Category Archives: ITALY

Ancient images of gladiators unearthed at the city of Pompeii

Ancient images of gladiators unearthed at the city of Pompeii

Archeologists in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii have uncovered a well-preserved fresco showing fighting gladiators.

This scene marks the end of a war between a murmullo and a Thracian form of gladiator, one victorious and the other losing. Both types are described by weapons and armor.

It is the latest discovery in Regio V, a 21.8-hectare (54-acre) site to the north of the archaeological park that is yet to open to the public.

A detail from the fresco of two gladiators fighting that was found at a site north of Pompeii’s archaeological park

The fresco was found on a wall beneath the stairwell of what was probably a tavern frequented by gladiators and which provided accommodation on a higher floor for them to sleep with sex workers.

“It’s very probable that this place was frequented by gladiators,” said Massimo Osanna, the director-general of Pompei’s archaeological park.

The fresco was discovered on a wall in what was probably a tavern frequented by gladiators.

“We are in Regio V, not far from where there were barracks for gladiators, where among other things, there was graffiti referring to this world.

“Of particular interest in this fresco is the very realistic representation of wounds on the wrist and chest of the unsuccessful gladiator … we don’t know the outcome of the fight, he could have died or was given grace.”

A well-preserved ‘fast food’ counter was unearthed in March.

Excavations at Regio V have yielded dozens of discoveries since work began last year as part of the EU-funded Great Pompeii Project.

A frescoed “fast food” counter, or thermopolium, was found in March and another depicting the mythological hunter Narcissus enraptured by his own reflection in a pool of water was discovered in February.

Human remains have also been found, including the skeletons of two women and three children huddled together in a villa, as well as the remains of a harnessed horse and saddle.

Much work has been done across the entire park, which has attracted almost 4 million visitors a year since 2013 when Unesco threatened to place it on its list of world heritage sites in peril unless Italian authorities improved on preservation.

“A few years ago the archaeological site of Pompeii was known throughout the world for its negative image: the collapses, the strikes and the queues of tourists under the sun,” said Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini.

“Today’s story is one of redemption and millions of more tourists. It is a welcoming site, but above all, we have returned to doing research through new digs.

“The discovery of the fresco shows that Pompeii is an inexhaustible mine of research and knowledge for today’s archaeologists and for those of the future.”

Archaeologists Discovered a Hidden Chamber in Roman Emperor Nero’s Underground Palace

Archaeologists Discovered a Hidden Chamber in Roman Emperor Nero’s Underground Palace

Archaeologists Discovered a Hidden Chamber in Roman Emperor Nero's Underground Palace
Archaeologists working on the restoration of Emperor Nero’s palace in Rome have stumbled upon a hidden, underground room.

Nearly two thousand years ago, the massive palace designed by the Roman emperor had been hiding a secret.

A hidden underground room adorned with panthers and centaurs has been found by archeologists working on the restoration of the palace in Rome earlier this month.

According to a statement from Colosseum Archeological Park (Parco Archeologico del Colosse), the room, nicknamed “Sphinx Room,” is part of the remains of “Domus Aurea” (Golden House), the huge palace that Nero constructed during the fire of 64 AD, which devastated Rome.

The room was discovered accidentally, while researchers were setting up scaffolding for work on an adjacent room in the complex.

The room’s curved ceilings are 15 feet (4.5 meters) high, and much of the room is still filled in with dirt, the statement reads.

The figure of a centaur was found in one of the walls of the newly discovered room.

With the use of artificial lighting, crews uncovered a vault covered with colorful frescoes, featuring figures such as the god Pan, sea creatures, plant and water ornaments, a centaur, a panther attacking a man with a sword, and a “mute and solitary sphinx.”

One of the walls of the newly discovered room is painted with a little sphinx.

“[The Sphinx Room] tells us about the atmosphere from the years of the principality of Nero,” said Alfonsina Russo, director of the Archaeological Park of the Colosseum.

Nero was the fifth Roman emperor and the last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He is remembered as an ineffectual, neglectful and brutal leader, according to the BBC.

The figure of a panther attacking a man with a sword features in the newly-discovered Spinx Room.

When much of Rome was destroyed in the fire of 64 AD, Nero set about the necessary rebuilding of the city, appropriating a large area for a new palace — the Domus Aurea or Golden House — for himself.

The Domus Aurea complex covered parts of the slopes of the Palatine, Esquiline, Oppian and Caelian hills, completed with a man-made lake in the marshy valley.

