Pompeii was founded in the 8C BC by the Oscans. In the 6C BC the Etruscans and the Greeks struggled for dominance in the area. Pompeii was not strong enough to stand alone and so allied herself commercially and politically with the Greeks who were based in the nearby colony of Curnae. At the end of the 5C BC Pompeii came under Samnite rule when they drove out both the Etruscans and the Greeks. For a long period following this Pompeii was a prosperous town where both commerce and art and architecture flourished. In 80 BC the town fell under the rule of the Roman Empire. It soon became a favorite resort for wealthy Romans. Eventually Roman families settled and with them came the Roman administration, lifestyle, decoration and building methods. In 62 AD Pompeii experienced a major earthquake which resulted in heavy damage. The town was rapidly reconstructed and restored. The people and the administration used the damage as motivation to enrich their town with abundant architectural and artistic projects in the recent fashionable style (see painting styles). By 79 AD Pompeii was a bustling city of commerce, trade and industry. It boasted a population of about 25,000. Impressive amphitheaters had been built to cater to the populationÍs taste for sports and theatrical spectacles. Luxurious houses and temples defined the city center. It was just after mid-day on August 24 AD79 that Mount Vesuvius suddenly erupted. With little warning ash, pumice and sulfur rained down, quickly burying the town to the level of about 20 feet (5 meters). Thousands of people were engulfed with little or no chance for escape. Buried almost entirely in ash, most traces of the location of the town were obliterated and over time its whereabouts were forgotten. It was only in the 17th Century that it was rediscovered. Scientific excavations were begun in 1748 under Charles of Bourbon. Although the great eruption was without doubt a tragic event, historians have gained much knowledge due to it. A large part of what we know about the daily life of ancient Romans is attributable to the excavations at Pompeii. The layer of ash preserved the buildings, complete with artwork and even graffiti still on the walls. Statuary is still largely intact and the famous Roman roads are still paved. Pompeii was frozen in time and presents us with a comprehensive picture of the way of life in a fashionable town at the height of the Roman Empire.
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