The city of Ercolano is famous in the world for the archaeological ruins of the ancient Herculaneum and it is a place rich of history. According to legend, the city was founded by Hercules and was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79. Today Herculaneum is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, together with Pompeii and Oplontis.
According to the legend narrated by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in 1243 BC Hercules founded Herculaneum when he returned from Iberia, but according to historical sources in the 12th century BC it was founded by the Oscans.
It was conquered by the Greeks that gave it the polis organization, then passed under the rule of the Samnites and in 89 BC under the Roman domination, so in the same period it became a town hall.
So the city became a residential neighbourhood for Roman aristocracy and lived its period of maximum splendor thanks to the tribune Marcus Nonius Balbus, who promoted the construction of new buildings such as the Basilica, two thermal complexes and the Theater.
In 62 A.D Herculaneum was damaged by Pompeii earthquake, but it wasn’t enough. After the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 the city was completely buried under a blanket of mud and debris from ten to twenty-five meters high. These materials solidified, giving life to a layer of rock called pappamonte, like the tufa but more tender, which preserved the ruins of the city.
After the eruption life slowly began to flow and so in 121 AD there was the reactivation of the ancient coastal road that led from Naples to Nocera. In the basilica of Santa Maria of Pugliano are kept two Christian sarcophagi dating back to the II and IV-V centuries AD as evidence of the ancient peoples. In 10th century we have the first references to a farmhouse in Resina or Risina.
The origin of the name is still controversial, as some experts attribute it to the corruption of the name Rectina, a Roman patrician woman who owned a villa in Herculaneum and who asked for help to Pliny the Elder because of the eruption as it is reported in the famous letter of Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus.
Other experts think its name derives from "retincula", that is the nets used by the fishermen of Ercolano, or from the resin of the trees of the woods grown on the ancient lavas, or from the name of the river that ran at the edge of Ercolano. As last explanation Resìna is seen as the anagram of a siren because a siren was the symbol of the House.
The beginning of the discovery of the ancient Herculaneum occurred by chance in 1738 during the construction of the Palace of Portici, commissioned by Charles of Bourbon.
There just some inscriptions and frames were found, but in 1981 new exploration allowed to identify a first group of skeletons. They were piled under some arches that supported the Thermal Baths and the Sacred Area, used for the maintenance and shelter of the boats.
In the following years more than three hundred human remains were found and their position led the archaeologists to think that most of the population of Herculaneum had tried to escape by sea.
Other short explorations were carried out between 1988 and 1996 and precisely in 1997, the Excavations of Herculaneum became part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
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