-- Slide Lecture
Click links or pictures to go to larger images
Pliny, the Younger, described the cloud rising from Vesuvius that hot
day in 79 AD as looking like a pine tree. Although he didn't
the species name the description is clearly of the pine type in
picture which is known as pinus
or pinus pinea and commonly
in English the "Umbrella Pine". This one is in modern Ercolano
(Herculaneum) at the
foot of Vesuvius. Pliny's
description of the eruptive cloud: "...its general appearance can
best be expressed as being like a pine, for it rose to a great height
on a sort
of trunk and then split off into branches, I imagine because it was
upwards by the first blast and then left unsupported as the pressure
or else it was borne down by its own weight so that it spread out and
The picture shows modern Ercolano on
slope of Vesuvius. The excavations are circled. At the time
the 79 AD eruption the shore side of the excavations was the
After the eruption the accumulation of debris and volcanic fallout move
shoreline half a kilometer into the sea. The two darker areas
there is little building) are lava flows from the 1760-61
eruptions. Clearly, the one to the left cut the main road.
today worry that this same road is still the main evacuation route for
in the "red zone", which they believe will be hit by either effusive or
pyroclastic flows in any future eruption. Remember, the top
of the magma chamber is now thought to be 1.5 kilometers below
surface, and it is thought to contain over 300 cubic kilometers
magma. There are more than 1.5 million people in the
zone", and only a few tens of thousands have taken advantage of an
government buy-out designed to reduce the population of the zone.
An aerial view of the excavated area -- additional areas have been
by tunneling. The excavated area is very small compared to
(only a few square blocks = insulae),
but, still, think of the arduous task of removing all of that
rock. The debris that buried Pompeii had already cooled to the
that the particles would not fuse together (but were still hot enough
kill everyone instantly.) Herculaneum, at four kilometers
from the vent, was only one third the distance that Pompeii was, so the debris was correspondingly
-- hot enough to melt itself together and to fool generations of
who thought it had arrived as a relatively slow-moving mud-flow. For the first twelve hours of the eruption,
a fine dusting of ash fell on the town. Then the Plinian eruptive column -- the
of that "pine tree" collapsed, and the first pyroclastic surge/flow
rolled over Herculaneum about four minutes later. If you happened
be looking up hill -- and many people undoubtedly were -- you
see it coming but had little chance of escape. It's probable that
is when those who had gone down to the shoreline hoping to escape by
fled into the arched boat sheds where they were found more than 1900
The map shows the excavated are in yellow and areas reached by
in red. It is assumed that even larger areas have never been
unlike Pompeii, Herculaneum was resettled soon after the eruption and
been continuously occupied since. Initial exploration of the
was by tunneling -- by happenstance in the area of the theater and the
of the Papyri. Excavation (meaning removal of large areas of
overlay) began in earnest in the 19th century, and only very slowly has
land been acquired to continue digging. The current policy, as in
is to consolidate and preserve rather than to dig up additional
areas. The most controversial aspect of this policy concerns the
Villa of the Papyri
where document specialists want to look for the supposed (actually,
wished-for) Latin library.
The view is from the top of the sixty-foot-deep volcanic overlay down
the area that was the pre-79 AD waterfront. The arches are
to boat sheds -- where hundreds of sets of human remains have recently
found. The sheds are currently under active excavation and are
open to the public.
Not on the Bay of Naples, but rather the Cinque Terra much further up the
in Liguria -- included here as an indicator of the assumed Herculaneum
From literary and archeological sources, we believe that Herculaneum
more of a tourist and resort town than was Pompeii. The excavated
tunneled areas of Herculaneum were close to the shore, where the rich
lived and tourists partied, so they may give a skewed impression of the
of the community. Probably, like the Cinque Terra towns, Herculaneum had
neighborhoods a few blocks inland, where the locals lived.
Another coastal community where villas of the rich line the
This one is Malibu, California, where one of the best-preserved Roman
is still standing.
For many years, archeologists thought that the population of
Herculaneum had evaded the reaper and just got out of town before the
Peleean phase of
the 79 AD eruption began. In recent years, jumbles of their bones
been found at the back of those shore-line boat sheds. It's not
whether they were hiding as far away from the entrances as
or whether the force of the pyroclastic blast threw them to the back of
caves. We, of course, know that it's possible to survive such a
in a cave -- haven't we all seen Dante's
Peak and other hollywood eruptions?
