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An archaeological English-speaking guide at your disposal for 2 hours
ENTRANCE FEES ARE NOT INCLUDED
Meeting with the your guide by the ticket office of Herculaneum ruins for a private 2-hour guided tour of this ancient town destroyed, with Pompeii, during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on August 24th, 79AD.
Founded in the archaic period by an indigenous population, the city of Herculaneum was later influenced by the Samnites, Greeks and Etruscans, until the dominant Roman presence, whose civilization is today testified by the exceptional state of preservation of this city.
Located on a volcanic plateau , overlooking the sea, Herculaneum, like other Vesuvian cities, was covered by pyroclastic flow of the Vesuvius’ eruption in 79 AD which, once deposited on the city, buried it up to a thickness of twenty-three meters.
The residents of Herculaneum were totally unprepared for what was about to happen. They did not understand that the significant rises and falls of the sea level on the city’s shoreline over the years before the eruption were the result of magma building up deep beneath Mount Vesuvius. During the first day of the eruption, only a few centimetres of ash fell on Herculaneum, and so many people were able to evacuate. But much worse was to come. Once the mud had settled, Herculaneum lay buried 25 metres underground. Like Pompeii, Herculaneum has yielded great treasures too. About a third of the town has been excavated, and as recently as the 1980s and 1990s, the skeletons of hundreds of bodies were discovered where they had sheltered on the ancient shoreline.
The city was rediscovered by chance by the Austrian prince d’Elboeuf who found the ancient theatre of Herculaneum; but officially the excavations started in 1738 and conducted by the Bourbons. What remains of the ancient Bourbon tunnels testifies a technique of excavation , parallel tunnel, outdated but still very impressive to watch.
The excavations offer visitors the opportunity to observe the urban fabric, the distribution of the houses, some of which are located in scenic location in front the sea, the magnificent Spa complex, the sumptuous Gym and the monumental Basilica .
The perfect state of preservation of wood (e.g. a baby’s cot, hand loom, doors, shutters, screw press of a laundry), bronze and especially the parts of the elevations of the houses , gives a complete picture of both the residential construction, which it allows us to reconstruct the daily life and the way of living , and the various styles of the Roman frescos.
A special mention deserves the Villa of the Papyri , discovered accidentally in April 1750 while digging a well in Via Cecere: this villa is one of the most impressive examples of architecture in Herculaneum before the eruption of 79 AD.
After the discover of a semicircular veranda with a magnificent inlaid marble floor, they found a peristyle with sixty-four columns surrounding a rectangular pool. The pool engineer Karl Weber, who, for more than ten years took care of the work, found a real collection of masterpieces, objects and sculptures in bronze and marble which are now kept in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, in a large room dedicated exclusively to the findings of the Villa of the Papyri .
The Bourbon excavations , carried out through the tunnels , after reaching the second peristyle and the central body of the villa, entered the east side of the building in a small room where there was a library that held approximately 1,800 carbonized papyrus scrolls which aroused soon the interest of scholars. The Genoese Abbot Antonio Piaggio invented an ingenious machine -like a frame -to unroll these important semi-charred finds. The difficulty in unrolling the papyri to read them, has caused the partial destruction of some of them. Anyway the most of the papyruses unrolled until now are written in Greek, except for a twenty rolls written in Latin. They contain treatises of Epicurean philosophy, by the most famous member of the school, Filodemus from Gadara .
With its demise, Herculaneum has left to the posterity the record of its life and habits two thousand years ago.