The brothel at Pompeii is the most popular attraction in the ancient city. Who knew? It may well have been one of the most popular spots back in the early first century too. The women who offered their services here were known as wolf women. This was because at night when visitors were out seeking some after dinner action they might not be able to find the right place in a city without street lights so the women took to howling in the night like wolves. All you had to do was follow the howling sound and you could find the right spot. There were also stone phallic symbols on the streets and over the doorway to help guide the merry Romans.
Painted on the walls at the entrance to the brothel were a number of pictures showing potential customers what their options for the evening might be. Kongo’s guide suggested that these paintings were like an erotic menu for visitors that didn’t speak the local tongue. All you had to do is point out what you were looking for and away you went.
While the brothel was fun, in a purely academic sense, there was a lot of other things to see in this ancient city that was wiped out pretty much in the blink of an eye and buried under 20 feet of ash when the volcano Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. The city provides fascinating insight into the daily life of Romans in this city where about 20,000 inhabitants lived.
When Vesuvius erupted the mountain was over 8,000 feet tall. Today it is a mere 4,000 feet in elevation. All that rock, ash, pulverized stone, hot gases, magma, fire, and brimstone rained down on town killing almost everyone in the middle of their daily activities. When archeologists began excavating they found odd shaped cavities in the ash. One bright digger got the idea of filling the cavity with plaster and it turned out to be the shapes of people who had been buried alive. These chilling reproductions remind visitors how quickly life can turn.
Archeologists continue to uncover Pompeii. To date, only about 40% of the town has been revealed. Thousands of artifacts have been unearthed so far and the work continues.
The image above shows a typical “cross walk” in Pompeii. The raised stones allowed pedestrians to cross the street without stepping in the street which also served as a water and sewage drainage system. The spacing of the stones allowed for the passage of carts.
Besides the preserved paintings in the brothel, Kongo was amazed at other artwork that adorned the homes of ancient Pompeii. These often depicted renderings of the owners, scenes of daily life, animals, and other designs.
Pompeii is about 15 miles from the city of Naples on the coast. It is a fascinating visit. Of course, this wouldn’t be a tour without some hokey touristic things such as this Roman soldier sharking for photo tips near the entrance to Pompeii park.
Travel safe. Have fun.