The sacred and profane

Pompeii floor

This monochrome floor, complete with swastikas, is in Pompeii, one of many hidden by volcanic ash for more than 1,500 years following the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Almost all the city’s inhabitants died that day but their everyday objects remained: tables, beds, and chairs, these mosaic floors and some intricately decorated walls. The volcano survives too, there on the horizon, still a presence, still a threat, never entirely tamed by tourism.

The Romans often decorated their floors and walls with swastikas. The Nazis only appropriated this symbol much later. It’s graphic minimalism manages to represent both the very sacred and auspicious in Hinduism and Buddhism, and the vile barbarism of 1940s Germany and today’s Far Right movement.

The theme of this week’s Photo Challenge is minimalism, and you can find more examples here. I have also written separately about my visits to Siena, Venice and the Cinque Terre.

Vesuvius from Pompeii

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4 comments

  1. Found the history intriguing; great photos too. Thanks for sharing and great take on the challenge.

    1. Thank you. I’d always wanted to visit Pompeii and was so glad to have the opportunity this summer. We also climbed Vesuvius which is dormant and long overdue an eruption! It’s interesting to see how they have pretty well cleared the volcano’s slopes of all habitation. They want to avoid a repeat of Pompeii, two thousand years on! Understandably….

  2. Nice shot, I’m surprised you can walk on the floor

    1. Thank you! Some of the mosaic floors were protected, but not this one. I suppose a part of what makes the site so special for visitors is that you can just wander round this deserted town, and in and out of houses, and get a sense of what sort of place it was to live in. They must worry about the potential for damage and theft, but I don’t know whether it’s lack of resources or what that means we have such free rein. It is an amazing place.

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