Pompeii was an ancient Roman city near modern Naples. Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area, was buried under 4 to 6 m of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Many of the inhabitants were also buried before they could escape. At the time of the eruption, the town may have had some 11,000 inhabitants, and was located in an area where Romans had holiday villas.

The catastrophe was described in a surviving letter by Pliny the Younger who saw the eruption from a distance and described the death of his uncle Pliny the Elder, an admiral of the Roman fleet, who tried to rescue citizens. The site was eventually lost until its initial rediscovery in 1599 and broader rediscovery almost 150 years later by Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre in 1748. The city has been largely preserved because of lack of air and moisture. The artefacts preserved provide an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of the city. During excavations liquid plaster was used to fill the voids in the ash that once held human and animal bodies giving often gruesome images of their last moments.

Pompeii has been a tourist destination for over 250 years. Today it has UNESCO World Heritage Site status and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, with approximately 2.5 million visitors every year.

Temple of Apollo

Facing the northern side of the town, the Temple of Apollo was the town's most important religious building and has very ancient state of origin. The cult of Apollo, imported from Greece, was very widespread in Campania, and is attested in Pompeii since the 6th century BC. The sanctuary gained its present appearance in a 2nd-century BC rebuild and another reconstruction to repair the damage from the 62 earthquake (repairs left incomplete at the time of the eruption). The temple, in the center of a sacred enclosure, was surrounded on all four sides by a wide series of tuff columns from Nocera, originally grooved and with Ionic capitals, that were being replaced with stucco columns and Corinthian capitals painted in yellow, red and dark blue.

The elegant Doric architrave of metopes and triglyphs resting on the columns was transformed into a continuous frieze with griffins, festoons and foliage. Today the remains of the templefront appear as they originally did, since almost all of this transformation in plaster has disappeared. Some statues of a deity have been recovered, facing the columns of the portico. These are now in the National Archeological Museum of Naples, though copies of two of them – one representing Apollo, the other a bust of Diana – have been placed where the originals were found.

Amphitheatre

Built around 70 BC, the current amphitheatre is the earliest Roman amphitheatre known to have been built of stone; previously, they had been built out of wood. The next Roman amphitheatre known to be built from stone is the Colosseum in Rome, which postdates it by over a century. Contemporarily, it was known as a spectacula rather than an amphitheatrum, since the latter term was not yet in use at the time. It was built with the private funds of Quinctius Valgus and Marcius Porcius.

 

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Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.