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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.


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 walls of Pompeii: the inscriptions and the graffiti

The walls of the houses in Pompeii are frequently covered with inscriptions: these are electoral propaganda messages that urge the citizens to vote for one or other of the candidates. At times an entire category of workers (goldsmiths, marble-cutters, bakers) holds the candidacy.

At other times an aspiring magistrate puts himself forward to the people for a particular organization. They are written in red or in black and for the most part in capital letters. The professional scribes who also dealt with official communications, the sentences of the tribunal, the buying and selling of slaves and public decisions executed them.

There are around 3000 electoral inscriptions in Pompeii.

It would have been the Roman equivalent of posting a Facebook message, hiring an advertising hoarding or sticking a campaign poster in a front window.

For example in Via Consolare, the plasterwork features an exhortation to vote for two candidates for aedile, M. Cerrinius Vatia and A. Trebius Valente. We come across the latter, who was elected in 71 A.D., again in 75 A.D. as candidate for the duumvirate. Other similar electoral messages with the same two candidates’ names were found along Via del Foro.



Paid advertising Roman style


The graffiti are the messages which were made by scratching on the walls of the houses: these relate to the most disparate subjects and tint an extremely vivid and frank picture of contemporary social life: they include jokes, comments on a particular person or event, caricatures of famous people, reflections on love, as well as appreciative remarks about a beautiful woman or the pleasure experienced in the privacy of one of the rooms in the brothel. In addition there are several which are concerned with the buying and selling of materials or livestock and the calculation of merchandise. Many refer to the entertainments on offer in the city or are in praise of the champions put to the test in the gladiatorial games.


In the past fifteen years, the graffiti of the brothel called Lupanare, at few steps from the Forum, have entered the scholarly arena, usually as part of works devoted to surveying or analysing erotic graffiti at Pompeii. For example, some of the brothel’s sexual graffiti were treated by Antonio Varone’s Erotica pompeiana: Iscrizioni d’amore sui muri di Pompei (1994; translated into English in 2002 as Erotica pompeiana: Love Inscriptions on the Walls of Pompeii). Varone surveys a wide range of erotic and love graffiti from all over Pompeii, grouping them into motifs like “Preghiere d’amore” and “L’arma d’amore.”

Pompeii Graffiti

Graffiti on the west wall that mentions the market held at Pompeii, Nuceria, Atella, Nola, Cumae, Puteoli, Rome and Capua


Varone analyzes the status and sexual practices of the individuals in the brothel through close reading of its graffiti, demonstrating the potential gains of a contextual or locus-specific approach. The graffiti are more than just records of sexual liaisons or advertisements of the services of prostitutes; they represent an interactive discourse concerning masculinity. Clients and prostitutes could and did add their thoughts to the corpus over time, which encouraged multiple viewings. In addition, even illiterate viewers could be exposed to the graffiti through someone else’s recitation.


Graffiti preserved in Pompeii covers all sorts of sentiments, from wishing friends well to the bawdiest of observations.

Pompeii graffiti






“Sarra, you are not being very nice, leaving me all alone like this”

(in the Basilica)


“O walls, you have held up so much tedious graffiti that I am amazed that you have not already collapsed in ruin.”

(in the Basilica)


“At Nuceria, look for Novellia Primigenia near the Roman gate in the prostitute’s district”.

(near the rear entrance vestibule of the House of Menander)


Satura was here on September 3rd

exterior of the House of Menander)


“Secundus says hello to his Prima, wherever she is.  I ask, my mistress, that you love me”

(House and Office of Volusius Iuvencus; left of the door);


“Floronius, privileged soldier of the 7th legion, was here.  The women did not know of his presence.  Only six women came to know, too few for such a stallion”

(gladiator barracks)


“Antiochus hung out here with his girlfriend Cithera”

(gladiator barracks)


“Let water wash your feet clean and a slave wipe them dry; let a cloth cover the couch; take care of our linens”

(House of the Moralist)


“To the one defecating here.  Beware of the curse.  If you look down on this curse, may you have an angry Jupiter for an enemy”

(House of Pascius Hermes; left of the door)


“Sabinus says a fond hello to Statius.  Traveler, you eat bread in Pompeii but you go to Nuceria to drink.  At Nuceria, the drinking is better

(exterior of a small house of Gaius)


“Daphnus was here with his Felicla”

(House of Valerius Flaccus and Valerius Rufinus; right of the door)


“Whoever loves, let him flourish.  Let him perish who knows not love.  Let him perish twice over whoever forbids love”

(House of Caecilius Iucundus)


“Celadus the Thracian gladiator is the delight of all the girls”

(barracks of the Julian-Claudian gladiators; column in the peristyle)


The city block of the Arrii Pollii in the possession of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius is available to rent from July 1st.  There are shops on the first floor, upper stories, high-class rooms and a house.  A person interested in renting this property should contact Primus, the slave of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius”.

(House of the Olii, Via Consolare)


 “On April 20th, I gave a cloak to be washed.  On May 7th, a headband.  On May 8th, two tunics”

(on the Vico del Labirinto)


“Cruel Lalagus, why do you not love me?”

(vico degli Scienziati)


“Whoever wants to serve themselves can go on a drink from the sea”

(Bar of Salvius; over a picture of a woman carrying a pitcher of wine and a drinking goblet)


“If anyone does not believe in Venus, they should gaze at my girl friend”

(atrium of the House of Pinarius)


 “May Love burn in some lonely mountains whoever wants to rape my girl friend!”

(Brothel of Venus; on the Vico dei Soprastanti opposite the Vicolo del Gallo)


 “I screwed a lot of girls here”.

