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The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD brought tragedy and terror to the city of Pompeii and its citizens but also incredible blessings for archaeologists (is it too soon to say that?) While the vibrant Roman municipality was buried beneath volcanic ash and debris, the disaster was instrumental in preserving a piece of Roman life. The discovery of Pompeii revealed well-preserved buildings, artifacts, bodies, art, and graffiti that the modern world a unique glimpse into this time.

The art of Pompeii

Based on the findings of excavations, Pompeii was a remarkable blend of architecture, temples, taverns, exercise grounds, baths, arenas, market halls, public latrines, schools, water towers, a flower nursery, a basilica, as well as brothels and theaters.

While modern buildings and structures are commonly coated with paint, the buildings of Pompeii were covered with frescoes, watercolor mural paintings, or mosaics. Frescoes are painted onto freshly-laid or wet lime plaster; the paint mixes with the plaster and becomes much more durable. Mosaics decorations, on the other hand, were artfully arranged to create elaborate and striking pictures. The subjects of frescoes and mosaics during that time were about Roman myths, religion, sports, war campaigns, and sex.

Graffiti of Pompeii

If you think that writing your name or leaving messages on walls is something new, the rediscovered walls of the city of Pompeii will show you that ancient people also enjoy leaving their mark by writing on walls.

Modern and ancient people were also similar in the kinds of messages they wrote. Today, its common to see writings in graffiti such as “so-and-so was here,” and the ancient Romans did the same. In fact, the oldest known graffiti at Pompeii, believed to date as far back as October 3, 78 BC, said “Gaius Pumidius Diphilus was here.” Ancient graffiti also included declarations of love, insults, remembrances, political campaigns, advertisements, and many other public notices.