Pompeii Rebuilt: A Tour of the Ancient City Before It Was Entombed by Mount Vesuvius

We can’t regard the ruins of Pom­peii, how­ev­er unusu­al­ly well-pre­served they are, with­out try­ing to imag­ine what the place looked like before 79 AD. It was in that year, of course, that Mount Vesu­vius erupt­ed, entomb­ing the ancient Roman city in ash and pumice. The exhumed Pom­peii has taught mod­ern human­i­ty a great deal about first-cen­tu­ry urban plan­ning as prac­ticed by the Roman Empire. But it’s one thing to walk the paths Pom­pei­ians walked, and quite anoth­er to see the built envi­ron­ment that they must have seen. The lat­ter expe­ri­ence is avail­able in the eigh­teen-minute video above, which uses com­put­er graph­ics to cre­ate a tour of a rebuilt Pom­peii.

This pro­duc­tion, in fact, pro­vides views of Pom­peii that Pom­pei­ians them­selves could nev­er have seen, includ­ing drone-like flights along its streets and around its famous struc­tures like the Tem­ple of Apol­lo, the Basil­i­ca, and the Forum. But even more than its grand pub­lic build­ings, the city’s pri­vate dwellings — many of them grand in their own way — have influ­enced the way we’ve built in recent cen­turies.

“With their unmis­tak­able style, they have inspired archi­tects of all times,” says the video’s nar­ra­tor. Even as urban­iza­tion reduced the size of Pom­pei­ian hous­es, they gained “rich­ness in dec­o­ra­tions,” reflect­ing the sen­si­bil­i­ty of the local cul­ture.

“Tem­ples, basil­i­cas, spas, hous­es, and a refined, high-lev­el lifestyle make Pom­peii one of the most famous cities of the Roman Empire of the first cen­tu­ry,” says the nar­ra­tor. “All of this, how­ev­er, is about to end abrupt­ly.” We all know what hap­pened next, but the extent of the destruc­tion wrought by Mount Vesu­vius takes a vivid form in the video just above, which com­pares its own CGI recon­struc­tions of these same build­ings to the ruins of today. In its time, Pom­pei­i’s refine­ment made it a well-known city, and some­thing of a show­case of Roman civ­i­liza­tion. But near­ly two mil­len­nia after its destruc­tion, it has become much more famous as a sym­bol of civ­i­liza­tion itself: its sur­pris­ing con­ti­nu­ity, but also its decep­tive fragili­ty.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch the Destruc­tion of Pom­peii by Mount Vesu­vius, Re-Cre­at­ed with Com­put­er Ani­ma­tion (79 AD)

How the Sur­vivors of Pom­peii Escaped Mount Vesu­vius’ Dead­ly Erup­tion: A TED-Ed Ani­ma­tion Tells the Sto­ry

See the Expan­sive Ruins of Pom­peii Like You’ve Nev­er Seen Them Before: Through the Eyes of a Drone

High-Res­o­lu­tion Walk­ing Tours of Italy’s Most His­toric Places: The Colos­se­um, Pom­peii, St. Peter’s Basil­i­ca & More

Archae­ol­o­gists Dis­cov­er an Ancient Roman Snack Bar in the Ruins of Pom­peii

How Ancient Scrolls, Charred by the Erup­tion of Mount Vesu­vius in 79 AD, Are Now Being Read by Par­ti­cle Accel­er­a­tors, 3D Mod­el­ing & Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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