Cities of Vesuvius Pompeii Herculaneum

Cities of Vesuvius Pompeii Herculaneum



Cities of Vesuvius Pompeii Herculaneum

Core study; Cities of Vesuvius-
Pompeii & Herculaneum

1. Geographical context

Physical environment: geographical setting, natural features and resources of Pompeii and Herculaneum

Geographical setting
Pompeii and Herculaneum were located in Campania, southwest Italy near Bay of Naples. Herculaneum was a waterfront town situated on the coast of Bay of Naples 7km west of Mt Vesuvius, while Pompeii was slightly inland on the Sarno river, 9km southeast of Mt Vesuvius. Both towns were linked to Rome through sea and land routes.

Natural features
Campania was a fertile plain with two main rivers. Nearby there was a 15km wide series of craters, where pools were filled with boiling mud and vents, from which sulphur and steam could escape. The towns were popular because of their rich volcanic soil, coastal area for fishing and trading area.

Resources of Campania
The production of olive oil was used for cooking, and as the basic ingredient for perfume. Wine, wool and textile productions took place, along with the fishing industries including the production of fish sauce. There were fruits such as peaches, apricots, lemons & vegetables like cabbages and onions, and volcanic material was used for building and paving roads.

Plans and streetscapes of Pompeii and Herculaneum

streets of Pompeii vary greatly in width from 2.4m to roughly 7m
streets & roads divide towns into neat rectangular blocks- called insulae
insulae blocks had 1-12 dwellings with houses, apartment blocks, shops
streets were paved with large Vesuvian lava blocks
either side of most streets had a raised sidewalk, usu about 33cm high
streets were usu raised in the middle so water would run into gutters and footpaths sloped down towards road
roads of both towns were quite diff. P roads had deep wheel grooves caused by constant stream of heavy wagons-proof that it was a major commercial town
P streets had footpaths but drainage was so poor that large stepping stones were placed across roads to let people cross when it rained, without getting them dirty
H was a much smaller, quieter town than P- streets were less marked by traffic
H had storm drains and efficient underground sewer- no pedestrian crossing stones
H streets were straight and formed a grid system (Greek town planing)

2. Nature of sources and evidence

The range of available sources, both written and archaeological- ancient writers, official inscriptions, graffiti, wall paintings, statues, mosaics, human and animal remains

AND limitations, reliability and evaluation of sources

P & H are unique and remarkable due to their extraordinary state of preservation and large amount of info revealed about ancient roman life. Both towns were buried by the eruption in diff ways, so diff types of sources have been found in each city. P’s organic material was destroyed by fire, whereas molten rock in H did not destroy organic materials. This means that there is much more evidence on food, timber and skeletal remains in Herculaneum. Its vital to remember that only a small part of Herculaneum has been excavated so there isn’t as much info from here.

Archaeological sources
H in particular, had private housing and public buildings with timber structures, glassware, food, papyrus scrolls, wax tablets, fishing nets, evidence of sanitation and skeletal remains. On the other hand, P had human remains encased in plaster, statues, household shrines, weapons/armour, fountains and temples.

Pompeii & Herculaneum-

Private houses + public buildings
Inscriptions on monuments and buildings
Mosaics and frescos
Household objects
Evidence of water supply


P & H epigraphic sources consist of graffiti, election slogans, advertising and inscriptions on everyday objects. These are useful sources of evidence as they give us a personal glimpse in people and their activities, interests, political opinions and methods of working.

archaeological sources include remains of buildings, streets, drainage systems, statues and everyday objects and tools
urban fabric of private and public structures could have assisted in understanding the architecture. However, many were destroyed and unrecorded. Some early interpretations were based on inaccurate assumptions.
rolls of papyrus- reveal Epicurean philosophy

human remains- whole skeletons, bones and plaster casts, revealing sex, age, health, appearance, specific problems, genetic diversity, probable occupations, status and cause of death

everyday objects- food, household utensils, objects related to commerce, transport, entertainment and medicine. These were valuable to historians as they formed a picture of daily life.

written sources: who would read it- or who could read it? reliable? can info be corroborated from other sources- confirm it by looking at other sources?

archaeological sources: what is it made of? what was its use? what does it tell us about society?

