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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Pompeii: A City Of Death Lives On

Amid the hardened ash and pumice of a two-thousand year old disaster lies a city so perfectly preserved, it sparks the imagination of even the most indifferent visitor. Pompeii has become more of a living museum than an excavation site since its discovery in the 1700s. Millions flock to the ancient Italian city to explore this pristine time capsule that has taken over 250 years to be slowly and delicately uncovered.

It takes at least one full day to be able to truly take in all of Pompeii’s many intricate discoveries. Walk the stone streets where only the wind and birds now reside, wondering how much more of the town’s secrets await resurrection. Take in the magnificent beauty of elaborate mosaics and colorful frescoes that have weathered such utter circumstances. Marvel at the citizens’ names that will live on forever in the clinging paint on their homes. Imagine the marble splendor of the mighty Temple of Apollo and the other religious
icons of the day. Ponder what it would have been like to live in this flourishing city that was at its zenith when Vesuvius began to grumble its ominous warning.

The excavation of Pompeii has been nothing short of astonishing. Such care has been taken since the beginning of its unearthing that we are able to see a clear snapshot of the city on its last fateful day in AD 79. Simple terra cotta containers for oil and wine, giant millstones, iron farm tools, and decorative columns have been protected for 2,000 years in a heavy blanket of ash and serve as witnesses to everyday life.

The most shocking is the presence of Vesuvius’ victims. As the digging began, empty cavities were found among the layers of volcanic debris. Archeologists soon realized that each void was actually where a body had long since decomposed. Plaster was poured into the empty spaces to create molds of the bodies, which are chillingly detailed – their writhing agony during a suffocating death, the
terror on their faces, even the way their hair was styled that day are frozen forever in the casts. Some were found fleeing for their lives while others were found curled up on floors and beds with their hands covering their faces. One cast depicts a thief with his hand in the purse of a wealthy man who is seemingly unaware of the looting while trying to escape the catastrophe. Another cast portrays a frightened dog fruitlessly fighting against the chain that held him captive. Each plaster mold projects such an intense emotion that visitors are sometimes moved to tears at the profound loss of life that Pompeii exhibits.

Despite its constant reminder of death and destruction, Pompeii proves that life continues to overcome obstacles as the vines and blossoms thrive among the silent ruins. A sleeping Vesuvius remains as a visual remembrance that life is precious and the unexpected could happen at any moment.



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