The Citizen (KZN)

Fresh frescoes unearthed in Pompeii


Rome – A black-walled banqueting hall decorated with scenes from Greek mythology, where ancient Romans feasted by candleligh­t, has been unearthed in Pompeii, the archaeolog­ical park said this week.

The exceptiona­lly well-preserved frescoes show the god, Apollo, attempting to seduce Trojan priestess Cassandra, and Helen of Troy meeting Paris, an encounter which would lead to war.

“The mythical couples were starting points for talking about the past and life,” Pompeii director Gabriel Zuchtreige­l said in a statement. “The walls were black to prevent the smoke from the lamps on the walls from being seen,” he said.

“Here they gathered to feast after sunset, the flickering light of the lamps made the images seem to move, especially after a few glasses of good Campania wine,” said Zuchtreige­l, referring to the southern Italian region.

Pompeii was devastated when nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted almost 2 000 years ago in 79 AD.

The ash and rock helped preserve many buildings almost in their original state, as well as forming eery shapes around the curled-up corpses of victims of the disaster, thought to number around 3 000.

The hall, with its nearly intact white mosaic floor, was discovered during an excavation which has also uncovered a bakery, a laundry and houses with sumptuous frescoed living rooms.

“Pompeii is truly a treasure chest that never ceases to surprise us and arouse amazement because, every time we dig, we find something beautiful and significan­t,” Culture Minister Gennaro Sanguilian­o said.

The spacious hall shows “the high standard of living” in the domus, where building works had been under way when the volcano erupted, the park said.

It said the fresco themes appear to be heroism and destiny, with the relationsh­ip between individual­s and fate embodied by Cassandra, who is cursed by Apollo for rejecting him, so that she can foresee the future but is believed by no-one.

The banqueting hall – which measures some 15 metres by six metres – opens into a courtyard which appears to be an open-air service hallway, with a long staircase leading to the first floor. –

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