Located in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town destroyed by volcanic pyroclastic flows in 79 AD. Its ruins are located in the comune of Ercolano near Naples.

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is famous as one of the few ancient cities that can now be seen in much of its original splendour, as well as for having been lost, along with Pompeii, Stabiae, Oplontis and Boscoreale, in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 that buried it. Unlike Pompeii, the deep pyroclastic material which covered it preserved wooden and other organic-based objects such as roofs, beds, doors, food and even some 300 skeletons which were discovered in recent years along the seashore. It had been thought until then that the town had been evacuated by the inhabitants.

Herculaneum was a wealthier town than Pompeii, possessing an extraordinary density of fine houses with, for example, far more lavish use of coloured marble cladding.

History

Ancient tradition connected Herculaneum with the name of the Greek hero Heracles, an indication that the city was of Greek origin. In fact, it seems that some forefathers of the Samnite tribes of the Italian mainland founded the first civilization on the site of Herculaneum at the end of the 6th century BC. Soon after, the town came under Greek control and was used as a trading post because of its proximity to the Gulf of Naples. In the 4th century BC, Herculaneum again came under the domination of the Samnites. The city remained under Samnite control until it became a Roman municipium in 89 BC.

Architecture

The buildings at the site are grouped in blocks (insulae), defined by the intersection of the east-west and north-south streets. 

The most famous of the luxurious villas at Herculaneum is the Villa of the Papyri. It was once identified as the magnificent seafront retreat for Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, Julius Caesar's father-in-law.The villa stretches down towards the sea in four terraces. Piso, a literate man who patronized poets and philosophers, built a fine library there, the only one to survive intact from antiquity.

The Central Thermae were bath houses built around the first century AD. Bath houses were very common at that time, especially in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Per common practice, there were two different bath areas, one for men and the other for women. These houses were extremely popular, attracting many visitors daily. This cultural hub was also home to several works of art, which can be found in various areas of the Central Thermae site.

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Address

Via Mare 38, Ercolano, Italy
See all sites in Ercolano

Details

Founded: 7th century BCE
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Italy

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

John Head (5 months ago)
If at all possible you should spend some time there. Amazing artifacts, beautiful mosaic tile still intact. A guided tour would be best.
Andy Woods (6 months ago)
An excellent, well preserved archaeology site. Opted to access the site by train which was easy (straight walk down the hill). Less busy compared to Pompeii but also a smaller site, you can go round the whole site in half a day. The audio guide was also great to have (picked up after entering the site).
luke matarazzo (6 months ago)
It seems tiny in comparison to Pompeii, but you can still spend a lot of time here exploring every nook and cranny, especially if you get the audio guide. I do recommend the audio guide but it has a ton of material so I skipped many of the entries. Even still I was there for 3-4 hours and had a great time. My only problem was several areas were closed and the audio guide wanted us to visit them, so that was very disappointing. There was one very cool area we missed out in because it was closed. I do understand the closures at a place like this but really wish there was some notification or something. Not sure how long these things will be closed but I think I would recommend going to Pompeii instead and get a guided tour of some sort. There is a gift shop here with some interesting items at okay prices. They accept cards for the entrance tickets. They have free bathrooms here. We didn't see any food inside, but a few minutes outside the area there are many restaurants.
Denis Rešić (6 months ago)
It is much more smaller than Pompeii but the building's are more preserved. You don't need to spend a whole day to see it and you can perfectly combine it with the trip to Vesuvius. Like in Pompeii so here as well you'll be able to travel back in time in your imagination...
Mika Koivisto (7 months ago)
Definitely worth the visit even a little bit farther away. Area is not too big to wonder around, you can see enough in two hours. First the ruins and then the museum and the boat exhibition. Be sure not to miss the skeletons when lowering down to the moat before leaving the ruins area. We visited during museum week which gave the entrance for free. Thank you very much!
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