This page is dedicated to my visit to ROM's Pompeii exhibit on Dec. 27, 2015 and commemorating that fateful day in AD 79 when all life stopped in Pompeii and surrounding area.

The ROM staff performed a very professional job on assembling and exhibiting some 200 historical objects from Herculeanum, Stabiae and Pompeii preserved during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. They were loaned to the museum by the Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Naples and the Archaeological Depositories of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae. (The Superintendence for the Archaeological Heritage of Naples). The exhibit drew 273,000 visitors during its presentation in Toronto in 2015. See full poster of the Exhibit here.

"The ROM’s exhibition brings to Toronto a wide range of artifacts from Pompeii, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It will provide visitors a glimpse into life in an ancient Roman society and the volcano that destroyed it. However, with natural disasters frequently occurring around the world, Pompeii also emphasizes history’s relevance to our lives today,”  says Janet Carding, ROM Director and CEO. For more information on the Exhibit, click here and here.

From February 6 - September 5, 2016, the exhibit will be shown in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Pliny the Younger (letters 6.16 and 6.20 to Historian Cornelius Tacitus 25 years after the eruption), described the eruption and the death of his uncle Pliny The Elder (admiral and commander of the Misenum fleet) and his valiant effort to save as many people as possible from the impending danger during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius on August 24, AD 97. His uncle perished in the event at Herculaneum the next day. Pliny the Younger (b. AD 61), was a resident of Misenum at the time as he watched the eruption unfold from its mountain. Before the eruption, the population of Pompeii was estimated to be between 6,000 to 30,000 inhabitants (most Historians agree it was around 20,000) and it is assumed that most of them made it to safety. Archaeologists have identified 1,150 bodies of those who remained in the city. Pompeii lay buried under a layer of pumice stones and ash up to 7 metres deep until it was discovered late in the 16th century. It has almost all been excavated except the north east corner.  Herculeanum, on the other hand, has only been 25% excavated since the modern city grew over the old one. It has much better preserved buildings and wooden structures than Pompeii.

Note: The thermal energy unleashed by Vesuvius is estimated to have been 100,000 times greater than the atomic bomb that incinerated Hiroshima. See more by clicking here.

"Pompeii was anything but a town with uniform culture, language and peoples. Its oldest recorded history goes back to the 6th century BC, for example the Temple of Apollo on the Forum. In his work Geographika, the Greek writer Strabo (64 BC – 19 AD) listed the inhabitants of Pompeii: the Osci, the Tyrrheni (i.e. Greeks), the Pelasgi and the Samnitae. In the pre-Roman era, the language of the tribes and ‘local population’ was Oscian (an Italic dialect). In the third century BC, after the Roman expansion, Pompeii became an ally of Rome, although its inhabitants were not Roman citizens and did not use Latin. Pompeii became officially part of the Roman Empire only during the rule of Sulla in the 2nd century BC and was then called Colonia Cornelia Veneria Pompeiana.

Many buildings date from that time; their ruins, in various degrees of collapse, can be seen today: an amphitheatre, public baths and a roofed theatre (Odeion). Although as part of the Roman Empire Pompeii was largely Romanised, numerous feasts, customs and the calendar were maintained
according to local tradition. In terms of population, Pompeii was an average town, quite provincial in its way of life and culture...
Martial (Ed.: Roman poet) shows a contrast between the earlier beauty and later destruction. "Cuncta iacent flammis et tristi mersa favilla. (Everything is in flames and drowned in sombre ashes)." Source: Anne Lill, Myths of Pompeii: REALITY AND LEGACY.
The writer Statius was about 34 years old when Mount Vesuvius erupted in  AD 79 and may have witnessed the eruption. The landscape was already unrecognisable when he wrote, "Will future generations believe, when crops and these now deserted places once more thrive again, that cities and peoples are buried below and that ancestral lands have disappeared, having shared in the same fate? Not yet does the mountain-top cease to threaten death.’" (Silvae 4.4.78–85)

Click on any photo below to enlarge it. To return to main page, click on browser back button.

Misenum and around the Bay of Naples in 79 AD at the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The black cloud represents the general distribution of ash and cinder (the pyroclasts). Modern coast lines are shown. Note that Pompeii was only about 2km from away the volcano. Source: Wikipedia.

Another map showing the pyroclastic flow, ash deposits and the range of ashfall. See also: Google map of Pompeii by Pompeionline.

Map of the excavation of Pompeii with legend.

The city was divided into insulae (regions) by Historians. For larger, 3000x1650pix resolution, click on the above image.

