Behold 3D Recreations of Pompeii’s Lavish Homes–As They Existed Before the Eruption of Mount Vesuvius

“I pray that to their share of noble for­tunes [Zeus] send no Neme­sis of jeal­ous will, but in pros­per­i­ty and free from ills, exalt them and their city.” Pin­dar, Olympian Ode 8

Why are humans awestruck by nat­ur­al dis­as­ter? Or — more to the point — why are we dumb­found­ed when dis­as­ters destroy cities? We should hard­ly be sur­prised at this point when nature does what it invari­ably does: tec­ton­ic plates shift, vol­ca­noes erupt, hur­ri­canes and typhoons sweep the coasts…. These things have always hap­pened on Earth, with or with­out our help, and for many mil­lions of years before any­thing like us showed up.

Like the myth­i­cal Nar­cis­sus, we can only see our­selves and assume every­thing that hap­pens must be for us. After the Great Lis­bon Earth­quake in Por­tu­gal in 1755, “Lis­bon’s devout Catholic pop­u­la­tion saw the ruined city as divine pun­ish­ment,” writes Lau­ra Trethewey.

“The Protes­tant coun­tries of Europe also saw the destruc­tion as pun­ish­ment, but for back­ward Catholic behav­ior.” Mean­while, philoso­phers like Voltaire, who wrote Can­dide to sat­i­rize respons­es to the quake, saw the cat­a­stro­phe as more evi­dence that a cre­ator, if such a being had ever cared, cared no more.

In Greek and Roman mythol­o­gy, the gods nev­er stop med­dling, pun­ish­ing, reward­ing, etc. Nar­cis­sus is tempt­ed to gaze at him­self by Neme­sis, the god­dess who meets hubris with swift ret­ri­bu­tion. While gen­er­al­ly invoked as a lev­el­er of indi­vid­u­als who over­step, she also lev­els cities, as fifth cen­tu­ry BC Greek poet Pin­dar sug­gests when he begs Zeus to spare the island city of Aegi­na from her wrath. Per­haps, then, it was Neme­sis, winged vengeance her­self, that the cit­i­zens of Pom­peii believed bore down upon them, as molten lava, smoke, and ash.

From its ear­li­est sta­tus as a Roman-allied city (then Roman colony), Pom­peii grew into a very wealthy area, its sur­round­ing lands rich with vil­las and farms, its city cen­ter anchored by its Amphithe­ater, Odeon, Forum Baths and tem­ples, its run­ning water arriv­ing from the Seri­no Aque­duct. Maybe they had it too good? Maybe their extrav­a­gant good for­tune caused too much jeal­ous­ly in the neigh­bors? Maybe the gods demand­ed bal­ance. It’s very human to think so — to ascribe divine will, in the lack of expla­na­tion, for why some­thing so filled with teem­ing life should be destroyed for no rea­son at all.

It must have been the gods, who looked down on Pom­pei­i’s wealth and grew jeal­ous them­selves. In these 3D ani­mat­ed videos, see why ancient Pom­pei­ians would have been proud of their city, recre­at­ed here in part by Swe­den’s Lund Uni­ver­si­ty and Sto­ried Past Pro­duc­tions. “While in Pom­peii few could reach the elite,” notes the lat­ter in their descrip­tion of the video above, “many tried to recre­ate ‘the good life’ in their own ways.… From grand urban vil­las, to small pri­vate homes, to small­er apart­ments.” In these walk­throughs, you can “see all the dif­fer­ent things ‘home’ could mean in ancient Pom­peii.” You might also, if you aren’t care­ful, find your­self get­ting a lit­tle envi­ous of these doomed ancient urban­ites.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

The Lit­tle-Known Bomb­ing of Pom­peii Dur­ing World War II

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

A Drone’s Eye View of the Ruins of Pom­peii

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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