NATURE OF SOURCES & Problems of evidence

much care needs to be taken when interpreting evidence form P and H.
problems are worsened by incomplete records & publication of finds in P
many objects uncovered by early excavators have been lost
cost of preservation is enormous
conclusions are now being re-examined & evidence is being re examined

Example- earlier studies thought P was a trading city and its wealth came from external trade. This view is now questionable and its more likely that P was a consumer city- where wealthy elite consumed the manufactured goods and agricultural products, rather than trading them

Note  its vital that we use archaeological material & written sources together, to study P and H, but we need to take great care when interpreting sources

problems of evidence- incompleteness of sources
gaps in historical record make it impossible to gain a certain understanding of Pompeian life and politics
sometimes evidence is not dated

The evidence provided by the sources from Pompeii and Herculaneum

The eruption
Mount Vesuvius had remained dormant for as long as people could remember until AD 62.

The eruption of AD 79

first signs of eruption began in early August AD 79 as a series of small tremors, but they caused so little damage that only a few people paid attention to them. Springs and wells tried up
on morning 24 August AD 79 volcano erupted. smoke, mud, flames and burning stones were thrown from top of mountain. this sent raining ash and rock on countryside. mud and lava flowed down sides of Vesuvius, swallowing farms, orchids and villas. vapours spread deliriousness in victims before they suffocated
some people of Pompeii tried to flee the area, others stayed sealed in their houses for protection. Those who didn’t escape were killed by falling buildings, overcome by poisonous gas, or buried by the heavy falling ash. their bodies were quickly covered by a layer of ash 9m thick.
Herculaneum, only experienced a very small deposit of ash and stones, it was very quickly destroyed by flows and surges

Stages of eruption
vulcanologists believe that the eruption had 2 stages
stage one: the Plinian phase- late morning to mid evening 24 August

huge eruption and column of pumice and ash from Vesuvius
followed by discharge of magma moving at 50 000 to 80 000 tonnes per second onto roofs and streets of Pompeii. it became dark
by 5pm more pumice began falling. roofs collapsed under the weight. people began fleeing or shutting themselves in houses. they were hit by falling roofs, building materials or volcanic rocks
by 8pm magma became grey pumice now moving at 150 000 tonnes/sec and perhaps 33m high
after a few hours of decreased activity, people went outside but they were trapped by the massive layer of pumice

source: pliny the younger- letters to Tacitus- an account of the eruption of Vesuvius, and the reactions and fate of various individuals and groups. This is a unique historial and scientific record.

received little ash and pumice with little of Pompeii’s falling ash and pumice
at this stage, this is all that Herculaneum got

Stage two: Pyroclastic phase

surges 1 and 2: at 1am the next morning, Pompeii was engulfed within minutes by surges by surges and flows of red hot volcanic gases at temps between 100-400 degrees Celsius. this went at 200km/hr and most people died instantly. A second surge, hotter, slower and heavier, flowed through town a few mins later at 80km/hour
surges 3-6: 6.30am third surge destroyed northern wall of Pompeii. three hot avalanches fell to town, killing people. final surge at 8pm covered city with about a meter of volcanic material and destroyed buildings. in total, 9m of volcanic debris buried Pompeii.

the ash was followed by waves of hot mud that buried town and those who stayed, in hours. the town was buried under 23m of volcanic material from surges and flows.

Because Herculaneum is seven km west of Mt Vesuvius, its experience of the eruption was different to Pompeii, located nine km southeast of volcano. H had very little ash and molten rock during the first phase of the eruption. Its residents would’ve been alarmed by earthquakes and lightening. Most would have tried to leave, but the remaining ones wouldn’t have been able to escape the first surge. Its force was so powerful it toppled buildings and moved large stone blocks. Most walls were left in place but some had their roofs tiles taken.
The hot surge moved to the waterfront and as it entered the sea it boiled water and caused steam explosions. A burning hot cloud of ash overwhelmed those who sought shelter near here. Breathing would’ve been impossible and it’s likely that residents died of asphyxiation and were then burnt.

