Everybody knows about the destruction of Pompeii that occurred on August 24, 79 AD. Every year thousands of people flock to Italy to view the archaeological wonder. Few people know, though, that on the day Mount Vesuvius erupted it destroyed another city called Herculaneum. The ruins of this once prosperous city have been remarkably well preserved and they are worth visiting.
When Vesuvius erupted, Herculaneum was upwind from the volcano. Pompeii was downwind and was quickly buried under a covering of ash. Herculaneum was destroyed more than twelve hours later when the blast cloud collapsed. The debris that fell on Herculaneum reached temperatures in excess of 760 degrees Fahrenheit and reached the city within 5 minutes. Everything in its path was instantly destroyed and the entire city was buried under 65 feet of ash and slag within hours.
Of course, the ruins of Pompeii are more popular, but those of Herculaneum are much better preserved. The wood that had been used to construct the city was instantly carbonized. The ruins of Herculaneum were unearthed in the early 18 th century by workmen who were digging a foundation for well. Near the end of the century the relevance of the find became known and excavation of a serious nature began. Nowadays much of the ancient city is still buried beneath tons of rubble.
Once prosperous town
Before the Vesuvius eruption Herculaneum was a tranquil Roman town. Its narrow streets were lined with businesses and homes. Most of the sidewalks were covered with awnings to protect patrons from bad weather. Aqueducts brought water from the mountain to be filtered and stored in the city’s public water tower, from which it was distributed through an elaborate plumbing system to city homes, businesses, baths and fountains.
All wealthy Roman cities of the time had complex water systems that supplied water to the community. Luxurious public bath houses were used for socializing and demanded huge quantities of water daily.
Location: Corso Resina 187 Ercolano, Campania
Nearby sights: Pompeii, Mercato di Pugliano, Terme Maschili
How to get there: Train: Circumvesuviana to Ercolano-Scavi
Nearby hotels: Holiday Inn Naples, B&B Monaciello, B&B Golden Mile
Tel.: +39 081/8575347
Entry fee: Adult/reduced €11/5.50, incl Pompeii €20/10