Two thousand years ago, Mount Vesuvius – a stratovolcano located close to the Gulf of Naples – erupted with tremendous force and little warning. Within only 24 hours, the Roman city of Pompeii was buried under a rain of hot ash and falling debris. Lying undiscovered for over 1,600 years, the city’s rediscovery remains one of the greatest archaeological finds of all time. Pompeii: In the Shadow of the Volcano, which opened last month at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, Canada, examines everyday life in Pompeii through six distinct sections on those who called the ancient city home. (The exhibition then travels to the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts in February 2016.) In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Curator Paul Denis about the exhibition as well as the ways in which our lives mirror those from the distant past.
Last weekend I travelled to Toulouse to visit the fabulous exhibition on Roman frescoes being held at the Musée Saint-Raymond. The exhibition entitled ‘L’Empire de la couleur – De Pompéi au sud des Gaules’ (which translates as ‘Empire of colour – From Pompeii to Southern Gaul’) opened last November and runs through March 2015. The majority of Roman frescoes were found in Campania, in the region around the Bay of Naples. It is there that Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, burying much of the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and nearby villas. The ash, lapilli, and mud that seeped into the houses acted as a preservative for wall paintings, but also for many households and decorative objects, as well as organic materials. Most of the paintings were detached from the houses of Pompeii and the surrounding area between the mid-eighteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. They represent an exceptional insight into the development of Roman painting from the Late Republic to the Empire.