Pompeii and Herculaneum

The cities ofPompeii and Herculaneum were ancient Roman cities that existed before the year 79 A. D. This was prior to their destruction by ash and pumice coming from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A. D. Because of their adjacent locations, the towns had similarities and differences that might be of interest to the archeologists, especially with the current excavation activities going on in these two regions.  However, the discovery of these towns happened almost 200 years apart. This has contributed to an interesting area of comparison in archeology that can help to discover the early life of Roman people (Ciaraldi, 7). This paper analyses the similarities and differences that may have existed between Pompeii and Herculaneum before they were destroyed by the volcanic eruption.


According to Wallace-Hadrill (20), one major similarity between Pompeii and Herculaneum is that the two towns existed during the same period and were destroyed in the same year resulting from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79 A.D. As such, characteristics that the covered material exhibits are similar in preservation and look. However, Pompeii was discovered much earlier than Herculaneum, thus setting the archeologists` interest in Pompeii than Herculaneum. The fact that the two towns, Pompeii and Herculaneum, both had their materials covered under volcanic ash and pumice for a good number of years resulted into preservation of material and signs that pointed to the similarities between the two towns. According to Conticello (21), Pompeii and Herculaneum were ancient Roman towns that were inhabited by people who were civilized and who embraced a political system that allowed them to elect their leaders. Both towns had their own political leaders and they were independent from each other, despite the fact that they existed within the same time. Pompeii and Herculaneum also provided a dwelling place for people who were moving across the large Roman region as merchants and sailors. They both were famous towns in Roman region that equally attracted visitors from far off places.

Furthermore, Conticello (21) notes that since their discovery in the 18th century, the two towns have continued to attract tourists in Italy. The towns thus host some of the most visited sites in the country with annual visits exceeding 2 million people. Pompeii and Herculaneum also remain centers of focus for popular culture as they attract conservation groups who are all engaged in the preservation of these two areas for the preservation purposes. Bones and other artifacts have been discovered in these two sites. These materials are kept in museums in Italy and Britain.


Evidences from these two sites indicate notable differences in the daily life of people who lived in these towns. According to the evidences, excavated from the towns, Pompeii was more like a commercial center, while Herculaneum was a residential center where people went to stay after they came from the market (Wallace-Hadrill, 12). The materials that are excavated from the sites, therefore, tend to exhibit a number of significant differences in nature and also the intended use. Even more, the forms in which these towns seem to have been destroyed differ in nature. Pompeii was more likely destroyed because it was covered with ash and pumice that led to the collapse of the structures in the area under the weight of accumulating material that was falling downwards from up. Because of this, Pompeii was destroyed downward. This means that the structures went deep into the earth as the materials continued to accumulate (Wallace-Hadrill, 10).  On the other hand, Herculaneum is more likely to have been destroyed by high moving waves of materials that were moving horizontally from the erupting mountain. As a result, the town maintained well preserved and more particularly the wood that continues to provide a lot of information on how the two towns interacted with each other.

Furthermore, Merrill (5) argues that since Pompeii was destroyed from the materials that were falling from the sky, the accumulated detritus material covered all the structures leaving no area uncovered. The falling materials were widespread in nature and presented a thick blanket covering even hills and tallest trees that were in town.  On the other hand, the horizontal nature of destruction of the town of Herculaneum spread the town as they moved towards the sea, carrying some of the town structures with it. This explains why a lot of skeletons have been found along the sea shore covered with tuffaceous materials. It is assumed that the flowing material carried the skeletons of people who had been killed by the eruption into the sea and later they were crystallized after reaching the water. Evidently, some of these moving molten materials were too hot and travelled several miles into the sea before they started cooling. Possibly, the sea may also have expanded to occupy some of the areas that were reached by the moving material.

Conticello (23) observed that based on the number of structures and places that are found in each town, suggestions indicate that Pompeii was a production center where most of the goods produced were for local consumption. However, Herculaneum embraced local lifestyle with people shielding themselves from the presence of outsiders. Characteristically, Herculaneum was more of a consumer city, while Pompeii embraced much of production activities. The two cities primarily depended on each other for maintenance of demand and supply.

A further difference is revealed in the architectural designs and the interior designs that defined the walls and floors in the cities. Pompeii used rare and complex marble floors, while Herculaneum used marble pavements that were not found in Pompeii. In Herculaneum, even modest houses had the complex marbles on pavements. This is an indication that people who lived in this region were economically well off compared to those who lived in Pompeii (Merrill, 8). Additionally, Herculaneum was better organized politically; it was a municipal town. The town thus had well planned social amenities like streets, which were lacking in Pompeii. In terms of wealth, Herculaneum was more endowed than Pompeii. This explains why better structures and houses were found in the city as compared to those found in Pompeii.

In conclusion, although these towns existed in the same region and during the same time, the level of differences that are exhibited in the materials found in these towns is evident. Additionally, even though these towns were adjacent to each other, it is revealed that there was a social divide between the dwellers of these cities; one city was for the high class rich people, while the other was for moderate and poor people. Nevertheless, there are similarities between these two towns. Apart from the fact that both of them were destroyed at the same time, people who lived there had the culture of  as they used similar materials to construct their houses and other amenities like roads. In addition, the towns were destroyed as a result of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Moreover, these two towns are very precious cultural site, and a lot of preservation efforts are made to preserve these ancient towns in Italy. More than 2 million people from all over the world visit these two towns annually.

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