“Mom! Mom, this is it! This is the Pompeii house I read about!” My ten-year-old daughter was standing at the entrance to what was a house 2,000 years ago in Pompeii, Italy. “See, it says HAVE on the steps, that means ‘hello to you’ or something in some language. This is where the rich man lived!”
And indeed it was the “House of the Faun,” the largest and finest Pompeii house, buried in AD79 when nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted. We had come to visit Pompeii, an ancient Roman colony, to experience history. I remembered the day, almost a year before, when I picked my daughter up from school, and she told me about the story she’d read. It was about a servant who was repairing his master’s house that had been damaged in an earthquake. The servant had been at the baths when the volcano erupted, and he ran to his master’s house to find his daughter. She was there trying to free the dog from its leash. Discovering it was too late to leave, the three huddled together while ash and cinders blanketed the village. My daughter was intrigued and curious about the buried city and its people.In my efforts to excite her about our upcoming move to Spain, I said, “That sounds like Pompeii, Italy. Why don’t we go see it? That will be one of the great things about living in Spain; we can go see all of these interesting things we read about in books!”
Ancient Pompeii History Comes Alive
We stood surrounded by the ancient ruins, columns and facades rising up, crumbling down, but definitely giving us the feeling of ancient Pompeii houses all around us. It was like time travel, and I could almost see the crowds of men in togas, pushing through the streets on their way to the forum, and the children jumping across stepping stone to stepping stone on their way to the bakery.
The rain of ash and cinders coming from Mount Vesuvius actually preserved Pompeii and the village much as it was on the day of the eruption. We found the bakery easily enough with its millstones and ovens still standing. It didn’t take too much imagination to see the Pompeians taking loaves from the ovens and donkeys harnessed to the millstones, grinding the grain by walking in small circles. I could only hope that the bread of their day was as delicious as it was in present day Italy!
The Famous Pompeii HouseThe Pompeii house that had inspired my daughter from the pages of a book had its own stories for us to imagine as we wondered through its rooms. The detailed Pompeii mosaics, with their colors still preserved, showed shrines to the gods and scenes of Alexander the Great in battle.
But it was the connection to the characters in the story that made the Pompeii history come alive. By pouring plaster into the imprints left in the hardened ash after humans and animals decomposed, scientists were able to give shape to objects as they were on the day they were buried. My daughter was able to see the Pompeii casts of a man and a dog as they had been on the morning of the eruption, perhaps the very people her story was based upon.
I was thrilled that we were able to visit Pompeii and bring life to this buried city and its history for my daughter. For me, the real experience was seeing it through her curious and eager eyes.