Introduction to the Museum

Naples – for two and a half thousand years it has been a vibrant metropolis in southern Italy. In the midst of the bustling commotion, in the heart of the city, lies an oasis that transports the visitor into another time. The National Archaeological Museum is one of the world’s greatest historical museums. No other institution has a comparable collection; it makes the ancient world come alive while reflecting the turbulent history of its rediscovery.

First we see the monumental statues from the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. The nobles of the Farnese dynasty added these sculptures to their famous collection as a sign of their own wealth and power. Then comes the climax: the amazing profusion of figures, frescoes and mosaics from Herculaneum and Pompeii and the other cities that were wiped out by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

These treasures proved to be the motor that drove the development of modern archaeology – and they completely changed our view of antiquity. Today the houses of Pompeii are empty and many of the missing objects can be found here, including the often humble items of day-to-day Roman life. Egg cookers and frying pans; drinking glasses and locks for doors: there is hardly any other place where we can get so close to the ordinary people of the Roman Empire.