We’ve only covered a small fraction of Pompeii so far and it’s already mind blowing in its expanse and state of preservation. We walk out the back of the House of the Faun on our way to check out the cemetery.
There’s another elaborate fountain and fresco in the back.
We zigzag our way through more ruined houses, courtyards, temples, columns and gates. There are some fenced off areas but a lot of it isn’t and you basically have free reign to explore as you wish.
Necropolis di Porta Ercolano
in the North West section of the city we come to the Herculaneum Gate (Porta Ercolano), named such because it is on the road to the neighboring city Herculaneum. Herculaneum also got destroyed in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE.
In Ancient Times it was known as the Salt Gate because it led to the Salinae Hercules, a lagoon where they used to mine salt for Pompeii peeps.
We come to a long walkway which leads in to the cemetery. Romans would usually keep burial sites on the outskirts of urban sections. A Necropolis (literally borrowing from the Greeks, city of the dead) can be found near each of the entrance gates to Pompeii.
Guess this isn’t a very popular spot compared to all the other remarkable things to see in Pompeii cuz there is noooooobody over here. I find that a little strange though because once we start walking amongst all of these enormous ancient tombs the imagination goes berserk with thoughts of who the hell is buried here. I mean.. these are some elaborate and impressive burial plots.
The old rites were such that upon death you were cremated and the urn buried within a tomb.
Here’s the burial seat and circular arch for the priestess Mamia, who died in 29 CE. I didn’t get a good pic of this, but apparently there’s a double seat symbol here that depicts she was given the honor of sitting in the front row of the theatre.
Villa dei Misteri
We continue to follow the road to Herculaneum and find a very different looking area that begins with columns and looks down on an extremely well preserved building. We’re getting a decent ways away from ‘the action’ of Pompeii at this point but wethinks this is worth some investigatory goonery.
We get down to the villa and a plaque describes it as the Villa of the Mysteries, instantly piquing the curiosity sectors of the noggin.
Apparently there is a large fresco in here that shows the rite of initiation of a young woman into a mysterious Greco-Roman cult. Excellent.
Yep, all of the walls are colorfully fresco’d up and preserved amazingly well.
Some good natured teet-suckling and dancing in here
The ceiling is cool.
The new face of intrigue…
Ok, behind MacKay is the cult initiation fresco in what may be the dinning room (lame) or perhaps the mistress’ bedroom (sexy).
Now, I’m no frescologist, but I think I’ve accurately deciphered the initiation ritual thusly:
To be accepted into the Cult of Mysteries, a young woman needs to awkwardly read her school book report naked in front of a group of drugged up cultists who are being served hors d’oeuvres and drinks while they fornicate with satyrs and angels…
(Bro, hold my mask. Ima get tuned up.)
…She will then be rewarded with wings and a wallet-sized portrait of Hercules which she will need to present to her mothers hairdresser in return for her new CIC (Cult ID Card).
Also in the Villa dei Misteri are plaster casts made from a few poor souls that were found buried and preserved in the pumice and ash from the eruption. Crazy. “Reminds me of that freaky Museo de las Momias in Guanajuato.” “Oh yeah, totally.”
Well that turned out to be an interesting find after all. Made all the better that we were the only ones there to check it out.
“See what’s on the other side of this garden?” “We’ve come this far.”
We get to the back of the Villa dei Misteri and there is a secret entrance to the site here. We start scanning for bathrooms but level up that thought when our eyes fall on what looks like a bar just down the road. “Midday beer break?” “Read my mind.”
We go up to the security guy at the gate. “Hey, can we go to that bar and come back in after?” Not sure he speaks English but his long, slow nod is good enough for us. “Alright. Thanks!”
We navigate the empty snaking entrance gates and come out the other side to a gravel road. “Looks like a restaurant over there actually.” “It’s about lunch time anyways.” “A few beer wouldn’t hurt either.” “No it would not.”