Herculaneum v Pompeii
While Pompeii receives most of the attention a visit to Herculaneum can be just as enthralling. While Pompeii was a working city, this ancient Roman settlement was home to lots of wealthy families with opulent homes and set close between the shoreline and the towering volcano.
Fate led to Herculaneum not being discovered earlier
When Vesuvius erupted Herculaneum was buried under a mass of volcanic ash, mud and rocks several metres deep. The muddy combination hardened to become a rocky mass which was more difficult to excavate than its neighbour, Pompeii. The first excavations began in 1709 when a theatre was discovered when a well was being dug. By 1927 when the first serious excavations began Pompeii was already major news and tourism took hold there instead. Only six bodies had been found before 1982, leading to speculation that the people of Herculaneum had time to escape. Then, in 1982 hundreds of bodies were discovered in the area close to the shoreline and lots of people had in fact died while waiting to get onto boats and escape.
The size of Herculaneum
The site is around one third the size of Pompeii and housed about 5,000 people compared to the 20,000 at Pompeii. The houses here are more elaborate, well decorated and many remain intact. Lots of the surviving buildings still have their second storey in addition to the mosaics that decorated the floors.
Highlights of your visit
The House of the Mosaic Atrium contains a checkerboard mosaic across its atrium floor with mythological scenes shown as frescoes in other rooms that overlook the garden. The House of Latticework is an example of cheaper living quarters and may have been used as a barracks. The building next door is known as the House of the Wooden Partition. It contains wall frescoes as well as a huge wooden door that was preserved when it became instantly carbonized by the hot gasses during the eruption (it is now protected by glass). On the ground floor there were shops and one contains a preserved wooden clothes press.