The economy: trade, commerce, industry, occupations

The Pompeian economy was based on agriculture, small scale manufacturing for the local market and the use of slaves. The land around Pompeii was divided into farms, which employed free people and slaves. Most people who lived in the city worked in small businesses or workshops. Pompeii was a bustling commercial centre- making profit and accumulating wealth was regarded as being favoured by gods.

The Herculaneum economy is less understood as there is less evidence found. Although the commercial centre here has not been excavated, there is evidence of economic activity, but little has been discovered about manufacturing. Herculaneum was a quieter fishing/resort town.


The Forum of Pompeii

The Forum of Pompeii was a commercial centre, the centre of government, business and law
Basilica was on the west side of Forum, which was a combination of a meeting place for merchants, businessmen and law courts
Outside small traders set up stalls
At the northeast corner was an enclosed area with a fish market in middle of centre, and other stalls around it. Evidence of weights and measure have been found here

Street shops in Pompeii

Shops weren’t only in Forum. Wherever the public gathered, parts of buildings turned into shops. Food shops had stone counters with large ceramic pots to keep grain, dried fruit and liquid. Meat and poultry were suspended from a bar hung in the entrance.

The main east west street of Pompeii was via dell’ Abbondanza

On this street there was a bronze smith, laundry, fishing factory, tavern with bar, felt making workshop and other shops.
Most commercial premises along the street were involved in cloth manufacture such as dyeing and linen weaving
These shops & workshops would’ve been operated by slaves and managed by freedmen and other lower class citizens.

Trade was carried out with other cities in Campania and Italian peninsula.

Varieties of wine were imported from Spain & Crete, pottery from Spain and France and furniture from Naples
Its not confirmed to which extent they traded, some believe export trade was minimal
P’s port being less than 1km from the city’s centre indicate that trade was important
remains of 20 warehouses with boats and fishing gear also suggest aspects of trade

Fullers, one of the most important trades, processed raw wool, handled spinning and weaving, dyeing and washing. A typical example is the “Fullonica of Stephanus”, made by remodelling an existing house and using the ground floor for work activities and upper floor as a dwelling and for drying the cloth. Some believe that it was actually a laundry at first, and then converted to a house. At the back of the building is a series of tubs used for washing.

Because Forum in H has not actually been excavated, it’s hard to tell how much trade or commerce took place. The fact that wheel ruts in streets weren’t as deep as Pompeii’s, may suggest that there wasn’t a large amount of commercial traffic moving through the town. Even though there are a few sources relating to manufacturing, some evidence say commercial activity didn’t take place in H.

Insula IV is an excavated city block- mixture of residential & commercial buildings.
The main evidence for commercial activity is the large no. of small shops and evidence of markets that have been excavated. These include:

Taverns and bars

More than 20 taverns have been identified and so have 130 smaller hot food and drink bars. This shows how common they were.
Taverns provided tables and chairs & usually some accommodation. Bars provided food & drinks, seating area was usually small
Stalls sold fresh food, spices, perfumes & clothes. Fixed market places with heavy tables and a slave market near the Vesuvian gate has been found.
Inn of Asellina served hot wine, names of 3 women who worked here were written on walls and there were a couple of rooms upstairs for guests.

Commercial transactions & money - Basilica was also an exchange centre where businessmen or spectators met clients and signed contracts.


Both sides of the Pompeian Forum had markets. Macellum was a busy market specialising in fish and meat sale. Documents indicate that sat was market day.
On the side of the forum dried cereals were sold to individuals and bakeries. Many would’ve earned income at markets as stallholders, auctioneers and officials. Within Pompeii there were many market gardens. Some were grown for pleasure and others for commercial purposes.


