Escape from Pompeii:

The Untold Roman Rescue

Escape from Pompeii last weeks. Must close 3 Sep

Extended weekend opening hours.* Must close Sunday 3 September.

  • *Extended Hours until 7pm

    Saturday 26, Sunday 27 August 
    Friday 1, Saturday 2 & Sunday 3 September 


    Many people know of the tragic eruption in 79 AD that buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum under huge avalanches of volcanic ash and debris, preserving them and the eruption’s victims for 2000 years. Few, however, would know that the Roman navy attempted to evacuate people affected by the eruption or its important role in the success of the Roman Empire.

    The fleet was led by the fleet’s commander Pliny the Elder, who was not a military man – he was famous for his writings, not for any warlike exploits. In 79 AD he had just completed his Natural History, an encyclopedia of how the Romans understood the world around them – a reference work for the masses that would continue to be used for the next 2,000 years.

    We know of the rescue attempt through the letters of his nephew Pliny the Younger. Around 17 years old at the time of the eruption, he was living with his uncle and his mother at the naval base at Misenum, across the bay from Pompeii. He was asked many years later to write an account of what happened to his uncle on that fateful day – it is the only surviving firsthand account of the disaster and the attempted rescue of civilians by the Roman navy.

    The exhibition uncovers the role of the Roman navy and its importance to the Roman Empire. Discover how a non-military man like Pliny the Elder could be its commander, what its ships were like and who crewed them. It looks at Pompeii as a maritime and riverine port, and how it tapped into the trade boom brought about by Rome’s mastery of the sea – thanks to its navy.


    The exhibition brings to Australia rare artefacts from sites from around the Bay of Naples: Pompeii, Herculaneum and lesser-known ones such as Baiae, Puteoli and Misenum. They give insight into the lives of sailors of the Roman fleet and to the people who lived on the Bay of Naples, considered by many Romans to be the most beautiful place on earth – that was, until the eruption.

    Visitors will see:

    • a Roman rostrum, used to ram enemy ships
    • a helmet from the Battle of the Aegates in 241 BC, which marked Rome’s entry as a maritime superpower
    • sculptured reliefs celebrating Rome’s naval victories
    • a military diploma bestowing Roman citizenship on a serviceman
    • trade goods from Pompeii – both workaday items and luxuries – including sculptures, mosaics, frescoes, jewellery, glassware and tableware sourced from throughout the empire
    • everyday objects preserved in the eruption, such as a loaf of bread and figs from Herculaneum, and items taken by the fleeing victims
    • haunting body casts of the victims themselves – Pompeiians, captured in their final moments.
    • A short film A Day in Pompeii that depicts what it was like living those final hours under the shadow of an erupting Mount Vesuvius. This film is also shown in 3D at selected times.


    Daily, 9.30am - 5pm, from 31 March to 3 September 2017.
    9.30am - 7pm, Saturday 26, Sunday 27 August, Friday 1, Saturday 2 & Sunday 3 September   


    Exhibition Guided Tour

    A man admiring objects in the Escape from Pompeii exhibition

    Gain a greater understanding of the significant objects, the important role of the Roman navy in the Roman Empire and how the Roman navy attempted to evacuate people affected by the eruption. Week days at 3pm.

    Feature Story: A heroic rescue

    A street view of Pompeii

    How Pliny the Elder led the Roman navy on a voyage to save the people of Pompeii during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD.


    illustration of a trireme and Mount Vesuvius

    Download our Pompeii Kids Activity Trails.


    A group of school children on endeavour

    An extraordinary opportunity for teachers and students, 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. 
    See Our Pompeii: School Excursions Page for more information. 


    A still from the 3D movie a day in Pompeii before eruption

    A Day in Pompeii is a 3D rendering of the final days of Pompeii, following the exact timetable of events, showing you what it was like living those final hours under the shadow of an erupting Mount Vesuvius. 

    Behind the Scenes Video

    Ever wondered what goes on behind-the-scenes of an ancient history exhibition?

    Roman-Inspired Menu

    Kids pizza

    Grab a bite to eat at Yots Café and enjoy the Roman-inspired menu.

    POMPEII at our Store

    Ancient Rome Collector's Gift set DVD cover

    Delve further into histories most famous archaeological site with a selection of books and DVDs available at our online store or when you visit the exhibition.

