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Pliny the Younger, the eye witness of the eruption of the Mount Vesuvius in 79AD

At the time of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79 the Roman fleet under the command of Pliny the Elder was stationed across the Bay of Naples at Misenum.

Pliny was a scientist, a historian and a naturalist and he felt the need to get closer to observe the phenomenon of the eruption.

He decided to land in Stabia, where lived his friend, but he died because of the toxic gases.

Miseno_Stabia

The route taken by Pliny the Elder from Miseno to Stabia during the eruption in 79AD

Pliny’s nephew, whom we know as Pliny the Younger, was with him at Misenum, but did not venture out on the ships with his uncle. He stayed back at Misenum and observed the events from there. He also received first-hand reports from those who had been with his uncle at his death. Based on this information Pliny the Younger wrote two letters to the historian Tacitus that recount the events surrounding the eruption of Vesuvius and the death of Pliny the Elder.

The letters survive and provide a vivid account of the events.

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The Theaters of Pompeii

The two centers of entertainment in Pompeii were the Amphitheater, located in the eastern part of the city, and the Theaters located further west, near Port Stabiana.

From the VI century BC. C. Greeks used  natural slopes were used to construct the stands. In Pompeii the neighborhood of the theaters included several important buildings.

The Teatro Grande is dated the second century BC. It has preserved its original appearance despite the constant remakes, including the restoration of the Augustan age. The scene that was originally with floors in imitation of the front of a building, was entirely rebuilt after the damage reported by the earthquake of 62 AD. C. In the Augustan era were built parodoi, side aisles covered access to the orchestra, gaining on them of the boxes (tribunalia) for guests of honor. One of parodoi is connected to a courtyard with a staircase leading to the Triangular Forum.

The cavea (tiers) is divided into three areas, that were said: ima reserved for senators, media to the guilds of the middle class, and summa for the populace.

This theater could accommodate about 5000 spectators, was restored during the Bourbon age and has, unfortunately, recently had a questionable vigorous action.

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The Odeion or Small Theatre, formed a homogeneous group with the Teatro Grande, it could accommodate about 500 spectators, was smaller then the previous and covered with a roof. Was used for musical auditions, although some recent speculations recognize it as a building for political meetings. The construction of the building around 80 BC was financed by the two magistrates C. Q. Valgus and M. Porcius. Even here there were tribunalia intended for privileged spectators, and the auditorium was divided into three sectors. The decorations were very elegant, it is shown by the marbled orchestra and the two stone telamons found on the steps.

theater map Pompeii

Map of the theater district

Teatro grande

The big Theater in Pompeii

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The Blue Grotto

The Blue Grotto, situated at Anacapri, was known locally as “Grotta Gràdola”, the name being taken from the neighbouring ancient landing place of “Gràdola” and “Gradelle”, popular because of its narrow access, and because of the legends about monsters and witches that dwelt in it.

The revelation of the “Blue Grotto” was thanks to two German tourists who visited Capri in 1826: Augustus Kopisch, a writer, and Ernst Fries, a painter; their chief merit was that of bestowing a new name: “Grotta Azzurra”.

The cave sank during a geological age 15-20 metres below the present sea level and thus blocked every opening through which light might enter directly, except the narrow breach of access with the result that both the cavity of the grotto and the sea basin that is enclosed in it acquired two different and magical colours, for, on one side the sunlight penetrating from below through a veil of sea water springs out and is reflected onto the sides and the vault of the grotto colored with azure; and on the other side, this light being reflected by the white sandy bottom of the grotto renders the water strangely opalescent so that any object that is bathed in it drips and vibrates with a silvery light.

The Blue Grotto

The Romans not only knew the Blue Grotto (in italian “Grotta Azzurra”), but had made it the object of particular investigations, though the type of their researches was obscure. At that time the conditions of the grotto were the same as they are today in the days of Augustus and Tiberius. And a careful study of the remains of Roman works inside the grotto and of the ancient structures on the outside, may assist us to understand what the “Blue Grotto” meant to the Romans.

Along the end wall facing the breach of access the Grotta presents a cavity; this cavity is accessible by a small landing step covered by Roman concrete work; while a square opening in the shape of a window which is accessible from a step evidently cut by human hands is opened in the wall of the rock just opposite the entrance.

The rocky landing step and the square opening seem to be made on purpose to permit people to land and to enjoy comfortably from the land the fascinatingly clear basin of azure. But this square hollows reaches deeper into the mountain becoming an increasingly winding and narrow cuniculus. The slabs of rock heaped at its sides suggest that the Romans opened this tunnel searching for spring water and abandoned it after a fruitless exploration.

Because of its position below the imposing “Villa di Damecuta” it is obvious to suppose that the Grotta was a “nymphaeum” that was accessible from the sea, and perhaps also from the land by a more secret road that has now crumbled.

the Blue Grotto

Tourist at the blue Grotto

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