Public Buildings and Infrastructure in Ancient Herculaneum

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The public buildings and infrastructure in ancient Herculaneum refer to a variety of buildings and structures that a provided range of civic amenities designed to facilitate daily life, social interaction, religious practice, and physical well-being.

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Overview

The public buildings and infrastructure of ancient Herculaneum exemplify the Romans' mastery in urban planning, engineering, and civic organization. From advanced water systems and well-maintained roads to vibrant public spaces and sacred temples, Herculaneum provided its residents with essential amenities for communal living, cultural expression, and spiritual fulfillment. These structures, preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, offer invaluable insights into the daily life, social dynamics, and technological achievements of this ancient Roman town.

Herculaneum had a sophisticated water supply system, well-planned and paved streets, raised sidewalks, protective walls equipped with gates encircled Herculaneum, public baths, a small but significant theatre (still buried, partially excavated).

Public Buildings

circa

Large Palaestra
The Large Palaestra of Herculaneum almost completely takes up the eastern side of Insula Orientalis II. The complex contained two swimming pools and a central bronze fountain. The Palaestra was built during the Augustan period and occupies an area of approximately 105x70 metres. Occupying the middle of the open area was a cruciform pool 5.5 meters wide by 1.1 meters deep with arms measuring approximately 50 meters and 30 meters. The Palaestra (gymnasium) in Herculaneum, where wrestling matches and ball games used to take place in front of large audiences.

circa 25 BCE

Suburban Baths
The Suburban Baths (Terme Suburbane), are believed to have been built by Proconsul Nonius Balbus as a gift to the town, suggested by the statue and memorial to him situated in the building’s front terrace. The baths survived the eruption of Vesuvius exceptionally well, largely as a result of its construction. The buildings walls were made of brick and concrete, while vaults supported the roof. Debris filling the interior of the structure could also have helped preserve it against the pressure of the eruption.

circa

Central Baths
The Central Baths also known as the Urban Baths (Terme Urbane) or the Forum Baths (Terme del Foro), are a bath complex of the Roman period. Precise dating of its construction is not certain, due to the absence of commemorative epigraphs. It is assumed that these were built, together with many other public buildings in the city, during the Julio-Claudian era. Damaged by the Pompeii earthquake of 62 CE, some restoration works were started as shown by the reconstruction of the frescoes, they were then affected by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE and covered by a blanket of mud following the pyroclastic flows.

circa

Shrine of the Augustales
The Shrine of the Augustales (Sacello degli Augustali), also known as the College of the Augustales (Collegio degli Augustali) is a cultic-is a religious building from the Roman era. The College of the Augustals was built at the end of the 1st century BCE, probably around 14 BCE, during the Augustan period. The building was commissioned and financed by the two brothers A. Lucius Proculus and A . Lucius Iulianus. The College was restored following the Pompeii earthquake in 62 CE, between the end of the Neronian era and the beginning of the Flavian era, it was in this period that the central chapel was added.

circa 10 CE

Terrace of Marcus Nonius Balbus
The Terrace of Marcus Nonius Balbus (Terrazza di Marco Nonio Balbo) is a large terrace or square, entirely dedicated to Marco Nonio Balbo and his Funerary Monument. His altar, erected on a marble base, faces the sea and his statue is dressed in a cuirass. The head of the statue of Balbus, was found during the excavations carried out by Amedeo Maiuri (early 1900s), while the body came to light only in 1981.

At the center of the large terrace is the funerary altar of Marcus Nonius Balbus. There are copies of two cupids on top of it, both of which hold upside down torches as a sign of mourning. Balbus was a praetor and proconsul of Crete and Cyrene and served as tribune of the plebs in 32 B.C. This architectural complex near the Suburban Baths included the terrace as well as an honorific statue and altar.

Notable Infrastructure

circa

Cardo V
(Cardo V Superiore)

circa

Marine Gate Tunnel
()

circa

Decumanus Maximus
Today the decumanus maximus forms the northern most boundary of the archaeological site of ancient Herculaneum. During excavations about a hundred meters of total length has been exposed. One of the most notable strucutres that lie on the decumanus is the ad-cucumas shop.

circa

Lower Decumanus
The decumanus inferiore is exposed for about 115 meters

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See Also

References

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