chapter  1
18 Pages

Pre-Roman Pompeii and Herculaneum

The vast majority of our evidence for the early history of Pompeii and Her cu lan - eum is archaeological. Scatterings of prehistoric artefacts indicate a long history of activity on the lava plateau at the mouth of the River Sarno occupied by the later town of Pompeii, but we have to wait until the sixth century BC for what can be identified as a city to develop on the site. During that century, the Doric Temple and sanctuary of Apollo were constructed, and an area of around 66 hectares was enclosed in a defensive wall. It had long been thought that it was possible to discern in the current street pattern the less regular layout of the earliest settlement at Pompeii. This so-called ‘Altstadt’, or ‘Old Town’, covered an area of about 14 hectares. It is now clear, however, that this area was not an original nucleus from which the settlement later expanded. Exactly what it does represent is still much debated. Ten miles away from Pompeii around the Bay of Naples, Herculaneum was a much later foundation, with the earliest evidence on that site dating only from the fourth century BC, and was on a much smaller scale of approximately 20 hectares. Nevertheless, both towns celebrated their mythological foundations by the Greek hero Hercules (A3-6).