This marble relief sculpture vividly depicts the powerful earthquake that hit Pompeii on February 5, 62. In the Forum, the Temple of Jupiter and a pair of equestrian statues tilt precariously.

Guard dog - Cast, House of Orpheus, Pompeii

This dog was left chained to a post to guard the House of Orpheus when the occupants fled. The bronze studs around its neck are all that remains of a collar. As the pumice fall-out deepened, the dog climbed higher — until eventually it ran out of chain and was suffocated.

Mosaic of a guard dog 1st century BC - 1st century AD Limestone.

This grand mosaic was found in the entrance, or atrium, of the the House of Orpheus in Pompeii. Mosaics such as this one were popular forms of decoration at the time. Many houses would have this mosaic displayed at the treshold of a house including a sign “Cave Canem” (Beware of Dog).

Pumice from Mt. Vesuvius. This one pre-dates the 1944 eruption.

Fresco showing the distribution of bread. (painted plaster, 69x60cm), found in the House of Baker, Pompeii. Here is a better picture.

As a way of fulfilling their civic duties, wealthy citizens and elected officials were expected to spend substantial amounts of money to finance public projects and entertainment. These included the construction and repair of buildings, sponsoring of games, and donations of food. For example, the magistrates Gaius Quainctius Valgus and Marcus Porcius funded the construction of the amphitheater, where the enormously popular gladiatorial combats took place. This wall painting shows a wealthy man running for political office. Smartly dressed in white toga and surrounded by stacks of bread, the candidate hands our free bread to three people. This type of generosity, to attract and thank voters for their support, took place before and after an election.

Text source: Pompeii: In the Shadow of the Volcano by Paul Denis and Kate Cooper

Half a loaf of carbonized bread. Diameter 24 cm.

Bread was an important daily staple in Pompeii. There were about 30 bakeries in the city to satisfy demand. A typical loaf of bread in Pompeii was round and divided into eight segments. This example, a half a loaf of bread with its four sections, was preserved by being carbonized during the disaster. At the bakery of Modestus, 81 loaves of carbonized bread were found in the owen. The baker likely fled during the disaster, leaving behind the baking bread.

Text source: Pompeii: In the Shadow of the Volcano by Paul Denis and Kate Cooper

See also: Making 2,000-year-old bread. In AD 79, a baker put his loaf of bread into the oven... The British Museum and Recipes of the ancient Pompeii.

Portrait of a woman. Mosaic limestone, 34x29cm.

"Woman glory in hanging these (pearls) ... two or three for a single carring" Pliny the Elder, Natural History 9.114.

This enigmatic Mona Lisa-like portrait of a woman found in the cubiculum of a house is superbly rendered using tiny square-cut coloured stones called tesserae. Her hair is parted in the middle and drawn back and held by a wide ribbon. A translucent gold embroidered veil around her neck reveals the fine dress beneath. She is richly adorned with pearl carrings mounted in gold and the pearl necklace with clasp set with precious stones. Fine jewelry and elegant clothing indicate her prominent position in Pompeian society.

Text source: Pompeii: In the Shadow of the Volcano by Paul Denis and Kate Cooper

Gladiator Gear from Pompeii

Isis (seated right) welcoming the Greek heroine Io as she is borne into Egypt on the shoulders of the personified Nile, as depicted in a Roman wall painting from Pompeii.

Ceremony in The Temple of Isis, Herculaneum fresco, AD 50-79.  Visible are the palm trees, the two sphinxes and ibises supporting the Egyptian origin of the cult. On the bottom right is a musician playing a long flute similar to the one at the end of this page. For separate, more detailed description of this fresco, click here.

A striking fresco from the late 1st century BC shows two Roman war ships docked beneath the arches of an arsenal. 

I enhanced the image to show fresh, crisp colours the way they might have appeared originally.

Large eyes painted on their bows acted as talismans to ward off evil and protect the sailors. Each ship was equipped with a battering ram. After Octavian defeated Mark Anthony at Actium in 31 BC, these vessels were no longer needed for major naval battles. The Romans used them to protect shipping lanes of the Mediterranean Sea from piracy.

A fresco from Pompeii depicts a Roman cargo ship in full sail.

This type of vessel would have likely docked in Pompeii's harbour either to pick up or unload supplies.

Misshapen glass containers that were melted during the destruction of Pompeii.

This outdoor scene in the house in Herculaneum shows the use of perspective in depicting the lattice-work trellises and fences. Different birds including storks and herons stand among the garden ornaments of fountain basins and ornamental vases.

