Ancient Murals Depicting Mythological Refugee Siblings Unearthed in Pompeii

A newly discovered fresco in the ancient city of Pompeii portrays the Greek mythological figures, siblings Phrixus and Helle. Gabriel Zuchtriegel, the director of Pompeii Archaeological Park, shared insights with the Guardian on the significance of this find during an excavation and restoration update. “This fresco, which is in remarkable condition, reflects the timeless story of Phrixus and Helle, siblings who become refugees fleeing the malicious intentions of their stepmother. The narrative, deeply rooted in Pompeii’s culture, resonates today as it tells of their perilous journey at sea, where Helle tragically drowns,” Zuchtriegel explained.

In the artwork, Helle is depicted at the tragic moment she succumbs to the sea, reaching out to her brother Phrixus, who escapes on the mythical golden fleece ram. This fresco was uncovered in the House of Leda, a site under restoration since 2018, where archaeologists have also revealed two new residential structures and additional rooms, all slated for public viewing soon.

Pompeii, entombed in volcanic ash after Mount Vesuvius’s eruption in 79 CE, which claimed over 2,000 lives, draws more than four million visitors annually. The city has seen significant conservation efforts since 2013, prompted by UNESCO’s warning of its potential endangered status. Recent excavations, including the discovery of a prison bakery, continue to offer insights into ancient life in Pompeii.