9 buildings have been identified with prostitution
recognised as an occupation- full time prostitutes had to be registered and pay tax
Names of customers can be seen in graffiti, some were advertised in paintings
So far, no evidence of brothels in H but P shows that it was carried out on in public baths with graffiti, also in theatres

Visiting traders could find a place to stay in many hotels near port. The Hostel of Muses was named after its dazzling paintings. It had unusual features such as a small jetty, banqueting area with 8 or more rooms for eating and conversing, brilliant frescoes & very large kitchen


high number of 600 privately owned shops, workshops, bars and inns
written evidence on associations of tradesmen and retailers
more than 20 marine warehouses with objects characterising port area, and buildings lined with wine jars
paintings of cargo boats & porters carrying products to be loaded onto vessels

Types of industries-
Evidence of industries has artefacts suggesting productions of felt, metalwork, pottery, wine, olive oil, fish sauce

Fishing may have been a major industry in Herculaneum. A reasonably large fishing fleet suggests the no. of chambers that were built along the shore. It may have been built to house boats & fishing equipment
Evidence- fish hooks, nets, boat


wool was the basis of one of the most important industries of Pompeii
laundering, bleaching and recolouring clothes was carried out in workshops
clothes press was discovered & laundries occupied some private houses
frescoes in Pompeii show the importance laundries held for Romans
large fulleries had several features in common – large hall with large basins, where clothes were soaked and cleaned
not a healthy environment- constantly exposed to polluted air & skin was in touch with chemicals.
scattered all over Pompeii- 18, of which 4 were large, an ex being the Fullery of Stephanus. Some occupied rooms of private houses and were identified by numerous basins with built in steps for washing and rinsing


necessity of life and common industry of Pompeii- 33 were found
ovens were rarely found in houses, its assumed that people of P & H bought their bread at bakeries
bakers were respected, could become quite wealthy
evidence of at least 10 kinds of bread – shows popularity
seal found in a Herculaneum baker shop: Sextus Patulcus Felix- may have been the baker himself
poor quality of flour made bread very hard, lack of yeast made bread dry up quickly


wine & oil industries - main sources of income for people in Vesuvius area
evidence- wine press, large commercial vineyard, oil presses in P houses
wine didn’t appear to be stored in large quantities in taverns + bars, but bought in from farms and villas in countryside
Pliny the Elder tells us that districts with mild climates stored wine in jars and buried them in the ground to protect them from weather
amphorae stored wine and it was served them in numerous taverns + bars
oil- basic element for perfume & cookery

GARUM MANUFACTURE (related to fish sauce)

Garum contained left over parts of fish and was very highly valued. It had various flavours depending on the type of fish used and its method of preparation. The garum manufacture was controlled by the wealthiest families and then sold to street retailers.


More than a dozen workshops associated with metalwork have been found in P with working equipment and tools
Shop signs and inscriptions identify metal workshops
objects such as spoons, cups & statues were made from iron, bronze, silver or gold
Range of metal objets have been found in H- bronze lanterns, weights, public fountain


pottery was used for an extensive range of utilitarian objects & containers- pots, bowls, amphorae
evidence of several pottery workshops was found
clay used for pottery made in P is distinctive for its red colour and volcanic properties
Pompeian pottery found in Greece, Germany, Africa & Britain- suggest a widespread export range
No pottery workshops in H have been found so far but ceramic + pottery artefacts include everyday objects- cups, statues.

A large number of people were employed in service industries. Public baths were staffed with a variety of people such as attendants and hair removers. Barbers operated in small shops or on streets. Transport workers included litter carriers and cart and mule drivers.

Artefacts are evidence of occupations such as painters, mosaic layers, carpenters and architects. Inscriptions & graffiti suggest occupations of porters, judges and plumbers. Other evidence includes a cloth merchant’s shop suggesting textile manufacturing. The large amount of preserved wooden furniture, structures and artefacts suggests that skilled carpenters worked in the city.

