Pompeii’s structures have been threatened by severe rainfall in the past few days. The ancient Roman city on the west coast of Italy is best known for its absolute destruction by the massive volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. When it all ended, thousands of people lay killed and buried in ash that measured six meters deep. The cataclysmic event destroyed the city, which lay entombed beneath tons of volcanic residue for the next 15 centuries. A neighboring city called Herculaneum was also buried and rediscovered at the same time, in the early 17th century.
Conquered by the Romans in 80 BC, the town of Pompeii had grown to a population of 20,000 inhabitants by the time Vesuvius erupted 160 years later. For that epoch, the city had developed a complex water system that supplied the residents and irrigated crops. There was an amphitheater for open-air performances and sporting events, a gymnasium, which included hot Roman baths, and a busy seaport.
Lost for approximately fifteen hundred years, it was not rediscovered initially until 1599. While digging an underground channel to divert the river Sarno, the laborers ran into ancient walls covered with paintings and inscriptions. The architect at the time, named Fontana, uncovered a few more frescoes, then covered it all back up, not comprehending what he had found. Pompeii was properly, and with full intent, unearthed another one hundred and fifty years later by Spanish engineer Joaquin de Alcubierre. Everything, including the humans, that was trapped beneath the ash after the eruption had been impeccably preserved for centuries, due to a lack of air and moisture. The excavation revealed a clear view into life under Roman rule. The victims left behind perfect castings of their exact moment of death, voids that were filled with plaster during the unearthing to recreate their forms. Innumerable artifacts from the catastrophe are still preserved in the Naples National Archaeological Museum.
A popular tourist attraction, this ancient site attracts millions of visitors a year. A part of the Vesuvius National Park, Pompeii was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.
The popular heritage site has been damaged by weather in years past. With a recent heavy rainstorm, some of the walls have begun to give way under the bombardment of bad weather. Over the weekend, there was a partial collapse of a wall around the necropolis of Porta Nocera. There were falling stones at the Temple of Venus, which had been closed off to visitors for some time, as part of an archway supporting the Temple of Venus had collapsed earlier. Access to the necropolis has been closed since the collapse of its wall.
With the severe damage to this venerated site, Italy’s culture officials are discussing concerns about the safe preservation of one of the world’s most sacred and revered archaeological sites. Fears that the city’s fragile structures will be threatened by future rainstorms, or any inclement weather, prompted an emergency meeting calling for an immediate and solid plan to safeguard the future of Pompeii against any additional damage to the structures that had remained buried under layers upon layers of volcanic ash for the duration of fifteen centuries. Now four hundred and fourteen years after the fact, the victims are still remembered, and the restored city of Pompeii , Italy welcomes visitors. The aim of the culture officials is to keep it that way.
By Christine Schlichte