After an introduction from Antonio to the entrance we were taking, some of the houses we were seeing on the entrance, and more than a couple “jokes for the tourists”, we exit the Via Marina into a Roman Basilica. This long hall, with numerous columns along each side, ended with a raised columned platform. Antonio said that this was used for various government and judicial matters. It certainly looks impressive and quite official. The individual column bases that survived the explosion and subsequent deluges of ash and debris still stand in rows leading to the official platform.
The “open end” (slightly ironic, given that the entire excavated structure is open to the sky and sides) leads out into the Forum Pompeii. This, like the design of other major Roman cities of that age, was the main square of the city and cart traffic was prohibited there. It was the heart of political and religious life, surrounded by religious, civil and commercial buildings.
Stepping out into large courtyard area, many more restored columns are present, giving a sense of a covered awning and a large open central area. These columns, uncovered from the volcanic ash, remain as impressive today as they must have been almost 2000 years ago.
Vesuvius rises impressively behind the far end of the Forum square. Given that the Forum layout doesn’t track strictly “north-south”, it seem apparent that the Forum and several of the major streets in Pompeii were aligned to give a direct (and really cool) view of Vesuvius dominating the horizon. Thank you Google Maps for making this obvious — technology FTW!!
Antonio takes us through several buildings and areas immediately off of the Forum, including the Macellum (or marketplace). It was here that I loitered on the edge of our group, fascinated by some of the archaeological artifacts behind a semi-secure wire fence. Some were obviously cataloged neatly into bins, while others (pottery and the like) were leaned against each other awaiting classification and some future evaluation.
My first exposure to some of the human remains of Pompeii was here … and was a bit of an unsettling event, as previously – I’d only seen the plaster casts (more on that later). These were completely identifiable skeletal remains (click at your own risk, sorry) – stored in trays with the extracted ash still surrounding them.