The wealth of evidence from P & H concerns numerous + varied occupations.

Pompeians had a large community of artisans that included artists, metal workers, potters and glass blowers. There were also tradesmen, wealthy merchants and manufacturers. Many service industries employed bakers, innkeepers and brothel keepers.

The plan of insula VI reveals the following occupations- bronze smith, laundry and fuller, bar, tavern, ironmonger, weaver, felt maker

Women were tavern owners, workers in bakeries, cloth traders, vegetable sellers and weavers. Lower class women worked as household servants, cooks and prostitutes. Wealthy women could be priestesses of popular cults. A woman could be a tradesperson selling perfumes, fruits and vegetables. Prostitutes could be educated or freed and slaves, who worked in brothels. With medical professions, women could’ve been midwives and doctors.

Social structure: men, women, freedmen and slaves

P & H were Roman towns so their social structure was similar to that of Rome.

small group of families-
nobility of Rome

business people

mass of people

former slaves who had brought
earned or were granted their freedom


SENATORIAL Elites- society in P & H was strictly divided along class lines. At the top of the social pyramid were members of senatorial class at Rome who visited the area & had villas nearby. Examples of elites included Agrippa Postumus for P & H’s Pronconsul Marcus Nonius Balbus.

LOCAL Elites- below senatorial elites were local elites. These were wealthy landowners + traders who dominated town councils. They had large houses in towns, agricultural holdings + traditions of office holding. Public service established them as leaders of society.

POPULUS were freeborn males and citizens of P & H, who could vote.
EQUESTRIANS were the class of ordinary traders, artisans, shopkeepers, businessman and farmers.

MEN- social structure reflected norms of society- patriarchal life- men could hold high positions


Funerary monuments testify that some Pompeian women were important enough to be honoured by a funeral at a public expense eruption preserves vital evidence about the lives of women
Could not vote, could own & let out property
Could play an active + visible part in political life
Rich women could manage own affairs without constant supervision of a male rep and were also taught to read and write
Eumachia- important woman of Pompeii
Priestesses, lower class women, business women, tradeswomen, foreign women
generally under the protection of their father & then husband
montrona- ideal Roman woman was modest, quiet and loyal
it is reasonable to assume that women frequented bath houses, private dwellings, shops, factories, theatres and the Forum, but its not always possible to find tangible evidence in their presence. Therefore, based on accepted knowledge, historians must estimate about the lives of women in P&H.


It is estimated that 20 000 people lived in P. 60% were free and 40% were slaves. Domestic slaves came mainly from the east and a small household had 2 or 3 slaves. A large household had more with specialists- doctors + teachers.

Slaves and freedmen had a large variety of jobs in P & H
unskilled ones did manual labour on farms + other areas
skilled ones worked in administration, commerce and industry
owned by members of imperial family, householders, town council or business
sold in business transactions- recorded on wax tablets
could be given freedom by owners or could sometimes buy it

wax tablets: records that reveal family structure, relationships with neighbours.

Local political life
P & H were self governing public towns but subject to imperial rulings of Rome. Evidence from graffiti suggests strong interest and activity in local politics.
Political life at P & H was dominated by poorer citizens + some social & business groups with members of wealthy and influential elites.

Great clans used their wealth + influence to gain election to chief magistrates and selection to councils
Senatorial families had an impressive tradition of office holding and public service

- powerful local Pompeians offered protection and assistance to individuals
- in return, they expected support from the clients
- they sought to outdo their rivals in the size and extent of supporters- which indicated their importance
- support was won by offering benefits such as food + public works such as theatres/baths

Evidence: community buildings around Pompeii’s Forum

Basilica- law courts and centre for business activities

home to legal & gov business
ministers had offices here, commercial licenses were issued

Curia Chamber- had city council meetings
Comitium- held town meetings
Tabularium- kept gov records