At the ends of the excavated sections of Herculanese streets there is
a cut into the rock that ends with a locked iron grate or
In past years, it was possible to bribe your way past the gates (still
if you bribe high enough, both in terms of who and how much to bribe),
the general public kept out. The days are long gone when casual
had keys that could get you under ground. The real reason the
are closed is just the one the officials tell you: they have been
and are no longer safe. Some passages are flooded, some have
in, and, yes, poisonous volcanic gas still accumulates. Just as
as tourist numbers go up, it's harder to keep track of all of
Even if you find an open tunnel, it's really not a good idea to go
the tunnels are also haunted, according to local lore.
The tunnels to the theater are all closed, and there's no money to make
safe and open them again. But you can still see the theater, or
least a reasonable facsimile. King Stanislaus Poniatowski built a
of the theater on his palace grounds in Warsaw in the 18th century,
after the Herculaneum theater was explored. He made a few
the stage is on an island and the semi-circular cavea (seating) is on
while the orchestra is a flooded former bed of a branch of the Vistula
Stanislaus built his theater to look like the Herculaneum theater was
by the diggers, not as it looked before the eruption. The outdoor
Warsaw theater has a lively summer season and is now called either the
or the Chopin Theater in Lazienki Park.
A drawing of the tunnels into the Herculaneum Theater from the 18th
Alcubierre headed the tunneling effort, and his main goal was to find
for the palace of the King of Naples -- statues that are now in the
Archeological Museum in Naples.
Four public baths were discovered Herculaneum. Two are in
excavated area, one set is tunneled, and the fourth was refilled with
from additional tunneling. The two that are accessible are called
Urban Baths and the suburban baths. Because of its location, the
baths are better preserved. In this picture the entrance shrine
almost like a "holy water" font in a Christian church -- is
Romans entering the baths were expected to sprinkle themselves and the
in remembrance of the original ritual purpose attached to
The lower half of the picture is the calidarium or hot room.
The exterior of the Suburban baths is in surprisingly good
Unlike the Urban (or Forum) baths, the suburban baths did not have
sections for men and women. It's assumed that men and women came
different times or on different days. Later in the Roman imperial
mixed bathing became common, but there were occasional decrees against
The repetition of such decrees indicates that mixed bathing must have
Roman baths mostly faded away in the Western Empire after aqueducts
fed them were damaged by invaders and there was no longer enough local
to put them back into repair (but there are still some in use -- Tivoli
Rome for example). In the Eastern Empire they were
redecorated over the centuries and became "Turkish baths".
The Forum or Urban Baths had separate sections for men and women.
is the men's changing room -- a partitioned shelf along each side was
bathers' clothing was stacked. One of the shelves is missing, but
marks where it was hung are clearly visible. Public baths usually
late in the morning and stayed open until sunset, but if there was
demand, the would open earlier and stay open later at night, lit by oil
A resting area ("conversation pit"?) with a suitably watery
This one, in fact, is one of the better -- and therefore more famous --
mosaics to come from the Campania Region. There were better ones
Rome, but the best are in North Africa where Roman nobles built fine
villas and where imperial officials fattened on local corruption.
next image is North African Roman, for comparison.
The Tiger Mosaic from Roman Carthage is now in the Bardo Museum in
City, Tunisia. The Bardo, without question, has the best
of Roman mosaics, all local North African finds.
As mentioned above, many more buildings in Herculaneum seem to have
their upper floors. Various theories -- none of them certain --
been offered as to why this is so. Perhaps the terrain deflected
ground-hugging pyroclastic surges that did so much damage elsewhere, or
the buildings in Herculaneum were more structurally sound not having
burdened with the weight of the heavy ash fall, which landed on
or perhaps the buildings were just stronger to begin with. Some
say the pyroclastic flow just arrived so fast that the quick buildup
the buildings actually supported them. Whatever the cause,
Herculaneum, although much smaller than Pompeii, has yielded much more
upstairs life. Among other things found were sets of legal
in three of the upstairs rooms in the first row of houses on the right
of the picture, among them a case involving whether a person was
or slave and another pertaining to the application of a freedman to
the Augustales priesthood, those who maintained the temple of the
Roman water and sewerage works were usually quite sophisticated.
had rainwater drainage problems and therefore needed those famous
for crossing from one side of the street to the other -- the modern
are the raised wooden walkways used in Venice during "high
The absence of stepping stones in Herculaneum points to better
management. Sewers ran beneath the streets in Herculaneum, and
were drains along the curbs, much like those in the Washington DC
Fresh water delivery was through lead piped which were often embedded
concrete sidewalks. Examples of sewer and water delivery lines
shown in the picture.
