The outstanding archaeology of the Naples region preserves an unusually complete and vivid picture of life and society in ancient times. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD buried the towns and villas of this region under thick deposits of volcanic ash. Archaeologists are still today unearthing the entombed world below, constantly making new discoveries of breathtaking detail.
Campania Felix: Whilst Rome was the capital of empire, the Bay of Naples was the favoured out-of-town Roman retreat. Its scenic coastline was studded with richly decorated villas, thriving market towns and extensive harbour facilities. Volcanic soils provided a fertile hinterland, and the region was also admired for the rich cultural gloss of its earlier Greek heritage.
Magna Graecia: This is where Greek civilisation first spread westwards in the 8th century BC, transmitting classical culture to the Romans from Greek colonies which sprang up around the coast of southern Italy. The Romans called this region Magna Graecia (Greater Greece), and the magnificent Greek temples at towns such as Paestum must have inspired similar awe in the Romans as they do in us today.
A Bustling Region: After Rome took control of the region in the 3rd century BC, opulent villas appeared alongside expanding market towns. Puteoli (Pozzuoli) became the main town on the bay, and Rome’s main port for trade with the east. Its exotic imports and cosmopolitan population created a diverse and lively setting for the gruesome spectacles staged in its amphitheatre, one of the largest and best preserved in Italy. At nearby Cape Misenum the emperor Augustus built his main naval facility for the imperial fleet, and it was from here that Pliny the Younger witnessed and recorded the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Vivid Vesuvian Snapshot: When the skies cleared after the eruption a vast swathe of countryside, towns and villas around the bay had been buried under thick deposits of volcanic ash and debris. Life slowly resumed on the new ground surface, but a moment in time had been entombed for posterity below. Its rediscovery began with antiquarian diggings some 200 years ago, and it continues to surprise us today with new finds and unrivalled insights into the ancient world.
A Grand Tour: Follow in the footsteps of famous 18th and 19th century Grand Tourists as you explore classical antiquity at its most coherent and compelling. The significance and appeal of ancient history and archaeology are readily conveyed through exquisite works of art, intimate stories and everyday details from the past, whilst the dramatic coastline, terraced lemon groves, teeming towns, and still smoking volcano ensure that Campania Felix lives on as a fertile landscape today. Where better to enjoy truly Italian culture?
For more on Pompeii and Campania read our Recommended Publications