Necropoles in Ancient Pompeii

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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The necropolises of ancient Pompeii were the burial grounds, located outside the city walls, characterized by a variety of tombs and grave markers, ranging from modest graves to elaborate monuments, reflecting the diversity and complexity of Pompeian society.

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The necropolises of Pompeii reveal a range of funerary practices that reflect the city's cultural diversity and the influence of Roman customs. Both methods (cremation and inhumation) of body disposal were practiced in Pompeii. Cremation was more common during earlier periods, while inhumation (burial of the body) became more prevalent later on. Tombs often contained personal items, such as jewelry, pottery, and coins, intended to accompany the deceased into the afterlife. These grave goods provide valuable information about the personal lives and beliefs of the individuals buried there. Many tombs feature inscriptions that commemorate the deceased, providing names, ages, professions, and sometimes details about their lives and achievements. These inscriptions are a crucial source of historical and genealogical information.

The necropolises of Pompeii were not just places for burial but also served as sites for commemoration and social display. The construction and decoration of tombs were ways for families to express their social status, wealth, and piety. The variety of tomb types and the presence of elaborate monuments reflect the competitive nature of social status in Pompeian society.

The necropolises of Pompeii have been extensively studied since their discovery, providing invaluable insights into the city's social structure, cultural practices, and daily life. The preservation of these sites allows archaeologists to piece together the lives of Pompeii's inhabitants and their attitudes towards death and the afterlife.

The necropolises of ancient Pompeii are rich archaeological sites that offer a window into the city's complex social fabric and cultural practices. From the elaborate tombs of the wealthy to the modest graves of the common people, these burial grounds reveal much about the values, beliefs, and daily lives of the Pompeians. Through ongoing excavation and study, the necropolises continue to enhance our understanding of this ancient city and its inhabitants.

List of the Necropoles

circa 150 BCE

Necropolis of Nocera Gate
The necropolis is set on the sides of a road that runs parallel with the city walls. There are several burial monuments that exemplify the most popular models at the beginning of the 1st century BCE, the period when the necropolis began to be visited, and 79 CE. These include the tomb of Eumachia, the priestess who financed the construction of a large building in the Forum dedicated to Augustan Concord and Piety. Here, inside an enclosure, there is the high basis over which a semi-circular (exedra) opens up, inside of which the burial chamber is found.

circa 150 BCE

Necropolis of the Vesuvius Gate
The necropolis of the Vesuvius Gate is located in the north, along the road leading to Mount Vesuvius. In the early 20th century, the excavations brought to light some monumental tombs of famous aristocratic citizens, including that of Vestorius Priscus, adorned with an exceptional series of paintings.

circa 150 BCE

Necropolis of the Herculaneum Gate
The necropolis of the Herculaneum Gate, which stretches along the road that led to Naples, was already used during the first centuries of life in Pompeii, although the funeral buildings visible today date back to the 1st century BCE and thereon. The monumental tombs illustrate the most common types of funeral at that time. One can see two tombs upon leaving the Herculaneum Gate, on the left, which consist of a semi-circular seat in tuff, called schola (from the Greek word schole, which is the root word for 'school'), typical of Pompeii and dedicated by the city assembly to distinguished and deserving citizens. One of them preserves the inscription of the owner of the tomb in large letters, the public priestess Mamia, who died around 29 CE and who had had the Temple of the Genius of Augustus in the Forum built. Other tombs are built on a high basis in the shape of an altar, such as that of Naevoleia Tyche and Munatius Faustus with the depiction of the double seat, a symbol of the honour granted to sit in the front row at the theatre and of a ship that enters the port. Later, the suburban of the city begins among the tombs, populated by several villas.

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