Frescoes from Pompeii. The exact provenance of these panels, now in the National Archaeological Museum, Naples, is unknown. They depict colonnaded villas with symmetrical facades and formal, symmetrical gardens in front and wooded parks in back.
Villas and seascape..

Life of leisure in a rich owner's house/villa.

"Painting from the wall of the large dining room in the Chaste Lovers bakery. At first sight an elegant scene, with comfortable cushions and drapes, and glass vessels set out neatly on the table. But the woman behind is already so drunk she can hardly stand up and just visible between the two reclining couples a man has passed out (on the right and partly hidden by bronze table)." (plate 10).

 "Notice how the servers, wheter slaves or free, are always shown as smaller than the guests" (p. 219). Text source: The Fires of Vesuvius, Pompeii Lost and Found" by Mary Beard.

This fresco shows two metal vases that were prizes awarded in an athletic contest.

Peacock on a garden fence with pinax (votive tablet).
1st century BC-1st century AD, Pompeii, fresco, 115 x 107 cm. See also: Gardens Of The Roman World by Patrick Bowe.

Three actors on a stage, acting out an "Atellan Farce", with the man at left wearing the mask of a slave. Wallpainting from Pompeii, Italy. Originally exhibited in Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples.

Actors with masks. Marble.

Theatre masks and theatre architecture displayed on this marble relief.


Fresco of a man on a bed drinking from horn type vessel. The semi-naked woman is wearing a hair net. On the small table with lyon-type legs are various drinking cups. The servant seems to be bringing them some food. It's an errotic scene.

Detail from above fresco


Portrait of a youth. Marble. Height 162cm. Catalog 6230.

Found in the House of Menander, Pompeii. The toga, worn by a male Roman citizen, was essentially a uniform that marked his social class. Made from heavy wool and worn over a tunic, the deep folds of the garment crisscrossed the wearer's body from ankle to shoulder. The pouch shaped gold bulla, an amulet to ward off evil, which hung on the chest of this statue, indicates the figure is still a youth and wearing a toga pretexta. This is type of toga, with its purple border, was worn by freeborn boys until they reached maturity. The scroll held in his left hand suggests he is a person of learning.

Text source: Pompeii: In the Shadow of the Volcano by Paul Denis and  Kate Cooper

Woman's bust. The hair colour is still visible.

Side view.

Rear view showing the hair style of the day.

Livia, the powerful wife of Augustus, the first emperor of Rome.

Here is photo of the house of Livia that I took during my Mediterranean Cruise in 2012.

Semi-nude girl. Her hair and toga paint is still visible. Apparently most ot the Roman marble statues were originally painted in vivid colours.

Still to be identified???

Here is a very different Bacchus from the youthful god seen elsewhere in the exhibition.

Many versions of this mature, bearded Bacchus survive in bronze and marble. Scholars think there was a thriving Greek workshop industry that used popular basic model to churn out reproductions for their Roman customers. 

Herm of C. Cornelio Rufo. Found in the atrium of his house in Pompeii. For more info, click here.

Few ancient bronze statues survive today. They were melted down to reuse the valuable material, but some survive buried under the ash of Mount Vesuvius. The girl fastening her Greek-style dress (peplos) is one of a group of five females discovered around a garden pool. She comes from the house of Papyrii in Herculaneum - a nearby town also buried by the eruption in 79 AD. 

Bronze statue of a mythical figure?

Drusus the Elder was a stepson of the first Emperor, Augustus, and brother of the future Emperor Tiberius.

In this bronze portrait, his face and distinctive hairstyle immitate the appearence of Augustus - a deliberate effort to establish a family resemblance, even though the two were not blood relations. Augustus came from the Julian family, Drusus from the Claudian family. Visual similarities between portraits became a way of legitimizing and transferring power. 

Invented by the Greeks and popular with the Romans, the goddess Futura personified good fortune.

In year 3, a wealthy Pompeian Marcus Tulius created his own cult to honour the Future of Emperor Augustus. He built a grand public temple to Fortuna Augusta on his own land to gain favour with the Emperor.

Bronze triclinium bed found in the House of Menander in 1927.

Note: Triclinium: dining room, where people ate while lying on cots placed around 3 sides.

Bronze table with lion's legs.

Beautiful grape lattice pattern in the center of table. I almost missed it.

The seat of this bronze stool curves to accomodate the cushion. Dual bands pierced with stylish openwork designs of scrolls and rectangles, connect and strenghten the four legs. 

Calipers and folding ruler.

Chisel and adze

Bronze axe and nails

This marble relief sculpture shows a busy coppersmith's shop.