    Before you visit, download our App, which includes audio tours, images and information that brings the Maritime Museum to life. It's free, and constantly being updated.

    You can visit our Admissions page for complete 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.  

    Developed with

    expona logo contemporanea logo

    Media Partner

    Media Sponsor

    Channel 9 logo Foxtel History channel logo

    Media Supporter


    La Fiamma Italian Bi-weekly newspaper
    Rete Italia The Italian radio in Australia

    Catering Partner

    Exhibition Supporter

    Laissez-faire catering logo
    Singapore Airlines logo

    Supported by

    City of Sydney 2030 logo Institute of Italian Culture Sydney logo
    Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Australia inc logo Co.As.It. logo
    Panasonic Logo
    Cast of two victims from the House of the Cryptoporticus, Pompeii. © Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismoCast of a victim, possibly a woman, Pompeii. © Ministero dei Beni Culturali e del Turismo - Museo Archeologico di NapoliCast of a pig, Villa Regina, Boscoreale. © Soprintendenza Archeologica di PompeiLoaf 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 AnticaPompeii Diorama Pliny the Elder  The Roman Naval Base at Misenum, around 1 pm, 24 August 79 AD  Diorama by Geoff Barnes and Roger Scott Pompeii Diorama Merchant Ship - The Roman Naval Base at Misenum, around 1 pm, 24 August 79 AD  Diorama by Geoff Barnes and Roger Scott
  • Trireme


    Scale model of the full size operating replica of the Athenian trireme OLYMPIAS 5th century BC, commissioned into the Greek Navy in 1987.

    Scale model of the full size operating replica of the Athenian trireme OLYMPIAS 5th century BC, commissioned into the Greek Navy in 1987.

    A 4 metre model of the full-sized modern replica, Olympias

    The model that currently hangs in the foyer of the Maritime Museum is an exact replica of fully functioning life-sized replica of the 5th century trireme, the Olympias, added to the Greek navy in 1987. In its sea trials, Olympias proved fast and highly maneuverable, attaining a speed of 17km per hour and able to perform a 180 degree turn in one minute.

    The Olympias is on loan from the Hellenic Maritime Museum and will be on display at the museum in conjunction with the exhibition Escape from Pompeii – The Untold Roman Rescue, until the end of August 2017.  

    Dominating the Mediterranean for 900 Years

    Triremes were the standard warship of the ancient Mediterranean world for nine hundred years from the 5th BC to the 4th AD. Triremes had three banks (remes) of rowers on each side, hence the name. 170 rowers were required. A flute player kept them in time, with 10 sailors and 5 officers to sail the vessel. The metal ram (rostrum) at the bow of the trireme was the primary weapon used to disable and sink enemy ships. 

    The complement of soldiers on board was quite small, with only 10 armoured spearmen (hoplites) and 4 archers.

    All this has been made possible with the kind support of the following 'Friends of the Trireme':

    AHEPA NSW logo The Grace Sydney
    Groupama Logo  
    Pan-Arcadian Logo Lakonia Group Logo
    Singapore Airlines logo  
  • Foxtel – History Channel

    Foxtel – History Channel

    The museum has partnered with our friends at Foxtel's HISTORY channel to produce a range of short videos exploring some of the key themes of the exhibition.

    In this series – to be aired on HISTORY – and also available here online - we delve into ancient maritime archaeology from the bay of Naples, uncover the life of Pliny, and gain a better understanding of the surprisingly sophisticated life of the citizens of Pompeii.

    Foxtel History channel logo

  • Grab a bite

    Grab a bite

    Enjoy our Pompeii-inspired menu for a limited time only.

    We've got something for everyone, with a new, wide range.

    Inspired by our Escape from Pompeii exhibition, Yots Cafe has created an all-new menu that will only be available while the exhibition is on.

    Tasty choices include Mini Penne and Homemade Meatballs for kids, Roasted Eggplant and Mushroom Pizza or Beef Orecchiette for adults and a selection of Italian wines and sparkling drinks.

    Selection of meals available from Yots to compliment Escape from Pompeii

    Don't miss out on a delicious break during your visit to the museum. 

    Click on the links below to view our new Pompeii-inspired:

  • Lenders

You might also like