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According to the legend, this Greek settlement was founded by Hercules. Whatever the truth of this,it later passed to the Samnites before becoming a Roman town in 89 BC. Twelve kilometres south-east of Napoli, modern Ercolano is a congested, tangled suburb of the city. Ercolano was previously peaceful fishing and port town of about 4000 and something of a resort for wealthy Romans and Campanians.
The fate of the city paralleled that of nearby Pompei. Destroyed by earthquake in 63 AD, it was completely submerged in the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvio. The difference was that Ercolano was buried by a river of volcanic mud, not the tufa stone and ash that rained on Pompei. The mud helped preserve it for posterity. When the town was rediscovered in 1709, amateur excavations were carried out intermittently until 1874 and much of the material found was carted off to Napoli to decorate the houses of the well-to-do or to end up in museums. Serious archaeological work was began in 1927 and excavation continues today.
Ercolano’s main street, Via IV Novembre, leads from the Stazione Circumvesuviana, at the modern town’s eastern edge, to Piazza Scavi and the main ticket office for the excavations – an easy walk. There is a tourist office ( 081 788 12 43) at Via IV Novembre 84, but it has little more to offer than a brochure with a map of the ruined city.
The site is divide into 11 insulae (islands) carved up in a classic Roman grid pattern. From the main entrance and ticket office you follow a path above and around the site, until you arrive at the entrance to the ruins proper in the south-western corner. To leave the site, you must go all the way back to the ticket office.



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