From left to right: Activities include weighing metal with a pan scale, shaping a vessel with blows from hammer, and a seated man adding finishing touches to a dish. A dozing dog and circular furnace doors catch the eye. At the top is a display of finished products: pastry molds, plates, scalloped bowls, and buckets.

Two sizes of bronze scales (smaller one on the left has a weight shaped as a head of a young girl). (Here are more scales not at this exhibit).

Pompeii brass oil lamps

Another brass oil lamp

This ingenious system heated liquids but was also decorative. It comes from a villa near Stabiae -  a resort town southwest of Pompeii.

How did it work? Liquid, probably water or wine, was poured into the tall bronze cylinder (A). Turning the tap on the side (D) drew the liquid through the hollow semi-circular compartment where it was heated by a fire in the center of the circle (C). Made of bronze, the whole device would heat up quickly, like a metal radiator. The tray held wood or charcoal to feed the fire.

Gold and emerald necklace

Gold ring and pendant

Gold ring in form of a snake.

Gold earrings (with pearls on right)

Gold bracelets in the form of a snake. 1st century BC - 1st century AD.

The jewelry found at Pompeii shows the fashions women wore at the time of eruption. Earlier Greek styles were very popular, and the serpent bracelet is an example of that popular trend.

Silver mirror - back side. Only rich Pompeians could afford one.

Wine drinking cup (cantharus) entwined with ivy leaves 1st century BC - 1st century AD. Silver.

Every day silver utensils and dishes

Nero gold coin.

Augustus and Vespasian gold coins.

This sistrum (type of rattle) was used as a musical instrument.

Castanets and long flute made of brass, silver and ivory.

In the background: 2nd century BC mosaic depicting a group of street musicians, signed by Dioskurides of Samos. From the Villa of Cicero, Pompeii. Detail with woman playing double flute and man playing castanets.

Pompeians enjoyed music at every ocassion: Banquets, Funerals and Public Events.

Earthenware amphorae.

They were standard Mediterranean containers for transporting and storing wine, olive oil, garum, fish and fruit. Thousands found at Pompeii attest to city's prosperity.

Large marble urn. Based on a Greek design, it could have been used to hold water or wine during a banquet.

This ornate table supported by fanciful lion-head-and-paw

stood exposed to the weather in the open colonnade peristyle surrounding the garden, or in the atrium beside the open-air pool (impluvium). The metal struts are modern additions. Furniture like this could be placed outdoors because marble is relatively weather-proof.

The face of this cast has a serene expression, as if in deep sleep. He was found on the Via Stabiana. He acquired the name "The Sick Man" because he looked so passive and weak.

The archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli described him as having died peacefully without displaying the horrific agony of other casts. Found in 1873, he was the seventh cast made by Fiorelli. The Ammulato is considered a masterpiece of casting. His features have been re-touched, as were other casts, to reflect the artistic taste of that period.

Casts of the man, the woman and the two children found under a stairwell in the House of the Golden Bracelet in 1974. It appears to have been a quick death as the hot ash enveloped them. The sadness is reflected in the two children's faces in the background. There is an interesting article in on this family.

Another view.

These three casts of fugitives, two men and a woman were found in a building just outside the Nocera Gate.

In the background are the casts of a mother and daughter. They were among a group of nine victims found in the garden of the house of Cryptoporticus.

These casts, an adult and a child, come from a group of 13 victims. All were found in 1961 in a vineyard now called the Garden of the Fugitives. In the early morning on the day after the eruption, the fall of pumice had let up - so they thought it was safe to leave. As they hurried through a vineyard, they were overwhelmed by a pyroclastic surge and died.

Note: Following frescos were not part of the ROM exhibit. They are used for reference only.

Bacchus stands beside Mount Vesuvius, with a leopard cub by his side, and coiling serpent.

This fresco not part of ROM Pompeii exhibit depicts well what the Mt. Vesuvius looked like before the eruption with a single, high peak instead of two of today. We can understand why the Pompeians ignored the tremors and change in the coastline before the eruption. The fertility of Mt. Vesuvius is vividly shown with grape vines covering the side of the mountain. It was shown by DNA testing on old wine jugs that the same grapes are grown in the area today.

Caption: Bacchus and Vesuvius, Roman fresco. Bacchus (Greek Dionysus, centre right), wearing a cloak of grapes, stands beside a conical mountain covered in vines (thought to be Vesuvius as it appeared prior to its eruption in 79 AD). The panther on his left (often associated with Bacchus who is said to have been nursed by panthers when young) laps the wine dripping from his upturned wine glass. The serpent in the foreground represents the agathodaemon, spirit of agricultural bounty. This fresco, from the House of the Centenary in Pompeii, is displayed in the Archaeological Museum of Naples, Italy.

