Day 57

Greg Sokol and Driu Colgan


Saturday, November 10th

Sites: Pompeii (aka Pomp-YAY!)


This long day began with a history report. Joshua discussed the history of the excavations at Pompeii and its role in the development of modern archaeology. In the beginning, the excavations were centered on art history, or rather, the stealing of art for the private collections of rich people. On a side note, Driu Colgan ‘08 plans to install the Augustus at Prima Porta in his villa. Back to Josh. Any artifacts discovered not of artistic or monetary value were left in the holes, which were then backfilled. Gregory Sokol ‘10 and the aforementioned Mr. Colgan both very much enjoyed the fact that gunpowder was used alongside the brush and the chisel as a new, precise tool for excavation. From 1748, when excavations began at Pompeii, to the modern day, a vast array of scholars in many fields directed excavations, or in most cases, glorified tomb robbing, at Pompeii. It began under military leadership, and at one point even passed under the guidance of Alexandre Dumas, noted French author/badass. Detailed scientific excavation and records began with Fiorelli in 1863, and have progressed systematically to the students of the Dartmouth College Rome FSP ’07.



Next, after a short bathroom break, we made our first visit to the archaeological candy shop (just wait, we haven’t even gotten to the Lupinar yet) that is Pompeii.  Beginning with the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus (affectionately known to FSP students as JOMax), we discussed the public buildings around the forum. This temple to JOMax is a hexastyle pseudo-peripital temple with a high podium, deep porch, and speaker’s platform, all clearly Italic.  But what are peculiar here are the two lateral lines of ionic column that flank the three niches of the cella within the cella walls. This is Greek. We find this melding of Italic and Greek principles all over the site of Pompeii; the Temple of Apollo, discussed in one sentence from now (and also in the hit sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica), is another example of this Greek-Italic fusion. Mr. Colgan had to go “number one” during the lecture on the Temple of Apollo, but Mr. Sokol was present and attentive. The Temple of Apollo is a hexastyle temple built on a high podium with a deep pronaos, built in the typical Tuscan Italic style. However, what is especially notable about this temple is its surrounding environment. It is enclosed by an Ionic colonnade supporting a Doric frieze, in the Greek style.



The basilica at Pompeii is also particularly intriguing, being that unlike in the Basilica Aemilia, a clerestory, a roofing structure designed to allow light into the building, is absent. Instead, the exterior wall is a full two stories tall, with engaged Corinthian columns and rectangular windows to admit light and air from the second story. As a result, the central nave of the basilica was most likely unroofed. The basilica also had what appears to be a front porch, a colonnade below the level of the basilica, in line with the forum. The forum as a whole, like each of the imperial fora in Rome, was enclosed by a colonnade on three sides.


After another quick bathroom break, we went to the Lupinar, a brothel. After initial adolescent giggling at the graphic sexual wall paintings, Irat presented the history of the sex trade in Pompeii. We used this presentation to discuss the role of women in Roman society and the physical relations between men and women. Society then was characterized by a reverence of corporal integrity, something which the Romans valued above all else.  They viewed sex as the violation of corporal integrity, making prostitution closer to rape than anything else.  Men visited brothels not to get pleasured, but to feel better about themselves by forcefully violating another person. Women who became prostitutes, even only to escape starvation, could never leave the stigma behind.  Marriage was the only exception to this conception of sex because it was the binding of one woman to one man.  The wall paintings, therefore, can be viewed as idealized representations of sex in an attempt to “pretty up” the activities that occurred there into something that one could stomach: essentially “beautifully rendered f***ing.”


Our next stop in the sex tour of Pompeii was the Suburban Baths, where Zeke and Irat made a tremendously moving presentation about another set of erotic wall paintings. These paintings are on the walls of what was essentially the “locker room” of the bath complex, marking different cubbies where patrons would store their clothing while using the baths. These paintings sparked a heated discussion among the group over the purpose of the graphic paintings. Zeke and Irat, using John C. Clarke’s analysis, argued that the paintings were an attempt to combat invidia, or envy, in the changing room by sparking laughter at the increasing ridonkulosity (über-ridiculousness, in street talk) of the paintings. We will not discuss here the lewd nature of the paintings here, since cunnilingus, fellatio, and four-person orgies are inappropriate for these hallowed pages (this is known as praeteritio, Cicero’s and Mr. Colgan’s favorite rhetorical device).  Many students, although conceding the fact that men typically laugh at juvenile, sexual humor, especially in locker room situations (c.f. the etymology of the term “locker-room humor”), found it difficult to fathom that women, who also used this room, would, with their more sophisticated sense of humor, laugh at these depictions.


Mr. Sokol provided the climax (no pun intended) of the day with his presentation on the eruption (again, no pun intended) of Mt. Vesuvius.  Using Pliny the Younger’s letters to Tacitus about the eruption of said volcano and a selection of ancient verse and satire, he discussed the Roman’s rudimentary volcanology, concluding that the Pompeiians were severely unprepared for the eruption and taken completely by surprise.  He then discussed the stages of the eruption as we understand it today: the Plinian (characterized by a  tall eruption column of ash and pumice stone) and the Peléan phase (pyroclastic flows and surges).  The ash of the Plinian phase preserved the ancient buildings and the pyroclastic flows sealed them until 1764, when they were accidentally stumbled upon. Mr. Sokol concluded his presentation with a lively reenactment of that fateful eruption using Diet Coke, Mentos, baking soda, and vinegar, in a reprise of his fifth-grade science fair project. Lily Dahn assisted.


We then had dinner, and afterwards a killer episode of Battlestar Galactica. Then, Mr. Colgan and Mr. Sokol did their website report for the day, and retired to bed, together.