(the Lupanare brothel)


Vibius Restitutus slept here alone and missed his darling Urbana”

(Vico d’Eumachia, small room of a possible brothel)


“A copper pot went missing from my shop.  Anyone who returns it to me will be given 65 bronze coins (sestertii).  20 more will be given for information leading to the capture of the thief”

(Street of the Theaters)


“Phileros is a eunuch!”

(in the Basilica)


“If you are able, but not willing, why do you put off our joy and kindle hope and tell me always to come back tomorrow.  So, force me to die since you force me to live without you.  Your gift will be to stop torturing me.  Certainly, hope returns to the lover what it has once snatched away”

(in the Basilica)


“Gaius Pumidius Dipilus was here on October 3rd 78 BC.”

(in the Basilica)


“Love dictates to me as I write and Cupid shows me the way, but may I die if god should wish me to go on without you”.

(in the Basilica)


“Ampliatus Pedania is a thief!”

(House of Curvius Marcellus and Fabia; in the tablinum)


“If you felt the fires of love, mule-driver, you would make more haste to see Venus.  I love a charming boy; I ask you, goad the mules; let’s go.  Take me to Pompeii, where love is sweet.  You are mine”

(House of Poppaeus Sabinus; peristyle)



Romani walk Italy 2014 – Capua to Rome

The three English historical books writers Ben Kane, Anthony Riches, and Russell Whitfield the last week walked all the way from the Amphitheatre of Capua to Rome dressed in Legionaries kit. The purpose of the 7 days walk was to raise money for the charity associations Medicines san Frontiers and Combat Stress. The three boys have always been in high spirit despite of horrible blisters, some muscular injuries and a frequent rain. I’m honoured to have participated at the venture assisting and guiding the walkers 8 entire days between Pompeii and Rome, being always along side them, just comfortably sitting in a minivan.

Make your donation now: http://m.virginmoneygiving.com/mt/uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=RomaniWalk2014&isTeam=true&un_jtt_redirect







Pompeii in 3 D – Film

Pompeii 3 D - Film

Pompeii 3 D – Film

Pompeii (referred to by marketing as Pompeii in 3D) is an upcoming American disaster-adventure film co-written, produced and directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, the film starsKit HaringtonEmily BrowningCarrie-Anne MossAdewale Akinnuoye-AgbajeJessica Lucas, with Jared Harris, and Kiefer Sutherland.




The silver of the House of Menander at Pompeii

A real treasure! The objects displayed in the pictures are the silver found in December of 1930 in the House of Menander, in the double floor of the baths where they had been hidden almost 20 centuries before.  The set is composed of 118 objects including bowls, cups and drinking jugs  (argentum potorium), dishes and trays to eat (argentum escarium), spoons, ladles, salt shakers and other objects including two stunning mirrors.

the silver of the house of Menander

The set having a total weight of about 24 kilograms, was kept in the bottom of a wooden coffin wrapped in a blanket; in the upper part were kept  the family jewels and a bag of golden and silver coins, the silver set was in the bottom.

Some of drinking cups with depicted birds document the best gold production of the late republican and early imperial age.

Menander tresure

The objects are decorated with embossed motifs, there are  landscapes, mythological scenes such as  the representation of the 12 labors of Hercules, scenes from the myth of Dionysus,  chariot races and olive trees branches.


The pottery is composed of a set of dishes, plates, cups and bowls, egg cups and a large plate that was used to bring food to the table. A small tray  with a gold emblem in the center  is supposed it was exposed on the table.

The entire set is currently preserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.

Cape Misenum, the Rome foremost military port


According to the mythology Misenum was named after Misenus, a companion of Hector and trumpeter on the Aeneas ship as recounted in Virgil’s poem.

Cape Miseno is the headland that marks the northwestern limit of the Gulf of Naples as well as the Bay of Pozzuoli in southern Italy. The cape is directly across from the island of Procida and is named for Misenus, a character in Virgil’s Aeneid.

Misenum was the largest base of the Roman navy, since its port (Portus Julius) was the base of the Classis Misenensis, the most important Roman fleet. It was first established as a naval base in 27 BC by Marcus Agrippa, the right-hand man of the emperor Augustus.

In 38 BC, Misenum was the site where a short-lived pact was made between Octavian and his rival Sextus Pompeius.

With its gorgeous natural setting close to the naval base and the nearby important Roman cities of Puteoli and Neapolis, Misenum became the site of Roman luxury villas.

Pliny the Elder was the praefectus classis in charge of the naval fleet at Misenum in AD 79, at the time of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius visible to the south across the Bay of Naples.

Seeing the beginnings of the eruption, Pliny left for a closer view in Stabia and to effect a possible rescue, and was killed by the eruption.

The account of his death is given by his nephew Pliny the Younger, who was also resident in Misenum at the time.



The Pliny’s route

In Miseno there is the biggest Roman cistern  of drinkable water ever built called Piscina Mirabilis, realized during the Augustan period. Entirely excavated in the tufa rock, it has a capacity of 12.000 cubic meter of water, it’s 15 meters high, 72 m long and 25 m wide and it is covered by a vault, supported by 48 enormous cruciform pillars to form five long naves. The cistern was built to collect water for the fleet of the Roman Empire that docked in Miseno’s harbour.

It represented the final tank of the Augustan aqueduct (Aqua Augusta) that, from its springs in Serino and for 100 kilometers, brought water to Naples and the Phlegrean Fields.

piscina mirabilis

Piscina Mirabilis at Miseno


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