Pompeii find shows
secrets of the Samnites
Bruce Johnston in Rome
The discovery in Pompeii of a pre-Roman
temple is being hailed as evidence that the city was
sophisticated and thriving 300 years before Vesuvius
The temple is said to be of Mephitis, a
female deity worshipped by the Samnites, a mysterious
ancient people who preceded the Romans in Pompeii.
The temple complex includes a sanctuary
where it is thought girls from good families worked
briefly in "sacred prostitution" as a rite of passage to
The Samnites were previously thought of
as mountain warriors, whose settlements thrived due to a
military pact with Rome, but archaeologists say the
finds suggest instead that theirs was an advanced
society in its own right.
The discovery is the result of a
three-year joint project by the University of London and
the University of Basilicata in Italy. It is said to
have come as a "complete surprise".
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