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Herculaneum

All photographs by William E. Evans unless otherwise noted.

Neptune and Amphitrite - mosaic from Herculaneum

Neptune and Amphitrite - mosaic from Herculaneum

Detail of mosaic tiles from “Neptune and Amphitrite” above

Detail of mosaic tiles from “Neptune and Amphitrite” above

Herculaneum

I found the brochure from when we visited Herculaneum during our Italian adventure last April. Stacked with other quasi-serious stuff. Herculaneum we could tour in a day! We took a train around the Gulf of Naples from Sorrento to the burbs of Naples–Ercolano was what the train tickets said. The train ride was interesting–old train cars and cast-in-place concrete stations adorned with year of graffiti, people boarding and leaving like they knew the environs as well as we do our own, it’s all such good entertainment. If you stay inconspicuous, you get to watch the parade.


Though the town possibly predates the Etruscans, according to the guidebook, Herculaneum was known in Roman times as a beach resort near Pompeii. Sadly from that same time when Vesuvius went and lost it in 79 AD.

Once landed in Ercolano, we trudged the Via IV Novembre downhill from the train station in the hot sun. The street is on axis with the Parco Acheologico’s entrance announced by a not so distinguished triumphant arch. According to our brochure, only 4 ½ hectares (11+ acres) have been excavated of the estimated 20 hectares, the rest. First buried under Vesuvius’ pyroclastic flows, it was built over by later resettlement. Seen from the Google sky map, Vesuvius appears as an enormous pustule, still unresolved these several thousand years later.

Barrel Arches from above - with a sense of how deep the ruined city was buried.

Barrel Arches from above - with a sense of how deep the ruined city was buried.

The Herculaneum archeology park is entered from the north, but you’re led paralleling the excavations on a raised pedestrian way to approach the first ruins from the south, nearest the sea (now 400 meters further out, presumably from the lava flow). This initial pedestrian way parallels the Roman gymnasium, still largely unexcavated beneath it.

The first ruins we encountered were the so-called Barrel Arches built at the base of two terraces.[1] Described as warehouses or boathouses, they are a series of twelve brick-arched ‘cells’ built beside the beach of that time, discovered in the early 1980s. These were where some fled the volcanic eruption, probably seeking the protection of the sea. They huddled in these niches (at least that’s what they look like today) praying to their pantheon, and whatever overtakes a body in peril.

ZUR_1938.Herculaneum1.jpg

Nearly two thousand years ago, this many histories and societies later, yet I winced as I took the shots. And hoped that their last minutes were of family, love and regret. About the only things any get to take with us. Life is good–that’s my mantra. I’m grateful I’ve witnessed a bit of it–the good and bad–not the ugly. To hell with the ugly.

[1] Ara di Marco Nonio Balbo and Ara Sacred are the two main terraces above the Barrel Arches.

Nymphaeum in the house of Neptune and Aphrodite

Nymphaeum in the house of Neptune and Aphrodite

In the house named ‘House of the Neptune Mosaic’, the nymphaeum ‘grotto’ was to celebrate nymphs and other household dieties. The Neptune and Aphrodite mosaic above is to the right of this photograph.

 
 
Courtyard sculpture

Courtyard sculpture

 
Fresco detail of Cupid

Fresco detail of Cupid

 
Ducks reflected on water

Ducks reflected on water

Bas-relief plaque in ‘   House of Telefus Relief   ’

Bas-relief plaque in ‘House of Telefus Relief

“On the south wall of the atrium is a copy of a neo-Attic relief depicting an episode from the myth of Telephus. The relief, which was found in an oecus off the peristyle, depicts Achilles in the presence of his mother Thetis, then treating the wound of the Mysian king, Telephus in return for the king showing the Achaeans the way to Troy.” description taken from the Google link in the photo’s caption above.

Courtyard of ‘House of Telefus Relief

Courtyard of ‘House of Telefus Relief

Fresco remnant with underlying sketch

Fresco remnant with underlying sketch

Fresco remnant with underlying sketch

Fresco remnant with underlying sketch

From the street past the atrium fountain.

From the street past the atrium fountain.

 
Doors in enfilade

Doors in enfilade

House of Argus - Remains of a courtyard

House of Argus - Remains of a courtyard

Above Herculaneum lies the current town of Ercolano not so many feet higher than this courtyard.

Along Cardo III

Along Cardo III

The column capitals were once Corinthian judging from what was left, but the columns themselves were pure brick - curved bricks, yeah they did that two thousand years ago.

Phantom of a folly

Phantom of a folly

Coming home

Coming home

Wall in light

Wall in light

Wall of Gifts

Wall of Gifts