Archaeological Areas of Pompeii, Herculaneum 
and Torre Annunziata (1997)

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United Nations (Vienna) 2002. Pompei and Herculaneum.

When Vesuvius erupted on 24 August A.D. 79, it engulfed the two flourishing Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as the many wealthy villas in the area. These have been progressively excavated and made accessible to the public since the mid-18th century. The vast expanse of the commercial town of Pompeii contrasts with the smaller but better-preserved remains of the holiday resort of Herculaneum, while the superb wall paintings of the Villa Oplontis at Torre Annunziata give a vivid impression of the opulent lifestyle enjoyed by the wealthier citizens of the Early Roman Empire.
  • United Nations (Vienna) 2002. World Cultural Heritage Series. Pompeii and Herculaneum 

Pompeii, ancient city of Italy, in the Campania Region, built at the mouth of the Sarnus River (now Sarno), a few miles south of Mount Vesuvius, between Herculaneum and Stabiae. The city was founded about 600 BC by the Oscans, who were later conquered by the Samnites. Under the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla it became a Roman colony in 80 BC and later a favorite resort for wealthy Romans, reaching a population of about 20,000 at the beginning of the Christian era. It was also a place of considerable trade and was the port town of Nola and other inland cities of the fertile valley of the Sarnus. The city was much damaged by an earthquake in AD 63 and was completely demolished in AD79 by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius that overwhelmed the towns of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae. The eruption also changed the course of the Sarnus and raised the sea beach, placing the river and the sea at a considerable distance from the ruined city and obscuring the original site. 

For more than 1500 years Pompeii lay undisturbed beneath heaps of ashes and cinders, and not until 1748 were excavations undertaken. The importance of the discoveries first came to the attention of the world through the work of the German classical archaeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann. New discoveries continued to be made throughout the 19th century and into the 20th. 

In 1912, in a street that connects the Strada dell' Abbondanza with the amphitheater, several houses were found, each with a balcony on the second floor that was 6 m (20 ft) long and 1.5 m (5 ft) deep. This section of the city is known to tourists as the Nuovi Scavi (New Excavations). 

  • Italy 1989. Pompeii and Vesuvius in the background. 

Italy 1989. Pompeii and Vesuvius in the background.

Some of the ruins were badly damaged by air raids during World War II and had to be restored. Additional excavations are continuously made. More than one-fourth of the city remains to be excavated, and much of this area lies beneath piles of earth heaped up from earlier excavations. 

Among the most significant aspects of the discoveries at Pompeii is the remarkable degree of preservation of the ancient objects. The showers of wet ashes and cinders that accompanied the eruption formed a hermetic seal about the town, preserving many public structures, temples, theaters, baths, shops, and private dwellings. In addition, remnants of some of the 2000 victims of the disaster were found in the ruins of Pompeii, including several gladiators who had been placed in chains to prevent them from escaping or committing suicide. 

Italy 2005. Campania Region.

Ashes, mixed with rain, had settled around the bodies in molds that remained after the bodies themselves had turned to dust. Liquid plaster was poured into some of these molds by the excavators, and the forms of the bodies have thereby been preserved; some of these figures are exhibited in the museum erected at Pompeii near the Porta Marina (Campania Region), one of the eight gates of the city. 

  • Italy 2005. Regions of Italy -- Campania -- adorned with an artifact from Pompeii. 

Most of the inhabitants escaped the eruption, carrying with them their movable assets. 

After the eruption they tunneled into and around the houses and public buildings, and carried off almost everything of value, even to the extent of stripping marble slabs from the buildings. For this reason few objects of great value have been discovered at Pompeii. 

Most of the movable objects that were found, and some of the best-executed wall paintings and floor mosaics, have been removed to the National Museum in Naples. 

  • UNESCO (France) 1998. Fresco from Pompeii. 

UNESCO (France) 1998. Italy. Fresco from Pompeii.

Taken together, the buildings and objects provide a remarkably realistic and complete picture of life in an Italian provincial city of the 1st century AD. The surviving edifices, representing a transition from the pure Greek style to the building methods of the Roman Empire, have been especially important for the study of Roman architecture. 

Ajman 1972. Frescoe from Pompeii.

In 1972 Ajman issued a huge series of stamps showing artworks -- frescoes, paintings, pottery, and more -- from the excavations in Pompeii. These stamps are listed in the German Michel Catalogue # 2042 - 2058, all of them appearing both perforated and imperforated, and many of them also appearing in sheetlets. 

The one shown here is # 2051 (Block 445), showing the world famous frescoe unveiled in Pompeii, of a man and a woman. No more artistic information is given about this stamp, but it may give you a taste for what is to be seen at the Pompeii site. The frescoe is remarkably well preserved, and gives a good idea of what the people of the antiquity looked like. The couple on this frescoe seems to have been rather wealthy, and has most likely lived a prosperous life, until the disaster hit them 

The stamp is cancelled to order, and has a face value of 1,50 Riyals. 

  • Ajman 1972. Frescoe from Pompeii (Michel # 2051). 

Herculaneum, ruined city of ancient Italy, at the base of the volcano Mount Vesuvius, about 8 km (5 mi) east of Naples. According to legend, the city was founded by the mythical Greek hero Hercules, for whom it is named. Herculaneum was severely damaged in the year 63 by a violent earthquake, and in 79 it was buried, together with the city of Pompeii, by lava, ashes, and mud more than 15 m (50 ft) thick during an eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The remains of the buried city were first discovered in 1706. Systematic excavations of the ruins were begun in 1738 and have proceeded intermittently since that time. The excavations have shown that Herculaneum was a popular resort area for wealthy Romans. 

Many of the richly adorned villas and the theater that have been uncovered have yielded fine marble and bronze sculptures, paintings, and an extensive library of papyrus rolls. 

These treasures, together with many other objects such as vases and domestic implements, are displayed in the National Museum in Naples. 

  • Italy 2000. The ruins of Herculaneum. 


Italy 2000. Herculaneum.

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Italy (on this site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Italy for further information about such sites. 

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Revised 01 aug 2006  
Copyright 1999 Heindorffhus 
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