Escape from Pompeii

The Untold Roman Rescue

Roman warship. Marble relief from Puteoli (Pozzuoli), 1st century AD. Museo Archeologico Nazionale. Under licence from Getty Images.

International exhibition featuring 2,000 year old artefacts from Pompeii, Sicily, Naples and Rome.

  • Opens 31 March 2017

    In 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupted, spewing huge waves of volcanic ash and debris over the thickly populated Bay of Naples. The eruption was noticed at the Roman Naval base at Misenum, and in response the fleet’s commander, Pliny the Elder, ordered the Roman fleet to rescue as many people as possible. This is one of the first recorded rescues by sea of civilians by a military force. 

    The exhibition reveals how the Roman navy came to dominate the Mediterranean, and how this control created a boom in maritime trade not seen again for a thousand years. Finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum – towns destroyed by the volcano – and from shipwrecks bear witness to the extent of this trade in raw materials and luxury goods. As this was the only naval force remaining in the Mediterranean, Pliny the Elder was free to use it to aid the people threatened by Vesuvius.

    Objects displayed in Escape from Pompeii  include jewellery, ceramics, sculptures, frescoes from Pompeii and Herculaneum, and artefacts recovered from ancient shipwrecks. It also features haunting body casts of some of Vesuvius’ victims.

    The exhibition introduces the Roman navy through interactive multimedia and 3D animation, and evokes the formidable force of the volcano that destroyed Pompeii 2,000 years ago. 

    School programs

    Escape from Pompeii covers key areas of the History Syllabus, both for NSW and nationally, with a series of targeted education programs being developed to accompany the exhibition. 

    Be the first to know for the museum's educational programs by contacting bookings@anmm.gov.au

    Image: Roman warship. Marble relief from Puteoli (Pozzuoli), 1st century AD. Museo Archeologico Nazionale. Under licence from Getty Images.

    Ticket Information

    Open daily, 9.30am–5pm, from 31 March to 21 August 2017.

    See our Admissions page for full price information and to book your tickets. Our Plan Your Visit page has everything you need to know about a trip to the museum.

    Become a member and save

    Become a Maritime Museum Member and receive FREE or discounted entry to all our events and exhibitions, as well as many other benefits.

    Keep in touch

    Receive our e-newsletters for the latest news including special offers, advance bookings, sneak previews and more.

    Connect with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for updates and to join the conversation.

    Escape from Pompeii is developed by the Australian National Maritime Museum in association with Expona and Contemporanea Progetti.  

    expona logo contemporanea logo



    Media Partner

    Media Sponsor

    Catering Partner

    Channel 9 logo History Channel Foxtel logo Laissez-faire catering logo

    Supported by

    Italian Chamber of Commerce
    Italian Consul General of Sydney

    Loaf of bread from Herculaneum carbonised by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.  79 AD.  Museo Archeologico Nazionale di NapoliBracelet, in the form of a snake, from Pompeii.  Gold, 1st century AD.  Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli Fresco of Narcissus from Pompeii.  1st century AD.  Museo Archeologico Nazionale di NapoliPlate found with fruit seeds from the Roman port of Ostia.  4th century AD. Scavi di Ostia Antica