A harbor town, probably 1st century AD, Stabiae, frescoA harbor town, probably 1st century AD, Stabiae, fresco, 24 x 26 cm, Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. Photography © Luciano Pedicini.

I am always impressed when I see this fresco on on the internet. Bustling, lively harbour with luxurious ships, locals fishing from their boats, forum, huge seaside villas, and numerous statues probably dedicated to Roman Gods and Emperors. In the foreground are two silhoueted men with fishing rods. The harbour was probably constructed using Roman Hydraulic Concrete. Stabiae was a seaside resort on the headland overlooking the Gulf of Naples a few miles southwest of Pompeii.

I photoshopped the dull, faded image to give it a more natural look with deep blue waters and lively colours so that the fresco appears as if it were painted recently. You can compare it with the original here.

On Feb. 15, 2016, Mr. Pedicini commented that I might have photoshopped the fresco too much and I agree. We know that the Romans used lighter, blue indigo or Egyptian blue colours in their frescoes. I might have exaggerated a bit then since we do use much deeper blue colours as above.

This unaltered wall fresco in the Villa di Livia on the Palatine Hill in Rome definitely shows the use of light blue colour with a violet component.

Gardenscape, Villa of Livia at Primaporta, ca. 35-20 BC, now in the Terme Museum, Rome.

"was discovered and excavated in the nineteenth century, revealing a complete cycle of frescoes representing a garden. Behind a series of painted balustrades on the walls' lower levels was depicted an extraordinary range of garden flora and fauna." Source: Gardens Of The Roman World by Patrick Bowe. Ed.: This fresco shows various shades of green and blue, meant to depict the lush, background foleage. See also: "A VISITOR’S GUIDE TO THE VILLA OF LIVIA AT PRIMA PORTA."

Terentius Neo, the baker, and his wifeTerentius Neo, the baker, and his wife.

The couple are depicted as equals in their business, their home and in Roman society. She wears fine clothing and jewellery and has a hairstyle fashionable in the 60s AD. In her left hand she holds a document made of three writing tablets and in her right a stylus. Neo holds a papyrus scroll and wears a pure white toga, identifying him as a candidate for political office. Scrolls and tablets suggested learning, influence, ambition and power.  From British Museum slide presentation. Image: © Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

Fresco - "The Amphitheatre at Pompeii, depicting the riot between the Nucerians and the Pompeians", Casa della Rissa nell'Anfiteatro, Pompeii. Source: Wikipedia.

The fresco, painted in Fourth Style, portrays a riot that broke out in Pompeii in 59 A.D. during games held in the arena involving Pompeians and inhabitants of Nuceria which, on the orders of Nero, led to the closure of the amphitheatre for ten years (Tacitus, Annales, XIV, 17). It formed part of a frieze depicting gladiatorial combat, and faithfully reproduces places and events in the tiniest detail and with expressive immediacy. For more info, click here.

This tesserae mosaic would probably have been on the floor of a dining room. It shows a wide variety of sea creatures all of which might have been cooked and served at dinner parties. At the centre is a lobster fighting with an octopus. From British Museum slide presentation. Image: © Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei.

A fresco of Venus in the House of Venus in the Shell [Credit: Carole Raddato/Flickr]
From article: More Pompeii houses to open to public from spring. Archaeology News Network.

Excavations of Pompeii, year 1880

Alexander Mosaic found in the House of the Faun, Pompeii.Alexander Mosaic found in the House of the Faun, Pompeii.

It depicts The Battle of Issus in southern Anatolia, in November 333 BC between the Hellenic League led by Alexander the Great and the Achaemenid Persia, led by Darius III. It is believed to be a copy of the painting by Philoxenus of Eretria who lived during the time of Alexander (about 360 BC). Click on the Wikipedia image above to enlarge. 


Augustus, Livia and Young Nero, Mid-1st century.
Hermitage Museum.

Comments on this page:

March 2, 2016

Ancient History ‏@ahencyclopedia  Mar 2 @jlupic @mbamtl
Very detailed write up and great photos! Thanks for sharing with us. =)


February 10, 2016
Hi Jack,  

Many thanks for your kind words, they are much appreciated. I am delighted you got to see the exhibit in Toronto and have enjoyed looking over your very well-done webpage. All the best and thank you for taking the time to write to me,  


Jarrett A. Lobell
Executive Editor Archaeology magazine
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