Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Herculaneum
Herculaneum View slideshowSituationThe remains of Roman Herculaneum lie within the area of modern Ercolano (until 1969 known as Resina), 8km/5mi southeast of Naples, near the Gulf of Naples in a bay of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Although much of Herculaneum is still buried under the modern town, it offers a vivid impression of the aspect of an ancient city, comparable with the remains of Pompeii and Ostia.HistoryProbably founded by Greek settlers under the name of Herakleion and later occupied by Oscans, Etruscans and Samnites, Herculaneum fell into Roman hands in 89 B.C. In A.D. 63 it suffered severe damage in an earthquake, and in A.D. 79 it was buried under ashes and pumice during an eruption of Vesuvius. At that time the town, a favorite summer resort of the Romans, had a population of perhaps 6,000. Subsequent eruptions increased the depth of ashes and lava to between 12 and 30m/40 and 100ft. The hardness of this covering, in contrast to the situation at Pompeii, hindered the activity of plunderers in antiquity.ExcavationsFrom 1719 onwards shafts were sunk into the site at random, yielding some splendid finds which now rank among the principal treasures of the National Museum in Naples, including papyrus rolls and bronze statues. Systematic excavations carried on since 1927 have brought to light the sumptuous villas of wealthy merchants, the furnishings of which have so far as possible been left in situ. In contrast to the mostly single-storyed buildings of Pompeii, the houses of Herculaneum are mostly of two or three storys, with much use of wood in half-timbered construction, doors and staircases. Extensive excavations are still in progress. Severe damage took place during an earthquake in November 1980.
From the main entrance (general view) at the northeast corner of the excavation site, the Scavi d'Ercolano, a road 400m/438yd long leads to the south end of Cardo III, which runs through an area excavated in the 19th century. On the left is the House of Aristides, a sumptuous country villa, and beyond it the House of Argus, with wall paintings and a pillared garden.
Address: Corso Resina, I-80056 Herculaneum, Italy
On the right-hand side of Cardo III, the Large Inn, a patrician house converted into an inn, has a terrace overlooking the sea. Farther along, on the right, is the House of the Skeleton (wall paintings, mosaics), and on the left the House of the Genius, a fine patrician mansion with a garden enclosed by colonnades.
Half-way along its length Cardo III is crossed by the Decumanus Inferior, along which are the recent excavations. Beyond the crossing, on the left of Cardo III, is the House of Galba, another fine patrician mansion, with a cruciform water-basin.
Sacello degli Augustali
At the north end of Cardo III, the Sacello degli Augustali, a square shrine lit by an opening in the roof, was originally dedicated to Hercules, patron of Herculaneum, but later consecrated to the Imperial cult (fine frescoes).
Along the Decumanus Inferior to the right is the Cloth-Merchant's Shop, with a wooden hand- press (restored). To the left are the Baths, much of the structure well preserved, with separate sections for men and women.
At the corner of the Decumanus Inferior and Cardo IV is the Samnite House, one of the oldest patrician mansions in the town, with regular paving and rich stucco and fresco decoration. Adjoining is the House with the Large Doorway.
House of the Wooden Partition
On Cardo IV, immediately on the right, is the House of the Wooden Partition, a patrician house of Samnite type (without a peristyle or colonnaded court). The bedrooms still contain bedsteads and a wooden chest. The adjoining Casa a Graticcio, was a more modest house with interior walls of wattle. Immediately to the south is the House of the Bronze Herm, named after a bronze herm (head of Hermes) which is probably a portrait of the owner of the house.
House of the Mosaic Atrium
In the southern section of Cardo IV is the House of the Mosaic Atrium, a spacious and sumptuously furnished mansion.
House of the Deer
Adjoining the House of the Mosaic Atrium on the east is the House of the Deer. In the northern part of the street, on the right, is the House of the Charred Furniture, and beyond it the House of the Mosaic of Neptune and Amphitrite. Nearby are the House with the Fine Courtyard, and opposite a building called the Salon of Nero.
On the far side of Cardo V, the House of the Gem is beautifully painted in reddish-brown tones, and adjoining it on the southeast are the Suburban Baths (Terme Suburbane).
House of the Relief of Telephus
To the northeast of the House of the Gem, towards the sea, is the House of the Relief of Telephus, one of the most elegant mansions in the town, with a spacious colonnaded atrium containing a marble basin and a colonnade leading into the park.
On the east side of the town is the extensive complex of the Palaestra.
House of the Bicentenary
On the Decumanus Maximus (only partly excavated), parallel to the Decumanus Inferior on the north, the House of the Bicentenary contains on the first floor the oldest known Christian cross. It derives its name from the fact that it was uncovered in 1938 some 200 years after excavations were started.
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