Italy

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Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
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