ear Readers,[br]
on 2nd July, we presented our exhibition “The invisible image: The Tomb of the Diver 50 years after its discovery” (open until 7 October in Paestum) at the Archeological Museum of Naples, with the director Paolo Giulierini and the scholar and artist Paul Carter (of Melbourne), the man behind “Metabolism. The exhibition of the unseen”. At the ensuing reception, there was also a young Australian researcher, who stated that she would go to Pompeii the last day before returning home, and that Pompeii was definitely much better than Paestum! Professor Paul Carter and I (maybe also because we were at our second drink), instead of trying to delve into the matter (what does “better” mean in this context?), attempted a rather contorted line of reasoning and stated that, whereas Pompeii is surely better-known, actually Paestum is much better. Our friend did not take kindly to it, as if we had tried to convince her of something absurd, like two plus two equals five. To reestablish order, she then asked our waitress which was better: Pompeii or Paestum? And here the miracle took place, because it turned out that the Neapolitan waitress is very fond of Paestum! She told us with a radiant face: Paestum is a magical place. Well, had this been a film, the scene would have appeared rather unrealistic.[br]
However, a comparison between Pompeii and Paestum should be set, if any, on a historical-cultural level, and not reduced to the mere “better than …”. Pompeii – the city where life was “halted” by the eruption of 79 AD; Paestum – the Greek establishment which first became a Greek-Lucan settlement, then a Roman colony, and was finally abandoned during the Early Middle Ages.[br]
Besides all this, the materiality of the two sites is very different. Pompeii was built from volcanic stone, which is an extremely porous conglomerate of a grey-black color, while the travertine out of which the temples and the walls of Paestum are made was formed “by precipitation from the water of calcium carbonate, nearby springs, waterfalls or at the bottom of water pools”, as told by the dictionary. And where the world-famous “Pompeian Red” recalls the warmth of fresh lava, the Diver of Paestum takes us back to the watery kingdom from which, in the end, also the temples were. One only needs to observe the sedimentations on the column drums to realize that. What is better? Who can tell! They are simply two experiences as different as they are unique.[br][br]
Director of Paestum Archaeological Park