Saturday, June 19, 2021

Pompeii's Regio V: Vibrant gladiator frescos and proof of October eruption date

This fresco of gladiatorial combat, unearthed in Pompeii in 2019, was found in a basement room of a building that scholars think was a tavern frequented by gladiators in the city.  The tavern was found not far from the gladiators' barracks in Regio V.

The wounded Thraex, bleeding profusely from injuries on his wrist and chest, raises a finger to indicate his submission and request for mercy. The victorious Murmillo, wearing a plumed, wide-brimmed helmet with visor, holds aloft his large rectangular shield in his left hand while gripping his short sword in his right.

For historians, probably the most significant find from Regio V was unearthed in 2018.  Excavators uncovered an inscription proving the city was destroyed after October 17, 79 CE instead of August 24 as previously thought.  The August date had been suspect for some time as a number of the 1,150 victims recovered from the ruins were discovered wearing heavier clothing than the light summer clothes typical of August. Fresh fruit and vegetables in the shops were typical of October – and conversely the summer fruit typical of August was already being sold in dried, or conserved form. Nuts from chestnut trees were found at Oplontis which would not have been mature before mid-September. Wine fermenting jars had been sealed, which would have happened around the end of October. Coins found in the purse of a woman buried in the ash include one with a 15th imperatorial acclamation among the emperor's titles. These coins could not have been minted before the second week of September.

Victorious Murmillo from Gladiator fresco found in Regio V of Pompeii in a tavern near the gladiator barracks

Defeated and badly wounded Thraex from Gladiator fresco found in Regio V of Pompeii in a tavern near the gladiator barracks

Gladiator fresco found in Regio V of Pompeii in a tavern near the gladiator barracks

Images courtesy of @DrJEBall and @pompeii_sites (digitally enhanced)


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