Stabiae survived the eruption in 79 A.D. that destroyed the near cities like Pompeii and Herculaneum. It was involved in the eruption but it was also exceptionally rebuilt in order to preserve its important port and trade center. There are splendid villae with fine frescos and precious mosaics, less known than the ones in Pompeii, but not less important. Some of the most famous frescos in Pompeian style came from these cities, like the fresco of Flora, and the decoration in the domus are extraordinary because of their impeccable taste.
The first inhabitations in Stabiae were built in IX century B.C. and it has always been since these times an important center. At first it was inhabited by italics indigenous populations, then it became an “emporion” a Greek commercial colony, and then it was occupied by the Samnites since the V century.
The influence of this population was very important, until the come of the Romans that defeated them. Stabiae was an important port and became also one of the favorite places by the rich romans for their holidays, and this is why there were built splendid domus, like in Pompeii and Ercolano.
The city of Stabiae, however was less independent than the other two cities, but it also became very wealthy and took part in the Social War in 90 B.C. in order to obtain the roman citizenship, and it succeeds in its purpose. However during this war the city was destroyed and then rebuilt and reorganized during the age of Silla that was the beginning of the golden age of Stabiae that lasted until the eruption in 79 A.D.
The city was rebuilt again, and it continued to be an important trade center, because the surrounding area needed a port, and the one of Pompeii was completely damaged, while it was possible to restore the one of Stabiae. The center decreased its importance after the crisis in III century A.D. and in V century became to be known as a center of the Benedictine Order. At last the city reduced its dimension, after another eruption in VIII century and transformed itself in a mediaeval town, after a fortification. The name of the modern city in which there are the remains of the roman Stabiae, is a proof of this phase of evolution of this center: it is Castellamare di Stabia and it contains the word castle, to remember the mediaeval structure.
The Stabiae Excavations
The archaeological area of Stabiae is less wide than the other vesuvian cities, because of its historical development, and it reduced its dimension in the centuries after the eruption in 79 A.D. However there are relevant testimonies also in these cities, and it is possible to recognize the urban planning of the city in different phases.
You can see the streets and different districts: there was a rural district with rustic houses, the central district with the forum and some public building, for example there are the remains of a temple with high basement, and the great and luxury domus.
These are the most interesting part because they contained frescos and mosaics that are partly preserved in this site, and part of them are exposed at the archaeological museum in Naples. The main domus are two: villa Arianna, and villa San Marco. From villa Arianna came some of the most famous Pompeian frescos, and the villa was named after a fresco that represented the myth of Ariadne. Most of the frescos in this domus has a mythological subject and in particular portrays female protagonists of myths, and the decoration is absolutely fine. There are also mosaics, most of them black and white, with geometrical patterns, on the floors that contrast with the vivid colors of the frescos on the wall.
Villa San Marco is particular for its structure that is preserved incredibly well, both the internal parts and the external environments like gardens and porticos. There are also frescos but with a reduced variety of colors compared to villa Arianna, these ones have prevalence on the shades of red, and the subjects are less sophisticated, but there are however black and white mosaics like in the other domus.
Imagine Copyright: By Mentnafunangann - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Look also the other archaoelogical sites of Campania reviewed on web site.
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From November to March 8.30 AM-5 PM
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE CARD:
FOUNDATION: VII century B.C.
DECLINE: VI century A.D.
CIVILISATION: Samnites, Greeks, Romans
ADMINISTRATION: Soprintendenza speciale beni archeologici di Napoli e Pompei
DISCOVERY: XVIII A.D.
How to get to Stabiae
By car: From Naples take motorway A3 in direction Salerno until exit Castellamare di Stabia then, go on SS 145, until the exit Gragnano and take via Passeggiata Archeologica.
By train: From Naples it is possible to get the archaeological excavation of Stabia, with the railway Circumvesuviana in direction Sorrento, until stop via Nocera a Castellamare di Stabia. There it is possible to take a bus 1 red until stop via Passeggiata Archeologica, where you can find the archaeological site.