The ancient sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum are famous around the world. They were frozen in time at the moment of their destruction when Vesuvius erupted in AD 79 and they have held an unbroken fascination ever since their rediscovery.

The exhibition casts a whole new light on Roman life on the slopes of Vesuvius. For the first time, the eruption of Vesuvius in the 1st century AD is shown in the context of a diachronic series of natural disasters that shaped the lives of the people of Campania from the 2nd millennium BC to the end of antiquity.

The exhibition is centred on people, above all their ability to manage the fear of imminent natural disaster and to settle again and again in certain high-risk areas, despite the acute danger. This phenomenon can be found in various epochs and disparate geographical contexts, but only rarely is the duality of life and death so vividly present as in the Gulf of Naples. Its ideal conditions for settlement and its inhabitants' joie de vivre lie under the shadow of Vesuvius, its silhouette dominating everything. In the exhibition, the focus is on traces of everyday life that allow the visitor a direct glimpse into past ways of life. They range from the complete contents of a bronze age hut, to the grand furnishings of a Roman townhouse.

Vesuv und Pompeji

Roman culture is uniquely tangible in the Vesuvian cities, but its influence reached as far as Saxony-Anhalt, as reflected in the imported Roman goods in Germanic princely graves in Central Germany (1st-3rd cent. AD). The Germanic princes sought out these prestigious goods, proof of the energetic cultural exchange taking place in Central Europe.

This cultural link becomes visible again after the rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the 18th century, when Saxony-Anhalt became one of the earliest homes of neoclassicism north of the Alps. This was the era in which the Garden Kingdom in Wörlitz was created by the Italophile Leopold III Frederick Franz, Prince-Duke of Anhalt-Dessau with a design inspired by the impressions of his journey to Italy. Today it ranks as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.