Pompeii may be an ancient and lost civilization but there are deep and life-changing lessons that live still in the destroyed streets and lanes of this most incredible of preserved sites.
Situated near Naples, in the south of Italy, was one of the greatest civilizations ever to live. Founded in around the 7th Century BC, and destroyed some thousand years after that by the infamous and cataclysmic eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Pompeii can leave anyone in shock that a civilization like this existed so long ago.
A vibrant port, Pompeii had writers, philosophers, theaters, and brilliant architecture, as well as gymnasiums and water systems meaning they had both the social structures and engineering knowledge hundreds of years before their contemporaries. Although colonized by the Romans for the last hundred and fifty years of its existence, Pompeii’s culture and knowledge was created apart from its Roman rulers, and was an example of life lived closely to the way we do today.
To the world’s loss, the explosion of nearby Mount Vesuvius destroyed everything they had created, and covered it in six meters of ash and burning rock. Pompeii was completely lost, forgotten from the world’s conscience for 1500 years, and though finally rediscovered in 1599, it was not until the mid-1700’s that the site was reopened for the world to see again. A saving grace of the sheer totality of the destruction and burial of Pompeii is that so much of the city was perfectly preserved under the ash and rock. When archaeologists began to dig, they found whole streets still preserved, along with artefacts, tools, and even graffiti still surviving under the rubble for 1500 years.
Seeing Pompeii gave us an appreciation of what human capability in the far reaches of history – and it also serves as a reminder of how fragile and tenuous even the most advanced civilizations can be. We may think that society, art, and intelligence are the primaries of our eras, but seeing Pompeii shows just how far the world had come even by then, and had it not been for its destruction, we may well have advanced even further already. Pompeii’s enduring lesson is a reminder that nothing lasts forever, and no matter what, to make the most of every moment.