I was eleven when I read, The Dog of Pompeii. This heart wrenching story, its characters and setting lit a spark in me that was never extinguished. My intention this morning, was to nurture this spark, this romantic flame within. But, that’s not what happened…
I could see nothing as I exited the train and moved quickly to the ticket kiosk. I paid my fee and headed toward the entrance of the ruins. As I walked through the gate, my glance swept left and then, right. Ah! Pompeii!
The morning sun cast its golden light across the ancient structures. Long shadows collapsed into each other like tumbled stone columns. Window cut-outs were black, belying the depth, and vivacious people that once lived within.
Beautifully sculpted, larger than life, replicas of ancient mythical figures stood on their platforms, in defiance, under a blue sky.
I was confused by my feelings as I walked through the ancient streets of Pompeii. I saw Mount Vesuvius, everywhere. She loomed above everything. I thought of the warning stranger in The Dog of Pompeii, but, I forgot about Tito and his dog. I moved to perch upon a stone wall and gazed at Vesuvius off in the distance. I typed…
We live passively. Complacently.
Pushing through our daily grind.
We see no-thing. Blind to the signs…
Excitement turned to unease.
Ancient ruins juxtaposed against modernity, awkwardly. The skyline revealed nothing. It could have been thousands of years ago, or now. Vesuvius still reigns above her subjects. Pompeii was no more, but many Italians still live within the proximity of her deadly reach.
It was recorded that some time after the tragedy, people returned to the area but could no longer find their city. Pompeii was lost, hidden under layers of ash. I imagine the work and precision it took to dig out this ancient Roman Colosseum.
If you wonder what the people experienced, check out this excellent animated video. It portrays a 24 hour period during Vesuvius’ eruption on the 24th of Aug, 79 AD.
I continued to walk. Pompeii was a very large city.
I came across a Bathhouse which revealed signs of lavish murals and artwork.
The hand painted art on the ceiling was beautifully intricate. Mouldings across the shelving that held mens’ clothing and footwear, were lavishly detailed.
Murals, on Brothel walls, vividly depicted the activity ‘du jour‘ within the confines of stark, stank, concrete walls.
Pungent smells, bodily scents, urine and feces were detectable… Still.
I wondered at the spiritual beliefs of these first century, Romans. They believed that natural disasters and human tragedy were caused by wrathful gods. What behaviours and actions did these ancient people think angered their gods enough to warrant a major earth quake just 12 years before and then this, a devastating volcanic eruption?
The innocent boy, his faithful dog and their love for each other were forgotten as I pondered the reality before me… That of a societal extinction.
These people believed in mythical figures and then designed and built images, in their own likeness, to appease not only their gods and goddesses, but their own consciences.
However, these images did nothing but topple to the ground when the wrath of Vesuvius came pouring down upon them all. The gods could not save the people who prayed to them. Nor, could they save themselves. They could not get up and flee. Both people and their gods became trapped, encased, extinguished. Forever.
Lifestyles, belief systems, culture, society… All destroyed, within 24 hours. I remembered a Buddha statue I had, at home. What did I think that hunk of wood would or could do for me? Damn. I walked to a stone wall and sat down. The bakery I was so eager to see, forgotten. I typed…
Situated among the ruins of Pompeii
Gazing over partially exposed walls
Carefully and lovingly excavated
To wander, to marvel, to enjoy?
To ponder, to question, to consider?
I see butterflies and bumble bees
But no flowers
I hear birds singing and chirping
But no trees
Everywhere I turn
I see her
A constant reminder
Of the power of her will
Almost green, now
Much as she was before
It’s only a matter of time
Before she consumes, again
Who will be prayed to?
Is there anyone who’ll save you?
Sent from my iPhone
To learn more about how Pompeian life was revealed to archeologists, and the inspiration for the lead character in The Dog of Pompeii, check out Allan McCollum’s site.
From Day 1, read Dairy of a Seeker.
Stay tuned for what happens on my last day in Europe!