Pompeii was really so obscene? : A little (very little) of History.
Table of Contents – Traveling to a Different Pompeii
Pompeii was really so obscene? Traveling to a Different Pompeii, we will answer that question. Pompeii is located in the south of Italy. barely two hours away by train from Rome. The story is quite familiar. The city is located on the slopes of Vesuvius, a volcano that on August 24, 79 AD, broke and buried the city in a sea of ash. More than 20,000 people died in that event.
It remained in oblivion until the eighteenth century, when under the domination the location of this city was rediscovered (the name was not even known) and excavations began.
Thermal baths, luxury residences, freediving houses, gymnasiums, artisan workshops and brothels were gradually appearing. In those places there were architectural remains such as mosaics, frescoes and sculptures. Some of them almost intact.
These findings speak of a sophisticated, well-off and evolved life. We must bear in mind that part of the aristocracy of the Roman era, had its villas in Pompeii and made tourism in that city and on the nearby island of Capri.
Also appeared part of the erotic life of pompeii. frescoes, murals, sculptures, lamps, amulets and even artifacts that we do not yet know their use and meaning.
Touring the streets and houses of Pompeii, the paintings and bas-reliefs with erotic motifs ranging from “Satyr and Maenad” (House of the Faun) or “Pan and the Hermaphrodite” (House of the Dioscuri), Some are sexually explicit as the ” Priapus with his phallus “(House of the Vetii).
The paintings are not limited to private places, such as the lupanar (brothel) or public baths, but can also be seen inside private homes, gardens and public use spaces shared by all. You have in the streets with phalluses signaling the sense of traffic.
One of the possible explanations was these images had ritual or religious value, and linked the phallic figures with the force generating or creating nature. They were also used to give good luck to a commercial establishment.
Erotic artifacts were found from the seventeenth century, and accumulated outside the view of the public in the Borbonic Museum (now Archaeological Museum of Naples), where I created a special room to store them.
In 1817 a first selection of artifacts was made to exhibit in the museum. In 1819, King Francis I of the Two Sicilies visited the Pompeii exhibition and the National Archaeological Museum of Naples with his wife and daughter. There he was scandalized with erotic art in such a way that he ordered it to be removed from the public view and confined to a secret room. Then the objects classified as obscene and indecent, were confined to the special room without any kind of order and the door was sealed at that time. Only in 1860 the room was opened and the artifacts were inventoried.
The secret room (Gabinetto Segreto in Italian) was opened with a special order obtained only by mature gentlemen of good manners. Also after having paid a large amount of money. In the same ruins of Pompeii, screens were placed on frescoes and obscene paintings and only with special invitation and payment were they shown to select tourists.
Over the years the room remained closed until Giuseppe Garibaldi ordered it to be opened again. That happened in 1860 during the Italian unification and when Garibaldi conquered Naples in that year
In 1866 a catalog of artifacts was published, but from that moment the official censorship of the Kingdom of Italy was restricting access until it was closed, in accordance with the customs and political winds of the moment.
At the time of the Mussolini Dictator visits were forbidden for not agreeing the vision of the new Italy (pure) with obscene artifacts of the ancient Romans. In the Fascist era, it could be visited with express authorization from the Ministry of Education.
The censorship was maintained after the end of the war until 1967, where the work of cataloging and restoring the artefacts of the obscene room was resumed.
The room was definitely reopened to the public since April 2000. While there is no censorship of any kind, there is a legend that warns about the special content of the room. In addition, children under 14 can only enter if accompanied by their parents or teachers
- Arrive early in the morning. Complete travel takes the whole day.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Yes possible trekking shoes.
- Most of the streets are made of stone blocks. Be guided when walking.
- Bring sunscreen.
- Head protection Hats, caps.
- Take a guide, Arming a tour before going to avoid losing time.If you do not go on a guided tour, check the schedule of the last train to Naples or Sorrento.
Train to the central station of Naples. Then in the same central station, in the subsoil is the local Trans-Vesuvian train. Ask about the Pompeii- Scavi station. The departure of trains in this station is somewhat chaotic with schedules and cancellations, ask until you make sure. This station has several branches and only one reaches the ruins of Pompeii, You can also take a bus, although we do not recommend it.
Transvesuvian train in the direction of the central station of Naples. Ask about the Pompeii- Scavi station.