We visited Herculaneum today. What a place! Granted, it's not anything like Monaco, but it is something else!
Herculaneum was an ordinary working class village in 79AD when on August 18 Vesuvius started to blow. The people in the village ran to the arcade by the sea for shelter. They left their homes because massive tremors were shaking the floors, walls, roofs, fountains and streets. The arcade was the safe place to be. After 18 hours of major rock and roll, the earth stopped quaking. The villagers waited awhile then went to inspect the damage--and that's when Vesuvius exploded sending a pyroclastic flow of molten lava and ash upon the village. The people in the arcade were trapped and as the ash and lava fell, a surge of water from the bay inundated the arcade and no one survived. I posted a picture of the arcade, which is no longer on the water, but on the edge of a swamp (the water is at least a mile away).
What is left of Herculaneum is a snapshot of one day in the life and death of a village. The amphora are lined up in a row on a "mom and pop" store. Urns are waiting to be filled with wine and honey. The baths are tiled with mosaics welcoming the next visitor .
The homes are modest, but there is a condominium. There is also one house with a cross and altar implying there were Christians living here in 79 AD. (Rome was not Christian at the time.)
The masonry is covered with plaster and painted with frescos. The rooms are rectangular with tall ceilings but low doorways (the average Citizen was about 5 feet tall). The columns are made to look like marble but they are just plaster. The roads were crowned to help with drainage, and you can see ruts made by wagons and chariots 2000 years ago. There is little decoration left on-site as it has been housed in a museum downtown.
The mosaics were wonderful. They reminded me of the Roman mosaics we have seen in Romania, Delphi, Ostia Antica, even Albania. The craftsmanship needed to make the intricate designs probably cannot be repeated today. I especially liked the fireplace that I posted below.
There is so much more to write about Herculaneum and neighboring Pompeii but I'll close with the fact that Vesuvius can blow again!