The important buildings in the excavated area are all mapped out for
and all can be seen by a casual visitor in a few hours. The
exciting stuff is in tunnels which are off-limits. As with
much of Herculaneum's best art is in the National Archeological Museum
Every set of archeological pictures needs one of these shots with a
bough hanging over the top.
Like the houses in Pompeii, those in Herculaneum got their names mostly
what archeologists found inside. There was a lot of carbonized
to be found, and some of it was left intact when the treasure hunters
through. The major part of the real Herculaneum excavations --
earth removal rather than tunneling -- was done under the supervision
serious scholars while the royal treasure hunters were tunneling
for gold and statuary.
Examples of Herculaneum cabinetry. The piece on the right has
particular attention as a wished-for Christian shrine -- above it was
pretty much the only cross-shaped outline in the ruins. Never
that the cross was, until several centuries later, not used in
iconography -- it was considered a shameful and disgraceful
Christ was, in those early years, always shone with the iconographic
of Apollo, and, if we can believe the Gospels, he himself used some
imagery to describe himself. The "Light of the World" was Sol
or Apollo. In addition, the Christians had no monopoly of
even crucified saviors -- see http://altreligion.about.com/library/weekly/aa052902a.htm
for relevant non-Christian iconography and parallels. Like most
I think the cross-shaped outline is a place where a standard shelf
was attached over a dry sink, which is what the piece of wooden
Opus craticum was what we would call half-timbering, and it was done
same way from pre-roman times until the mid 20th century when the look
kept but the process was abandoned. In opus craticum a wood frame
built and then laths or sticks were strung between the framing
Stucco (plaster) was applied to both sides of the lath, and then
The Romans had some really good hydraulic plasters for water-proofing,
little better than mud was used most of the time for opus
What's remarkable here is not the work but that the flimsy and shoddy
survived the eruption. There may have been a lot more of this
around in the upper floors of ancient Roman buildings, but little
survived except this carbonized example. Most of what you see at
the site is
19th and 20th century reconstruction.
The Mosaic atrium house got its name from the complex geometric mosaics
the atrium and connecting rooms, but the most remarkable feature of the
not recognized until the other name was attached to it, was the glass
verandah. If anyone ever asks if the Romans had glass windows,
is the showpiece. Big wooden frames held big panes of
The glass, of course, did not survive intact, but most of the frames
still there as charcoal. They carbonized frames are now mostly
in plastic for protection against the elements.
The same veranda in an isometric drawing showing drainage channels that
water from the windows to the ground-level garden outside. It was
a remarkable piece of work and the only thing of its kind to survive
the Roman world or anywhere else around the Mediterranean of that
The mosaics are extensive, well designed, and well executed. most
the ensemble is in very good condition although right around the
in the center of the atrium the floor is badly warped.
Herculaneum, at least the part that has been explored or excavated, has
much more open pattern than Pompeii. It appears to have been a
town rather than one that grew haphazardly like Pompeii on uneven
There were fewer buildings per block (insula) and less mixing of
commercial, and industrial space use. This may, however, be a
of which section of Herculaneum has been explored -- blocks further
from the sea front may be more mixed. From all appearances,
Herculaneum was really just a resort for the rich (as it was described
contemporary sources) with just enough commercial activity -- corner
etc. -- to keep the resident nabobs happy. Think of the resort
towns on the barrier islands on the US Atlantic coast -- without the
but with the occasional volcanic interruption
The House of the Deer (Casa dei Cervi) was so named for a statue in the
The exterior, is it is today is unremarkable, but it was a very
house with two separate courtyard gardens and, of course, its
statuary -- especially the deer.
