• Imagining History

Pompeii - A KS2 Guide

Updated: May 4

Pompeii, so what's that then?

Pompeii was an ancient Roman City that, along with the town of Herculaneum, was buried under 6 metres of volcanic ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.


That sounds bad.

It really, really was. The entire city was wiped out over the two days the eruption lasted. Whilst devastating, many people must have escaped the disaster though.


How do we know that?

Well, the 6 metres of volcanic ash perfectly preserved life in Pompeii, from buildings, to works of art and even people; all were entombed. Over time, wooden structures and people all decayed. This left 'voids' which archaeologist's filled with plaster - creating statues of real Roman citizens in the final moments of their life.


In total 1,150 bodies have been found in Pompeii but experts estimate that 15,000 to 20,000 people lived in the city at the time of the eruption, so many people were able to escape this horrific event and survive.


Just to confirm, where is Pompeii again?

Pompeii is in Italy. Right here:



Is Pompeii very important to historians?

Yes, very. So far two thirds of the city have been excavated and many important discoveries have been made. Here's a selection:


Courtesy ancient.eu

Above is a picture of graffiti found on a wall in Pompeii. The writing was either inscribed by a knife or painted on. What did Romans write? Well, some of it was a bit boring - stuff about politics - and most other examples were really, really rude! So rude we cannot mention them here. Shocking ay?




Courtesy The Telegraph

This is a Roman Launderette. Romans would take their clothes here to wash in the baths and dry in presses. There were even basins for dying your clothes.

Fun fact, the Romans used wee to clean their clothes, so this launderette would have been very stinky!




Courtesy planetpompeii.com

Above are the Stabian Baths, some of the oldest Roman baths ever discovered. They were built in 120 BC and were absolutely enormous, covering 900 metres of ground. That's the same length as about 9 football pitches. These baths are still standing and can be seen by the 2.5 million people who visit Pompeii every year.





Courtesy ancient.eu

This fresco depicts a politician giving away food - probably to gain support in a political campaign. The picture depicts a a load of Roman furniture - check out the basket for bread in the background. These objects would never have survived the centuries of time that have passed since the Romans - meaning this fresco gives us a glimpse of life as a Roman citizen.



Any other discoveries?

You betcha! Historians have been able to learn all sorts about what Romans ate. Rich romans enjoyed a load of exotic weird stuff, like sea urchin and giraffe.

But, most importantly, from the remains in pots, archaeologists have learnt that most Romans ate olives, nuts and fish - just like us today.



Right, so, do I spell it Pompei, Pompeii or Pompey?

Definitely Pompeii with two 'i's. Pompei with one 'i' is the modern city in Naples, Italy, where the ancient Pompeii can be found. Pompey refers to Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. Which is a long and confusing name and probably why he preferred to be called Pompey the Great. Pompey was a Roman general who went up against Julius Caesar to control Rome, he lost.



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