Five facts about… Pompeii

In AD79, the people of Pompeii felt rumblings from the nearby mountain of Vesuvius, but they couldn't have imagined what would happen next.

Five facts about… Pompeii © Getty Images

In one of the worst natural disasters in European history, the sleeping volcano Vesuvius woke up with a bang on 24 August and destroyed the city of Pompeii, killing its people and burying everything under tons of ash.

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Pompeii was lost for centuries, before being discovered in the late 16th century.

Since then, archaeological digs have uncovered many of Pompeii’s mysteries, but there is still much we don’t know. Here are five things that have been revealed about the Roman town scorched into history…

1

ANCIENT GRAFFITI

Preserved on some of the walls were pieces of graffiti scrawled by the residents, giving clues to how the people of Pompeii lived.

One found inscribed in the Basilica bemoaned the state of his host, remarking that “The Man I am having dinner with is a barbarian.” A crude confession was also discovered in the Inn of the Mule drivers: “We have wet the bed, host. I confess we have done wrong. If you want to know why, there was no chamberpot.”

2

FANCY A TAKEAWAY?

The citizens of Pompeii were fans of exotic takeaways. One of the scraps found in a drain was that of a butchered leg joint of a giraffe.

3

MOUSE MORSELS

A popular delicacy in Pompeii was dormice, reared in terracotta pots, disembowelled, stuffed and roasted.

4

STAYING PRETTY

Women used a strange range of beauty products, such as a face cream made from lentils, honey, deer antler and iris bulbs. Slaves also used pigeon dung and vinegar in an attempt to fade their branding marks of servitude.

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5

EROTIC SCANDAL

In 1819, King Francis I of Naples visited the Pompeii exhibition with his wife and daughter. To his consternation, there was a series of erotic artwork on show. He demanded that this be locked away in a secret cabinet, only available to view for those of a “mature age and respected morals”. In 2000, these pieces were put on permanent public display.

Explore the eruption of Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii in the August issue of History Revealed.