Great Palestra (Insula or. II.4)


Italia (Pleiades)


Herculaneum (Pleiades)

Location Description

An ancient Roman town of Campania destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D.79. Named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.


Insula Orientalis II




Great Palestra


Garden Description

The Palaestra was crossed by Burbon tunnels in 1756-1760 and partially excavated from 1933 to 1954. Carbonized remains of large tree trunks found in the southwest corner and along the north side against the portico where they were swept by the volcanic flow indicated to Maiuri that the central area had been planted with trees similar to the central area of the Great Palestra at Pompeii. The soil was compacted, as typical of athletic fields, and no evidence of paths or beds have yet been found. A large cruciform pool occupied the center of the area. The north-south arm is 55.00 m. long, the east-west arm is 31.50 m. long, each arm is 5.80 wide and the depth is 1.00-1.10 m. at the center. A masonry base 0.95 m. square and 1.14 m. high stood at the center of the intersection and presumably held the monumental bronze fountain sculpture found in 1952 at the bottom of the pool. The statue is a five-headed serpent 2.45 m. high coiled around a tree with water jetting from the mouth of each head. On the west end of the pool there is a pilaster with a smaller jet. Two meters from the front of the enclosed portico on the north side there is a rectangular pool 3.00 x 30.00 m.; 2.35 m. deep which was proportioned the same as a swimming pool, but had been abandoned before the eruption. Close to the bottom of the pool thirty five amphoras were installed in the walls, with openings ranging from 20 to 30 cm. in diameter. These provided shelter and spawning areas for fish.


Plan of the new excavations of Herculaneum (Maiuri, Herculaneum)

Plan of the new excavations of Herculaneum (Maiuri, Herculaneum)

Herculaneum - Garden at rear of Casa del Rilievo di Telefo

Herculaneum - Garden at rear of Casa del Rilievo di Telefo.

Pleiades ID







  • Jashemski, Gardens, 1:162-163, n. 94 on p. 348 and fig. 247 on p. 163(worldcat)
  • Maiuri, Herculaneum, pp. 55-56 (worldcat)
  • Maiuri, “Fontana monumentale in bronzo nei nuovi scavi di Ercolano,” BdA (1954), pp. 193-199(worldcat)
  • Maiuri, Ercolano, pp. 136-137 and fig. 91 (plan) on p. 114 (see pp. 189-190, nn. 58 and 59 for reports of Ruggiero on the Burbon excavations(worldcat)


Wilhelmina Jashemski (

Publication date

21 Apr 20210