That lake was eventually covered up by the Flavian Amphitheater — better known as the Roman Colosseum — in 70 AD.

Figures of sea creatures on one of the walls of the Sphinx Room. 

Scholars approximate the size of the Domus Aurea size to be over 300 acres, and it is believed to have included at least 300 rooms.

Experts said they will not excavate the newly discovered underground chamber further for fears for the stability of the complex. They dated the Sphinx Room between 65 and 68 AD.

Tomb Inscription Translated in Pompeii

Final Years of Life In Pompeii Revealed Through An Inscription

Pompeii was a city that was buried in ash in A.D. 79 as Mount Vesuvius erupted, and many people that lived there died. But before that catastrophic event, Pompeii was a wealthy city, and it was filled with parties and struggles

According to an inscription recently discovered on the wall of a tomb found in Pompeii in 2017.

Pompeii was buried in ash in A.D. 79 in the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Vesuvius
Pompeii was buried in ash in A.D. 79 in the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Vesuvius

The inscription describes a massive coming-of-age party for a wealthy young man. who reaches the age of an adult citizen.

According to the inscription, he threw a massive party that included a banquet serving 6,840 people and a show in which 416 gladiators fought over several days. 

The inscription also tells of harder times, including a famine that lasted four years and another gladiator show that ended in a public riot, Massimo Osanna, the director-general of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, wrote in a paper published in the 2018 issue of the Journal of Roman Archaeology, which is published once a year.

Osanna deciphered the inscription and discussed some of the findings the inscription reveals, including new information that may allow researchers to determine how many people inhabited Pompeii.

An inscription found on the wall of a tomb in Pompeii was recently deciphered, revealing a vast amount of information about what Pompeii was like in the decades before the city was destroyed in A.D. 79.

Coming-of-age party

The inscription says that, when the wealthy man was old enough to wear the “toga virilis” (a toga worn by an adult male citizen), he threw a massive banquet and gladiator shows.

The banquet was served “on 456 three-sided couches so that upon each couch 15 persons reclined,” the inscription reads, as translated by Osanna. 

This information could help researchers determine how many people lived in Pompeii in the decades before it was destroyed, Osanna wrote.

The inscription claims that 6,840 people attended the banquet. Because a banquet like that would likely be served only to adult males with political rights, and those men probably made up about 27% to 30% of Pompeii’s population, Osanna estimates Pompeii’s total population to have been about 30,000 people. 

The gladiator show held by the wealthy man was “of such grandiosity and magnificence as to be able to be compared with [that of] any of the most noble colonies founded by Rome, since 416 gladiators participated,” the inscription says.

A show of this size would have taken several days, if not a week, Osanna wrote, noting that if each gladiator fought one-on-one, there would have been 213 separate fights.

Famine and riots

The newly deciphered inscription discusses a four-year famine in Pompeii and the efforts of a wealthy man to alleviate the distress by distributing free bread. The account could also be depicted in a famous mosaic from Pompeii, which shows bread being distributed during a famine.

The inscription also mentions a famine, during which the wealthy man helped his fellow Pompeii citizens by selling wheat at discounted prices and organizing the distribution of free loaves of bread.

A famous mosaic from Pompeii shows three people, including a child, at a stall waiting to get bread, Osanna said, and it’s possible that the mosaic shows the event mentioned in the inscription. 

Just 20 years before the Vesuvius eruption, in A.D. 59, a riot broke out during a gladiator show, according to the inscription.

The ancient Roman historian Tacitus (AD 56-120) also mentioned this riot in his book “Annals.” The inscription says that, as a penalty for the riot, Emperor Nero “ordered that they [Roman authorities] deport from the City beyond the two-hundredth mile all the gladiatorial households [schools].”Nero also ordered several Pompeii citizens involved in the riot to leave the city, according to the inscription. 

The inscription claims that the wealthy man talked to Nero and convinced the emperor to allow some of the deported citizens to return to Pompeii — an indication of the high regard Nero seems to have held for the man, Osanna wrote. 

Who was the wealthy man?

Osanna believes the wealthy man’s name and position were carved into a part of the tomb, which is now destroyed; it was looted in the 19th century. 

The identity of the wealthy man could be Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius, a man mentioned in other inscriptions from Pompeii, Osanna wrote. Maius is described as a man of great wealth and power who lived around A.D. 59, Osanna wrote. Previous archaeological work shows that a tomb belonging to Maius’ adoptive father, “Marcus Alleius Minius, is located near the tomb with the inscription. 

