Archaeologists Discover Vibrant 2,000 Year Old Painting in Pompeii


Everyone knows the story of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii which was destroyed after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The entire area was covered with a layer of volcanic material, and as archaeologists excavated the area they continued to find hidden treasures beneath the debris. The latest includes a brightly colored mural that looks like a painting hanging on the wall.

Vibrant frescoes were discovered in the House of Leda in the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. It was burned under a cover of volcanic material by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and, considering its age, is quite well preserved. It was revealed by Pompeii Archaeological Park, the government-backed organization that manages the site and its excavations.

It was found that the graffiti had been painted as if it were a framed picture itself, hanging on a bright yellow wall. However, while the piece is in good condition, it is not completely intact. The upper right corner of the painting is missing and there are two large cracks in the middle. Still, the condition of what remains is remarkable.

British archaeologist Dr. Sophie Hay, who works at the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, called the discovery "magical." He said, "Seeing the vibrant colors of the freshly uncovered frescoes in Pompeii is a privilege and a joy that never diminishes." Regarding the frescoes themselves, he said, "Looking at the latest discovery of the mythological scene – Phrixus seated on a ram while his sister Helle was drowning – it is no exception in the context of the room it was decorated."

Phrixus and the myth of Hell

The scene depicted in the fresco is a story from Greek mythology. It depicts Phrixus and Helle, two twins, crossing the sea on a ram with the golden fleece while fleeing their stepmother. In the fresco, Phrixus is seen seated on a ram, while Hayley is reaching for her brother after falling from the magical creature.

The myth says that the twins were forced to flee their evil stepmother, Ino, when they discovered that she was trying to kill them. As they are fleeing, they ride a magical ram that is able to fly and swim, but as they attempt to cross the strait, Hayley falls. She reaches out to her brother, but her efforts fail and she ultimately drowns. Phrixus safely reaches a region called Colchis, where he sacrifices the ram to Zeus. Zeus then placed the sacrifice in heaven, creating the constellation.

Leda's house

Although the find itself is a surprise, it is not surprising that it was found in the house of Leda. Excavations at the Leda House date back to the early 18th century and were finally resumed in 2018. The site is known for its intricate wall paintings, so it seems only fitting that this remarkable discovery was found within its walls.

However, Dr. Andrew Sillett, a classics lecturer at the University of Oxford, provided a reminder that not every piece of art in the house depicts scenes as epic as this fresco. "Visitors in the entrance hall are greeted by a large painting of the fertility god Priapus placing his giant [expletive] on a set of scales to see how it measures the fruits of that year's crop. ," he explained. This is a huge difference from the scene with Phrixus and Helle.

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