Herculaneum

Vedi Napoli e poi…enjoy it! Part 2- Herculaneum

This is my second post on beautiful things to see in Naples; this time I write about something very archaeological. Indeed, the topic today is the archaeological site of Herculaneum (Ercolano in Italian), near Naples, and I have attached the first of two videos based on photos that I took at the site.

The ancient city is actually known because is one of the sites founded near the Vesuvius and destroyed during the famous eruption of AD 79, together with Pompeii and Oplontis and Boscotrecase and Castellammare di Stabia.

You would expect that Pompeii would be the first of those sites to be the topic of a post. But I actually find Herculaneum a very appealing site, mostly because of how the ancient site cuts into the modern city and at the same time blends in with it.

The site is not very big (it is way smaller than Pompeii) and has a very clear boundary (really a wall), created from the modern structures that don’t allow the excavations to expand further.

In other words, the site visible today is not the entire ancient city, and there are still many things that are still covered by the modern structures and because of that not explorable.

Nonetheless, the site has nice frescoes, nice pavements and nice mosaics. Of these latter, my favourite is the one with Poseidon and Amphitrite, visible also in the pictures (you can’t miss it, it’s just glorious and really stands out).

Interesting is also the recent discovery of 300 corpses on what was the shore of the ancient city (yes, in ancient times Herculaneum was on the sea).

The legend

According to myth, Herculaneum was founded by the hero (and then god) Hercules, and named after him. The story goes that Hercules was going back to Argos (in Greece) from Spain, where he had just accomplished his tenth labor, namely killing Geryon and stealing his oxen.

On his way to Argos he had stopped in Rome, where Caco, son of the god Vulcano, had stolen the oxen and brought them to his cave in the Vesusius holding them through the tails so that the footprints would lead to the opposite direction.

Hercules tried to trace the oxen by calling them out,  and was on the verge of quitting when one of the oxen replied to the call. The hero then found Caco’s cave and defeated and killed him. Before setting off to Argos, though, he decided to found a city, namely our Herculaneum.

Literary sources and archaeology

Strabo says that Herculaneum was an Oscan city founded in the 8th century BC, and was part of Etruscan territory, to become then part of Samnite territory.

This story, though, is not agreed upon by everybody, and the excavations have actually shown that the site was probably founded, or at least assumed its last shape, in the 4th century BC.

Resina and the discovery

After the eruption of AD 79, a site was founded nearby later and was named Resina, from where the modern city developed.

The discovery of the ancient site actually happened by chance in 1709, during the excavations for a well. The archaeological excavations started in 1738, under the patronage of the King of the Realm of the Two Sicilies, Carlo 8th di Borbone.

For more information, visit the website.

I hope you guys enjoy the post and the video, to hear back from you and to see you soon here. Ciao ciao!

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