The translation of the inscription is preliminary, and further studies may provide more information about it, Osanna wrote.

A Search for a Lost Hammer Led to the Largest Cache of Roman Treasure Ever Found in Britain

A Farmer’s Misplaced Hammer Led to the Largest Roman Treasure in Britain

When Eric Lawes set off for a field in Hoxne village, Suffolk on November 16, 1992, it wasn’t on a treasure hunt.

The metal detector he’d received as a retirement gift was meant to find a hammer lost on the farmland.

But the detector picked up a strong signal in the earth, leading Lawes to start digging, and it quickly became apparent that he had indeed found treasure.

Hoxne Village. 

The Guardian reports that, when Lawes saw that his preliminary digging had yielded a few gold coins and silver spoons, he immediately contacted both the local archaeological society and the police department.

Archaeologists came to the property the following day and had the area of earth holding the treasure carefully sectioned-off and removed. Their hope was that at a later stage, in their laboratory, they could examine the items in order to identify both their age and how they were stored.

Hoxne Hoard: Display case at the British Museum showing a reconstruction of the arrangement of the hoard treasure when excavated in 1992. 

When all was said and done, close to 60 pounds of items made from silver and gold were found on the site. These included more than 15,000 Roman coins, 200 gold objects, and several silver spoons.

For archaeologists, this find — which later became labeled as the Hoxne Hoard — was an incredible discovery. AP News reported that archaeologist Judith Plouviez was over-the-moon about the discovery, saying that it was “an incredibly exciting and amazing find.” What’s more, another archaeologist, Rachel Wilkinson, told Smithsonian Magazine that this discovery was “the largest and latest ever found in Britain.”

Ordinarily, archaeologists would use radiocarbon dating as a means of identifying the age of ancient relics. However, they couldn’t locate any suitable material from the haul. Consequently, they determined the age by examining the writing on the coins, as well as the ruler carved into them, estimating that the treasure was probably buried in either 408 or 409 AD.

The silver “Hoxne Tigress” – the broken-off handle from an unknown object – is the best known single piece out of some 15,000 in the hoard.

Roman-era archaeologist Peter Guest told Smithsonian Magazine that “if you look at them a little more carefully, then they should be dated to the period after the separation of Britain from the Roman Empire.”

He offers as part of his evidence the fact that almost all of the coins found in the Hoxne Hoard were clipped – in other words, small chunks of their edges had been taken off. These clippings would have been used to create coins which were similar to the Roman coins of that era.

A silver-gilt spoon with a marine beast from the Hoxne Hoard. Currently in the British Museum. 

A guest has a logical reason for this, arguing that “The Roman Empire wasn’t supplying Britain with new gold and silver coins, and in light of that, the population tried to get over this sudden cutoff in the supply of their precious metals by making the existing supplies go further.”

Reconstruction of the Hoxne treasure chest. 

Archaeologists also believe that the treasure belonged to a Romano-British family. During that time, considering that there was so much societal discord and upheaval, it was common for Romans who had settled in Britain to bury their most prized possessions.

Two gold bracelets from the Hoxne Hoard, in the British Museum.

That said, one archaeologist is of the belief that the hoard had a lot of sentimental value for the Romano-British family to whom it is believed to have belonged. In her book The Hoxne Late Roman Treasure: Gold Jewellery and Silver Plate, Catherine Johns claims that the manner in which the treasure was kept supported this claim.

Some of the items which were recovered had been packaged in small, wooden boxes which were lined with leather. What’s more, pieces of wood, locks, and nails, among other things, surrounded the gold and silver pieces. This leads Catherine to assert that the package was carefully buried and not simply chucked away in a rush.

Three silver-gilt Roman piperatoria or pepper pots from the Hoxne Hoard on display at the British Museum

Interestingly enough, the items unearthed might shed some light on the identity of the family who owned them. They cite a gold bracelet bearing the inscription “UTERE FELIX DOMINA IULIANE,” which roughly translates to “use this happily Lady Juliane”.


A second name “Aurelius Ursicinus” has also been discovered. This has consequently led some to believe that Juliane and Aurelius were the couples and the original owners of the treasure. That said, that has yet to be confirmed.

Two toiletry items, one in the shape of a crane-like bird; the other with an empty socket, probably for bristles for a makeup brush. 