An inlaid marble floor also distinguishes the Casa dei Cervi. The
known in Latin as opus sectile
meaning, "sectored" work) is here executed in what has always been on
the most expensive and rare marbles, now known as giallo antico or "antique yellow".
The eponymous deer being attacked by a hunting pack. Neither the
nor the background statue are originals -- they are both in
The background statue is Hercules with his club and lion skin thrown
his shoulder. He's gotten old and fat -- I can sympathize.
he's relieving himself in public -- I haven't gotten there yet.
The Bicentenary house is so-called because excavation reached a "naming
on the 200th anniversary of the start of excavation in Herculaneum --
date in 1738 that the archeologists and ideologues wanted to publicize
1938. Its most remarkable find was a still workable folding
partition. The carbonized original was too fragile to be left on
site, so what you see now is a black painted replica.
Considered to be the oldest "big" (i.e., rich) house in the town, the
House certainly dates from the pre-Roman Oscan/Samnite period of the
(the Samnites were part of the Oscan language group, or the other way
depending on which linguist tells you the story.) It has a
atrium that is very ornate. Atrium houses, which became the
for big Roman houses in cities (the Roman "Domus") appear to have
with the Samnites: at least the earliest known examples are
and existed well before the Romans were rich enough to build such big
buildings. Interestingly, when the Romans did start to build and
decorate this way,
moralists objected that it was wasteful and inconsistent with Roman
The Cato's -- Elder and Younger -- railed against extravagance as did
in several speeches ab out too conspicuous consumption. We are (I
still waiting for the first Roman atrium house in Arlington. I'd
it if I had the money.
The Samnite atrium that gave the house its name, looking toward the
The Neptune-Amphitrite house got its name from this mosaic.
scholarship classifies Pompeian and Herculanese houses by their size
by their artwork. Big and more fully decorated houses are, of
deemed the richest and trendiest. The last big trend before the
that buried the area was the addition of big mythological subjects,
mosaics were infinitely more "in" than frescoes. This mosaic
the house's owner as a social lion -- maybe even the head of the
It is part of a larger ensemble pictured below.
The same mosaic seen in its place. The arched feature with
two rectangular side niches was a nymphaeum
-- a tres chic "water
Both the mythological mosaic and the mosaic nymphaeum decorated an outdoor triclinium or dining area where
reclined on slanted (padded) lounges to eat. The usually reclined
hence the "tri" in triclinium.
Whoever ate here clearly had the towns highest-class host.
One month before the eruption of 79 AD Titus visited Herculaneum and
to renew the Imperial cult in the name of his recently deceased father,
He would have visited this building, which was the headquarters and
place of the Augustales -- Priests of the Augustan cult. This
not the temple of the cult, but it, naturally, had an Augustan
A new statue of Vespasian would have been on the pedestal and new coins
to the deified deceased emperor would have been distributed.
This was, after all, Herculaneum, a town dedicated to and supposedly
by Hercules, a demi-god and hero. The two sides of the Augustan
in the Hall of the Augustales were decorated with Hercules, Juno, and
on one side and Hercules with his club and lion skin on the
also has a fine opus sectile
The most sumptuous villa on the fringe
town -- at least so far discovered -- is called the Villa dei Papiri or
Villa of the Papyri. It is thought to have belonged the Calpurnii, the family of
father-in-law of Julius Caesar. Lucius Calpurnius
was the father of Calpurnia, she who was spurned when he took up with
That's another long story for a different time and place. At any
the alternate name of the house is Villa Pisonis (or Pisonensis).
was well known to have indulged and endowed a previously itinerant
philosopher named Philodemus and was reputed to have the best private
in the Campania if not in the Roman world. When, in 1778, workers
upon thousands of carbonized scrolls, many of which when finally
turned out to be Philodemian commentaries on stoicism, it was easy to
the Villa as Piso's -- it helped that written sources had said he had
digs in the area.
Tunneling in, around and through the Vill was extensive (but not
-- see below.) The building itself was most impressive and there
all those scrolls and then hundreds of bronze and marble sculptures --
evidence that it was Piso's villa as he was an avid and very wealthy
The image show an overall plan and a magnification of the main Villa
without the belvedere on the next rise.) Look closely and you can
the outlines of the tunnels. There was certainly enough tunneling
get a very good architectural outline of the structures and to
the decorations which graced it. Only in the last few years has
partial real excavation begun.
