Home to the Oscan-speaking people, the native inhabitants of Campania, Stabiae in Italy, gives a deeper insight into Roman life. Every footstep through the ancient streets tells the story of the past unknown to us and the lives of people before us. Off the beaten track villas at Stabiae with a pursuit of leisure and many more enticing surprises awaiting visitors along the Gulf of Naples, beyond the hallowed and much-visited ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The fate of these settlements is sealed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. A history of over two thousand years unveiling the life and stories of the people is written in everything you found in the remains. This is for the discoverer in you to understand and live a tinge of a life lived by strangers. No strangers anymore, but someone with a story in us.

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Wall painting from Stabiae_©https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wall_painting_from_Stabiae,_1st_century.jpg

A Rich History of Stabiae

A journey to Rome’s best-kept secret, located on a panoramic bluff overlooking the Bay of Naples, lies Ancient Stabiae, a little-known jewel in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. The magnificent geographical position and its particularly mild climate make Stabiae a base for extraordinary villas for the powerful Romans embedded with everything their heart wishes for. From splashing fountains and pools to saunas and indoor bath complexes, the needs and wants are addressed in a royal makeover. The way they spent their summer days walking along shaded porticoes and gardens and the villas filled with stunning art collections and beautiful frescoes, and mosaics creates an enthralling mental image.

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The strategic and commercial role of Stabiae is seen in the villas of residences and the amenities surrounding it. It entices a tale of town planning and order. Villa S. Marco, with an area of ​​11,000 square meters, is one of the largest among the Roman villas with a residential character; Villa Arianna, the oldest, which owes its name to the great mythological painting found in the back wall of the triclinium and the villa called Second complex, separated from Villa Arianna by a narrow street.

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The Burial of Stabiae

The settlement of Stabiae is buried underneath massive pyroclastic surges and ashfall deposits when Mount Vesuvius erupts in southern Italy along with the prosperous Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing thousands. The cities were buried under a thick layer of volcanic material and mud leaving no one alive. Most of the victims were painfully asphyxiated by volcanic ash and gas. The tragedy still captivates history lovers everywhere.

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Its proximity to the City of Naples and the surrounding towns on the nearby slopes makes Mount Vesuvius one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. The volcano is classed as a complex stratovolcano because its eruptions involve explosions and pyroclastic flows. More than 50 eruptions have been recorded and the one that destroyed the town on August 24/25,79 AD is the most famous. Over two days, it also devastated the form and life of the Herculaneum, Stabiae, and Oplontis.

The story of Stabiae is the oddest. The records by Pliny the Elder states that the town had been destroyed by Sulla during the Social War in 89 BCE so completely that only a single farmhouse remained. At some point afterward, the area was turned into luxury villas, until the eruption of Vesuvius, which destroyed it once again.

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Stabiae Today

The treasure trove of ancient Stabiae is opening up to the world. The foundation, Restoring Ancient Stabiae(RAS), is working hard to excavate the whole town and villas and to transform the land into one of the largest archeological parks to date. Excavations revealing a 300 meter-long columned courtyard, large garden, and cubicle to local artifacts unearthed life of a thousand years back. The excavations unveiled the road networks and connections used by people of that era and the architectural elements from the past. The discoveries attracted archeologists and people interested in history, paving the way for the tourism industry.

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part of the frescoed ceiling from the portico of the Villa San._© https://i2.wp.com/the-past.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/post-1_image0-158-scaled.jpg?w=1500&ssl=1

The excavations bring into light the wall paintings, sculptures, and artifacts from the remains of the ancient city of Stabiae. Much of which still lies buried under the modern town of Castellammare di Stabia, a few kilometers away from its more famous and more fully excavated sister cities. The magnificent and well-preserved villas that dotted the countryside around Stabiae are excavated with their original porticoes and beautiful rooms decorated with wall paintings. It is a source of delight for modern visitors as they must have been for their ancient owners and guests.

Wall-painting with a cupid playing a tympanum, Villa San Marco_© https://i0.wp.com/the-past.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/post-1_image3-82.jpg?w=1500&ssl=1

Rediscovering Ancient Stabiae

The story of this priceless landmark continues to save the past in the future. The 21st-century technologies and a handful of universities working together to bring back the past glory are promoting Stabiae to an international level. The long-lost legacy of Stabiae is dusted off to uncover the roman life. 

To guarantee the sustainability of the RAS project and to promote constant development, public and private fundraising programs are conducted. Friend of Stabiae is a campaign for the collection of private funds. We can even adopt a project.

Stabiae’s long neglect seems to be over. The quintessential hope in the future is to bring more discoveries to shed light on the halcyon days of a particularly privileged community living in an enchanted landscape. Let the long- buried secrets reveal s the story unfolds.

References

  1. Lynch, P. (2017). 7 Things You Didn’t Know About the Tragic Town of Pompeii and the Volcanic Eruption That Destroyed It. Available from: https://historycollection.com/7-things-didnt-know-tragic-town-pompeii-volcanic-eruption-destroyed/. [Accessed: August 7, 2017].
  2. Thompson, A. (2017). 30 Cities Around the World That No Longer Exist. Available from: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/518369/30-cities-around-world-no-longer-exist. [Accessed: December 13, 2017].
  3. Life in Italy LLC (2018). Italian Art: Restoring Ancient Stabiae. Available from: https://lifeinitaly.com/stabiae/. [Accessed: July 4, 2018].
  4. Modianot, D. (2007) Ancient Rome’s Forgotten Paradise. Available from: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/ancient-romes-forgotten-paradise-157684606/. [Accessed: June 30, 2007].
Author

She is an architecture student hailing from the small state of Kerala, in India. Writing has always been a passion for her and combined with designing, became the underlying rationale which led to the field of architecture. The thought provoking stories told by buildings and their surrounding environments brews her to be a storyteller.

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