The Fall of Pompeii reimagined in Paris' Grand Palais
Pompeii, the Roman city buried in volcanic ash 2,000 years ago, retains its universal allure. At a new Paris exhibition, visitors can experience the city up close thanks to the latest 3D technology.
Time travel to the ancient world
A walk through the streets of Pompeii is like a journey back in time — all the way back to the 79 AD. Pompeii was considered one of the most beautiful cities in the former Roman Empire. The climate is mild and grape vines grow across the fertile slopes of Vesuvius. Many of the homes also enjoyed sea views.
A life in luxury
Pompeii was relatively large, the city extending over 60 hectares. Eight gates and eleven watch towers ensured the safety of its citizens. Wealthy citizens valued luxury such as thermal baths and a cooling swimming pool in summer, in addition to cultural institutions including a theater, and a large sports facility. Meanwhile, the Temple of Jupiter rises in the Forum in the central square.
Reconstruction of a villa
Wealthy citizens had magnificent villas built with colonnaded courtyards, ornate mosaics on the floors and detailed murals. A typical house could have looked like this back in Pompeii's pomp 2,000 years ago.
'Villa of Mysteries'
This estate was one of the main attractions in Pompeii, and remains one of the best preserved villas of ancient times. Apparently, the house also served as a place to worship Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and ecstasy (called Bacchus by the Romans). As the Dionysus festivities became increasingly excessive, the Senate banned them in 186 B.C. — though the orgies continued in secret.
Cookshops and wells
But not all inhabitants of Pompeii were wealthy and indulgent. Many were poor and most lived modestly while working as farmers, bakers or millers. Food was bought in public cookshops, a kind of snack bar from ancient times, and water was drawn from street corner wells. Women seek help from Diana (pictured), considered the goddess of fertility and midwifery.
Before Pompeii was destroyed in 79AD, it had suffered from another eruption 17 years earlier. Many buildings collapsed but a lot were rebuilt even more magnificently than before. This ruin of a bath bears witness to this. Few would have suspected that the whole city will have to be abandoned a few years later.
Killed on the run
For days the earth shook. Then Vesuvius began to spit ash and pumice stone at dawn on August 24. Many people are killed by falling debris, or suffocated in the ash. Those who survive become victims of the devastating lava flow that follows. Centuries later, the horror is still tangible as the cavities left by the dead bodies in the rock are filled with plaster and turned into sculptures. ar.
A lost city
Of the approximately 20,000 inhabitants, about 2,000 would be found alive, having presumably fled the city in time. But Pompeii was abandoned and forgotten for centuries. Only in 1594 did canal workers accidentally discover old underground passages with inscriptions and busts. Almost 200 years later, the first archaeological excavation took place under King Charles III of Spain.
As a layer of ash almost seven meters (23 feet) thick lay over the city, the systematic excavation of Pompeii did not begin until 1860. Even today, Pompeii is not yet completely unearthed. But the scale of the volcanic eruption was a stroke of luck for archaeologists since it preserved in rich detail the everyday life of a Roman city.
The Grand Palais Museum in Paris pays tribute to the submerged city of Pompeii with an extraordinary digital exhibition. In addition to various found objects, the focus is on a 3D reconstruction through which visitors can become time travelers and immerse themselves in the ancient city. The show runs from July 1 to September 27.