chapter  6
9 Pages

THE FIRST SANCTUARIES

ByStefano De Caro

What we know of Pompeii’s earliest sanctuaries comes essentially from researchconducted in the nineteenth century, leading to the first stratigraphic investigations of the city’s earliest phases.1

Although our picture of these phases is still full of gaps, it is nevertheless clear that the central place in the archaic city belonged to the Sanctuary of Apollo, located at the intersection of the two perpendicular streets that divide the Altstadt, whatever this represents within the great first circuit of walls built of pappamonte, the gray local tufa. Pappamonte was also used for the earliest structure in this sanctuary, an opus quadratum wall that probably marks the boundary of the temenos on the side on which the House of Triptolemus would later be built. Votive offerings, sometimes consisting of valuable Middle Corinthian craters, provide evidence of the cult in that sacred space since the beginning of the sixth century BC. Such finds attest both the intensity of the nascent city’s relationships with Greek trading circuits, and the consistency of the aristocratic ideal that the dedicands felt with the imagery of the banquets and of the departures of warriors represented. In this first phase the sanctuary probably consisted of a votive column and an altar, as in the area sacra of the Lapis Niger in Rome. Nor does the allusion seem far-fetched, because the evidence of the inscriptions scratched on the bucchero vases found in the sanctuary show that the city was decidedly Etruscan in this period, even if the god worshiped, Apollo, is the one who most represents the link of these southern Etruscans with the world of the Greek colonies, Cumae in particular, where the cult of the god was certainly very important.