|Mt. Vesuvius rains down ash on Pompeii.
The moral of the story is: don't build cities at the base of a volcano.
|Pompeii's Long Street lives up to its ancient name.
|A reconstruction image of
the temple of Apollo in the
|The Pompeii forum as it
appears today with two
remaining columns of the temple.
|The open-air atrium of a reconstructed villa. It's hard to see where preservation leaves off and reconstruction begins. Add a few Romans in togas, a little wine, and even the sculptures would seem to come to life.
|This frescoed still-life dates from around 70 BC.
Inside, the first impression coming to mind is that the movies got it right. If you recall interior scenes from films such as Spartacus, Cleopatra, Quo Vadis, or Ben-Hur, it's not hard to see them in the restorations evident within Pompeian villas. Though floor mosaics are impressive, most wall decoration was fresco (pigments applied to wet plaster). Some are remarkably well preserved, though it's difficult to tell preservation from restoration. Despite what Fontana may have encountered in 1599, not all Pompeian frescoes are erotic. In fact, the majority are not. Still, Fontana was not the last to rebury what he found based on a sense of prudish modesty. Archaeologists have since stumbled upon other erotic images exhibiting signs of having been reburied. And if not reburied, many have been locked away in so-called "secret cabinets" only to have been opened to the public, closed, and reopened at various times during the past hundred years depending upon the sexual mores of the times. Most such images are now open to the public, even to children accompanied by parents. (No, I'm not going to include such images here.)