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Pompeii’s hidden treasure is revealed after 2,000 years: Archaeologists discover a lavish painting of a mythological scene while excavating the ancient Roman city

Archaeologists have unearthed a beautiful painting 2,000 years after it was buried under rubble in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.

The lavish artwork was found in the House of Leda, known for its intricate murals.

It shows Phrixus and Helle, two twins from Greek mythology, traveling across the sea on a magical ram while fleeing from their evil stepmother.

In the scene, Helle reaches up to Phrixus after falling from the ram, shortly before drowning in the strait between Europe and Asia.

Pompeii was destroyed in 79 AD by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, but excavations continue to yield ancient discoveries.

The painting shows Phrixus and Helle, two twins from Greek mythology, fleeing their stepmother on a magical ram

The beautiful work of art is a 'fresco' - a kind of mural - but due to damage to the wall it has not been fully preserved

The beautiful work of art is a ‘fresco’ – a kind of mural – but due to damage to the wall it has not been fully preserved

The new artwork was unveiled by the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, the government-backed body that oversees the former city’s remains and ongoing excavations.

The astonishing piece is a ‘fresco’, a type of mural, but due to damage to the wall it has not been completely preserved.

The top right corner of the artwork has been lost and there are two noticeable cracks towards the center.

But what is there is in remarkable condition considering it is about 2,000 years old, with vibrant colors and intricate brushwork.

Dr. Sophie Hay, a British archaeologist who works at the Pompeii Archaeological Park, called it a “magical” discovery.

“Witnessing the vibrant colors of newly uncovered frescoes in Pompeii is a privilege and a joy that never fades,” she said.

‘Seeing the final discovery of a mythological scene – Phrixus sitting on a ram while his sister Helle drowns – in the context of the room it decorated is no exception.’

In Greek legend, the two siblings are forced to flee because their stepmother, Ino, wants to get rid of them.

The painting shows the brother, Phrixus, riding the magical ram and being able to fly or swim

The painting shows the brother, Phrixus, riding the magical ram and being able to fly or swim

The lavish artwork was found in the House of Leda, known for its intricate murals

The lavish artwork was found in the House of Leda, known for its intricate murals

Pompeii was destroyed in 79 AD by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, but excavations continue to yield ancient discoveries

Pompeii was destroyed in 79 AD by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, but excavations continue to yield ancient discoveries

Today, the ruins of Pompeii are a popular tourist attraction, attracting a million visitors every year.  Located on the west coast of Italy, Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano in continental Europe

Today, the ruins of Pompeii are a popular tourist attraction, attracting a million visitors every year. Located on the west coast of Italy, Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano in continental Europe

The painting shows the brother Phrixus riding the magical golden woolly ram, which can fly or swim.

The sister, Helle, falls from the ram into the water and asks her brother for help.

According to legend, Helle eventually drowns, while Phrixus flees safely to the region called Colchis, where he sacrifices the ram to Zeus, who places it as a constellation in the sky.

Experts are hopeful that the newly found fresco will be put on public display in Pompeii, which attracts almost four million visitors a year.

The new discovery is part of ongoing excavations at the House of Leda, known for its highly intricate murals.

But Dr Andrew Sillett, a lecturer in classics at the University of Oxford, pointed out that ‘not all domestic art is like this’.

‘In the hall, visitors are greeted by a large painting of Priapus, a fertility god, placing his enormous erection on a scale to see how it compares to the fruits of that year’s harvest,’ he told MailOnline.

‘So horses for courses.’

Before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, Pompeii was a thriving and wealthy Roman city with about 11,000 inhabitants.

The catastrophic event destroyed the settlements of Pompeii, as well as the settlements of Herculaneum, Torre Annunziata and Stabiae, killing up to 16,000 people.

After the eruption, the bodies of those killed in Pompeii were famously preserved in a protective shell of ash before eventually decaying.

Since the mid-19th century, the cavities left by these bodies were eventually filled with plaster casts to recreate their final moments.

How Pompeii and Herculaneum were wiped off the map 2,000 years ago by the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius

What happened?

Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, burying the cities of Pompeii, Oplontis and Stabiae under ash and rock fragments, and the city of Herculaneum under a mudflow.

Mount Vesuvius, on the west coast of Italy, is the only active volcano in mainland Europe and is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world.

Every resident died immediately when the southern Italian city was hit by a pyroclastic hot wave of 500°C.

Pyroclastic flows are a dense collection of hot gas and volcanic material that flow at high speed down the side of an erupting volcano.

They are more dangerous than lava because they travel faster, at speeds of about 700 km/h and at temperatures of 1000 °C.

An administrator and poet named Pliny the Younger saw the disaster happen from a distance.

In the 16th century, letters describing what he saw were found.

His writings show that the inhabitants of Pompeii were unaware of the eruption.

Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, burying the cities of Pompeii, Oplontis and Stabiae under ash and rock fragments, and the city of Herculaneum under a mudflow.

Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, burying the cities of Pompeii, Oplontis and Stabiae under ash and rock fragments, and the city of Herculaneum under a mudflow.

He said a column of smoke “like an umbrella pine” rose from the volcano, making the towns around it as black as night.

People ran for their lives with torches, screaming and some crying as the rain of ash and pumice fell for hours.

While the eruption lasted about 24 hours, the first pyroclastic waves began at midnight, causing the volcano’s column to collapse.

An avalanche of hot ash, rock and poisonous gas flowed down the side of the volcano at 120 miles per hour, burying victims and remnants of everyday life.

Hundreds of refugees sheltering in the vaulted arcades on the coast of Herculaneum, with their jewelry and money in hand, were killed instantly.

The Orto dei fuggiaschi (The Garden of the Fugitives) shows the 13 bodies of victims who were buried by the ash as they attempted to flee Pompeii during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius volcano in 79 AD

The Orto dei fuggiaschi (The Garden of the Fugitives) shows the 13 bodies of victims who were buried by the ash as they attempted to flee Pompeii during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius volcano in 79 AD

As people fled Pompeii or hid in their homes, their bodies were covered by blankets from the gulf.

Although Pliny did not estimate how many people were killed, the event was called “exceptional” and the number of deaths is believed to have exceeded 10,000.

What did they find?

This event put an end to the life of the cities, but at the same time preserved them until they were rediscovered by archaeologists almost 1,700 years later.

The excavations of Pompeii, the industrial center of the region, and Herculaneum, a small seaside resort, have provided an unparalleled insight into Roman life.

Archaeologists are continually discovering more of the ash-covered city.

In May, archaeologists discovered an alley lined with large houses, their balconies largely intact and in their original hues.

A plaster cast of a dog, from the House of Orpheus, Pompeii, 79 AD.  It is believed that around 30,000 people died in the chaos, and bodies continue to be discovered to this day

A plaster cast of a dog, from the House of Orpheus, Pompeii, 79 AD. It is believed that around 30,000 people died in the chaos, and bodies continue to be discovered to this day

Some balconies even had amphorae: the conical terracotta vases used in ancient Roman times to store wine and oil.

The discovery has been hailed as a ‘complete novelty’ and the Italian Ministry of Culture hopes they can be restored and opened to the public.

Upper shops are rarely found among the ruins of the ancient city, which was destroyed by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius volcano and buried under as much as six meters of ash and volcanic debris.

It is believed that around 30,000 people died in the chaos, and bodies continue to be discovered to this day.