In the 20th century, another rich collector, oil billionaire J. Paul
decided that the Villa of the Papyri just had to be duplicated.
it as a residence in 1971 but died before he could move in, leaving
a cool $2 billion as an endowment, making it the richest museum in the
It was closed for several years -- first for renovations and then by a
by neighbors. The Getty Trust won the lawsuit and the museum
half -- the other campus is in Los Angeles) re-opened in February
2006. The picture is of a model, which does not show new
Slightly out of sequence, here are some of the scrolls that gave the
its name. Below are pictures of the Getty Malibu Museum -- no
was spared to make it as accurate a replica as possible.
The large pool: a smaller one is in an inside courtyard. Bronze statues
cast from the originals and marble sculpture are point-for-point copies
the Roman marbles (which, of course, were point for point copies of
bronzes. They are all over the villa in great profusion.
One of the porticoes of Getty Malibu in the "First Style" of Pompeii --
panels simulating marble. There were three succeeding styles -- or
said, additional styles. They were all eventually used
in different rooms of the same big houses and the first three had
to lower societal levels by the time of the 79 AD eruption.
Real marble used as it was in the Villa of the Papyri.
The "Room of the Tholos Wall" is a copy of a Third Style room in the
of the Papyri. The tholos is the round structure on the wall to
left. All the architectural decorations, including those around
doorway, are painted on the walls: That's what Third Style mainly
The "Five Dancing Women" statues from the Villa of the Papyri are
not dancing, although the first one on the left does seem to be holding
figure from a anachronistic Neapolitan Tarantella. They are now
the National Archeological Museum in Naples and copies are in both the
site museum and in the Malibu Getty. Recent studies of the
indicates that these most famous of the Villa dei Papiri sculptures are
made and even composed from stock molds. ("Composed" sets of
use molds to repeat the same hands, arms, clothing pieces, faces, etc.,
"lost wax" from which the mold for each sculpture is made.
on these statues show too much in common not to be composed.)
The Papyri are extremely fragile and once unrolled -- an arduous
using complicated machines based on a very old model (see
they are extremely difficult to read. Think black on black or
on brown. Most inks of the day were based on black carbon and
scrolls are carbonized. The fluid that carried the carbon-black
usually slightly acid, so there are traces of acid damage that can be
with, as long as the acid did not eat all the way through and into the
layer. New processes based on NASA imaging of planetary and other
has helped. The main NASA process is called multi-spectral
In its simplest and oldest form, light of different colors was filtered
and only certain wavelengths reached the films. When recombined
and manipulated, details of surfaces, planetary or documentary, could
up. Newer imaging methods involving electronic light filters and
have made it possible to work with many more frequencies, and computers have made manipulation of the
easier. Some of this can be done with off-the-shelf computer
and even more with proprietary programs. Brigham Young University
a big player in the effort to read the Papyri from the Villa dei
as is UCLA which is involved in the Philodemus Project (see http://www.humnet.ucla.edu/humnet/classics/philodemus/philhome.htm).
Attempts to use computerized tomography to read scrolls that are still
rolled are still in the experimental stage.
What multi-spectral photography can
Much more is available at the two web sites given with the previous
The Villa of the Papyri was also the source of the largest trove
ancient bronze statuary -- scores of life-size and larger full-scale
statues, busts, and herms. There were at least four bronze
foundries around the Bay of Naples in ancient times, and some patterns
were reproduced extensively. It appears that, in addition to
making replicas, they also turned out fakes of "original" Greek bronze
work, replete wit missing limbs, age marks, and other "flaws" designed
to fool unsuspecting buyers. Even such sophisticates as Piso, the
probable owner of the Villa of the Papyri, (or his heirs) could be fooled. At
least one of his bronze busts, the "Archaeistic Apollo", was a fake.
The fake "Archaeistic Apollo" (or perhaps just a kouros -- a young man)
was acquired by Piso or his heirs. The "wear and tear" at the
bottom of the left shoulder -- the uneven edge and "corrosion" -- and
similar flaws and drip marks on the back were all molded in at the time
of its manufacture. It is called "archaeistic" because it
was manufactured to look like a truly old, i.e., "archaic", piece of
The "pseudo-Seneca" bust was once thought to be Seneca, who had been
Nero's tutor. When it was first mounted in the Naples
Archeological Museum it was leaned forward as seen in the
picture. Some modern "authorities" say it should show a man with
his head thrown back, perhaps in laughter.