All in all, the discovery was a real treasure for archaeologists, and by extension, for Lawes. According to Smithsonian Magazine, in recognition of his discovery and willingness to contact authorities, the British government rewarded him with over £1.7 million, an amount which he shared with the farmer whose land was dug out in order to get the treasure.

Funnily enough, apart from the treasure, Lawes also found his lost hammer — which now resides in the British Museum.

2000-year-old preserved loaf of bread found in the ruins of Pompeii

2000-year-old preserved loaf of bread found in the ruins of Pompeii

This is the ultimate piece of toast: a loaf of bread made in the first century AD, which was discovered at Pompeii, preserved for centuries in the volcanic ashes of Mount Vesuvius.

The markings visible on the top are made from a Roman bread stamp, which bakeries were required to use in order to mark the source of the loaves, and to prevent fraud.

I can’t get over how well it maintained its shape and texture, through both the volcano eruption and the ravages of time. It’s a very unsettling tribute to the normalcy of day-to-day life leading up to the catastrophic event: a (sort of) edible memento mori.

The ruins of Pompeii were first “discovered” in the late 16th century, even though the existence of an ancient city, hidden for centuries somewhere below the ground, was well known.

With the help of modern archaeology, the remains of more than 1,500 people were recovered, and with them numerous mundane objects, encompassing the daily life of a Roman town — frozen in time.

Herculaneum was engulfed by a fast-moving wave of hot mud, whereas Pompeii was buried by a hailstorm of ash and lumps of rock.

Roman bakery oven – archaeological remains at Ruins of Pompeii. The city was an ancient Roman city destroyed by the volcano Vesuvius. Pompeii, Campania, Italy.

The volcanic material solidified into up to 50 feet of rock that preserved all kinds of objects such as furniture, family portraits, and mosaics. Because the rock kept out the air, organic materials including leather, wood, and foodstuffs were also saved from decay.

The most amazing human remains have been found at Pompeii. Unable to escape the destruction, it is thought that most of the residents were killed by the intense heat.

The petrified bodies decayed to leave hollow impressions in the rock. In around 1860, superintendent of the excavations, Giuseppe Fiorelli, poured wet plaster into the mysterious cavities his team was finding — revealing finely detailed molds of the ancient Pompeians.

Oven and stone hand mills (mola asinaria) for grinding grain, Pompeii, Campania, Italy.

One object among the thousands of interesting artifacts has received much attention from both the scientific community as well as the general public. Loaves of bread were found in an oven inside the ruins of a bakery, preserved in charcoal, covered in ancient ash, with their texture and shape looking like they just came out of the oven.

Each is marked with the baker’s stamp, which was used as a guarantee of quality and a mark of the bakery in which the loaf was made.

The baker’s oven with the bread was first discovered around 1880, and while the loaf has long since been part of museum exhibitions, the bakery remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in Pompeii today.

A portrait depicting the baker, Terentius Neo, and his wife was also found. What makes the portrait even more interesting is the way the wife is depicted — holding a writing plate, indicating that she was literate and standing with her husband as an equal, both in marriage and in business.

The Roman kitchen of a Thermopolium in Via Consolare street at Ruins of Pompeii, Campania, Italy.

Food remains, among other things, were discovered in both cities, giving us a rare and exquisite insight into the diet of an average Roman citizen.

In 1930, archaeologists discovered another carbonized loaf of bread inside an oven in Herculaneum. The Roman bread exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples was later borrowed by the British Museum. For their 2013 live cinema event, “Pompeii Live from the British Museum,” London-based Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli was invited to recreate the 2000-year-old recipe.

Bases for a roman stone hand mills (mola asinarae) of a bakery at Ruins of Pompeii. The city was an ancient Roman city destroyed by the volcano Vesuvius. Pompei, Campania, Italy.

“In AD 79, a baker put his loaf of bread into the oven. Nearly 2,000 years later it was found during excavations in Herculaneum. The British Museum asked Giorgio Locatelli to recreate the recipe as part of his culinary investigations for Pompeii Live,” explains the British Museum.

Charred loaf, from Modestus’ bakery, Pompeii, Campania, Italy. Roman civilization, 1st century. Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Archaeological Museum) 

With recreating the ancient bread recipe, Locatelli and the British Museum offered a glimpse into something quite ordinary, yet it so fascinating to be able to understand how people ate their bread 2000 years ago.

The objects, the food, the furniture, and − above all − the plaster casts of the people, today serve as a tribute to a time long lost, when life was violently interrupted by the forces of nature and left to be rediscovered centuries later.