- Nicholas Purcell
Archaeologically the best-known Roman city, this port and regional centre in the Sarnus plain of south *Campania, destroyed by the eruption of ce 79, is central to the study of Roman art and domestic life, but surprisingly hard to fit in to general accounts of local politics, or economic and social history.
The oldest architecture (fragments from the Doric Temple and the Temple of *Apollo) belongs in the Greek milieu around the Campanian apoikiai of the 6th cent. bce (see apoikia): scattered finds suggest links with the *Etruscan cultures of the Archaic and Classical periods, and the wider Mediterranean world. Pompeii appears as a dependent port-settlement of *Nuceria in 310 bce (Livy 9. 38. 2–3), and at no earlier point—either in the Greek, Etruscan, or early Samnite (*Oscan-speaking; see samnium) milieux of 6th, 5th, and 4th cents.—does there seem to have been a substantial urban nucleus or an autonomous political community. Even now there has been little stratigraphic excavation, but the early Pompeii appears at present as a village on the lava hill above the sheltered mouth of the river Sarno, with a couple of prominent sanctuaries and a likely role as an anchorage for coasting vessels and a local market.