An unidentified old man with shaven head.
A closer view of the same bust, to show details -- the eye is ivory
with a glass pupil. Note also the individual hairs of the eyebrows,
which would have been carved by hand into the wax original, the
crows-foot at the corner of the eye, and the individual hair follicles
picked out on the scalp. The highlighted scratches on the
forehead are later additions -- part of the process of making molds in
the 18th or 19th century for making bronze and plaster copies.
Bronze bust of a young man with twisted "dreadlocks". The
locks were made separately and welded to the head.
One of two larger-than-life bronze runners found in the villa.
The image was popular all over the Empire.
Bronze seated or resting athlete
The "dancers" are not really dancing: this one is fastening her
garment at the shoulder. The bronze work of is not up to Piso's
normal standard -- maybe purchased by a less cultured descendant?
Piso also collected marble sculptures -- at least 80 have been
excavated. This one is sometimes identified as Piso, but for no
Athena spreads her protective mantel. This is sometimes
incorrectly identified as a copy of the Athena Promachos, a colossal
foot tall) bronze statue sculpted by Pheidias in 450 BC -- no proven
copy is known to exist. It is, however, a generic Athena
Promachos (Athena "a front-line fighter") in a characteristic pose with
a thrusting spear (missing) and her left arm and her mantel extended
protectively. Written sources and coin images of the Pheidian
colossus sometimes show her without the mantel and with a shield
resting against he right leg. Athena Promachos images were very
common and varied considerably. The imagery of Athena Promachos
Pheidias, and even then it was current in various forms. The
statue by Pheidias was transported to Constantinople in the late 5th
century AD and was destroyed there
in 1203 by a superstitious mob,
who believed that Athena was beckoning the Crusaders to enter the
city. The destruction of the colossus did not deter the
Crusaders, who sacked the city anyway the next year.
The basilica in the Herculaneum forum was leveled by the earthquake of
62 AD, and was rapidly reconstructed by a local politician (a
Marcus Nonius Balbus. Balbus then decorated the Basilica with
marble portrait statues of his family and of the labors of
Hercules. He erected equestrian statues of himself and his
son out front. The image is of Balbus Minor (the son) and is now
in the Naples archeological museum. Statues such as this would
have been painted in naturalistic colors. Paint was, in fact,
recorded on many of the statues from the basilica when they were
discovered in the late 18th century -- Alcubierre's tunnels had reached
the Basilica in 1739, but it took many years to extract the statuary
and some remarkable frescoes. Unfortunately, the paint was washed
off during the cleaning process prior to their display of the
sculptures in the National Archeological Museum in Naples. Only
recently was a head of a statue recovered which still had visible
paint. The story of the Amazon's head (identifiable by its swept
back hairstyle) hit the world media at the end of March 2006.
The recently found polychrome Amazon's head. It was separated
from the rest of the statue during the 79 AD eruption and found in the
talus at the base of a collapsed escarpment. The Amazon may
have been associated with the story the ninth of the twelve "Labors" of
Hercules, in which he has to retrieve the belt of Hippolyte, the Amazon
Several extraordinary frescoes were recovered from the Herculaneum
basilica and mounted in the Naples National Archeological Museum.
These two show (1) Hercules recognizing Telephus, his bastard son, in
presence of Arcadia (Telephus is the child being suckled by a roe deer
in the lower left of the fresco) and (2) Chiron, the wise centaur and the only immortal centaur, teaching the youthful Apollo how to play
the lyre. Chiron taught several Greek gods and heroes including
Apollo, Achilles, Aesclepius, Acteon, and Hercules. Chiron,
an innocent bystander, was accidentally wounded in the knee by an arrow
shot by Hercules, during a fight with other Centaurs over a jar of
wine. Chiron's wound would not heal -- the arrow had been dipped
in the blood of the monster, Hydra -- and, because of his immortality,
he live on in terrible pain. To gain relief, he eventually
traded his immortality for the release of his friend, Prometheus.