The great city of Pompeii remained buried for 16 centuries under olive groves and vineyards that thrived in the fertile soil evolved from volcanic deposits. In 1738, some chance discoveries made in nearby Herculaneum led to systematic excavations throughout the area. Scholars have learned that artists, mostly from Greece, were lured to Pompeii by a thriving market to build and adorn new villas for the wealthy emperors, senators and other Roman elite who flocked there each Spring when the Senate recessed.
The treasures found spoke of an elegant lifestyle that celebrated all things Ancient Greek. Tourism to the area grew after the rediscovery of Pompeii in the 18th century and launched a new industry for Greek-style reproductions. Carved marble table supports found in the excavations served as models for desks used in Washington, D.C.'s National Post Office. These and other antiquities were sought across Europe and North America; a timeless reverence for Greek culture and art continues even today.