There is a lot of election propaganda found in P, usually in the form of slogans painted on walls. Evidence shows that-

voters were interested in personal honesty of candidates
groups of tradesmen supported candidates
although women couldn’t vote- they still campaigned for candidates

Formal inscriptions- on bronze, marble and stone provide evidence of form of government, important families, political leaders, changes in society

Everyday life: leisure activities, food and dining, clothing, health, baths, water supply and sanitation
Leisure activities: public entertainment
Baths in Pompeii

Baths in Pompeii were generally divided into separate sections for men + women.
Activities included bathing, exercise and massages. Graffiti suggests sexual encounters and costs for entering baths. Women wore modest costumes and men wore leather trunks or bathed naked. The Stabian baths were the largest baths in P, decorated in fine forth style frescoes and mosaic floors. The discovery of lights suggests they were open at night.

Baths in Herculaneum

There were two bathing complexes found in H- Forum baths & Suburban baths.
Forum baths followed Roman standards and its most interesting feature was its magnificent mosaic floor of sea creatures. The Forum baths were conveniently close to public buildings and forum. As the oldest in H, they were large enough to hold men and women and seem to have been used by general public. Suburban baths were elegant and graceful. Its waiting room had great architectural features such as walls of varied coloured marbles, wonderful wooden doors and a vaulted roof. It may have been for the rich and wealthy. Bathers could go downstairs to reach a small beach and ocean. The baths were unique + of great value to historians in understanding Roman leisure activities.


P & H had open aired sports ground with swimming pools - importance can be seen with large size
Large enough area to practise athletics, javelin and discus throwing. Sporting events were sponsored by rich people
Possibly featured statues of young men with ideal bodies & goddess of health – promoting physical excellence

Dinner parties

Dinner parties were like a ritual where one would show off their collection of silver and glassware
As the most important meal, they had a many coursed extravagant feast
Ate whilst on couches wearing fine togas
Conversation, songs, professional entertainers, dancers, acrobats, actors
Dining rooms were lavishly furnished with furniture, beautiful floor mosaics, frescoes & wall paintings


As morals were set by men, prostitution was seen as a normal part of everyday life
Largest brothel in Pompeii – 2 storeys building of 10 rooms. The walls were covered with erotic paintings. Most prostitutes were of a foreign lower class.
Wealthy men could invite them to their houses, use one of their slaves or visit high-class courtesan, skilled in the art of lovemaking.

Evidence: theatres near Stabian gate + Amphitheatre
There were probably two theatres near the Stabian gate: a large open building holding about 5000 people and a smaller one built next to it.

large theatre’s seating area (cavea) was in a horseshoe shape with a stage built in its open end
seating was divided into 3 sections. Near the orchestra were 4 wide ledges (ima cavea), where the musicians and town council sat
beyond this were 20 rows of stone seats (media cavea)
four more rows of seats (summa cavea) were above the corridor
A huge canvas stretched over the audience to protect them from the sun and it attached itself to the stage’s roof.
at intervals scented water was sometimes sprinkled onto audience
small theatre held 1200 people and was used for concerts and recitals
graffiti shows that actors were very popular. There were acts of tragedy, comedy & mimes.
Highest section for women (furthest away seats-low class).


theatre held 2500 people, one of the town’s most impressive buildings, free standing with two stories, on top of theatre stood large statues of important figures

Odeon: small theatre, used for more serious performances such as concerts, lectures and poetry

Amphitheatre or arena
Evidence of gladiatorial contests & wild beast hunts:
Graffiti, wall paintings, various forms of ceramic art, gladiatorial equipment

designed specifically for stages gladiatorial contests
located at the east end of town, was oval and divided into 3 sections-

ima cavea (5 rows of seats) was closest to arena
media cavea (12 rows) was in the middle
summa cavea (18 rows) was at the top

amphitheatre could hold 20 000 people
2 main entrances- nth & sth ends, narrow passageway on west side
unusual feature was the outside entrance with stairs

Great amphitheatre- upper levels were for women, front seats reserved for city authorities + guests, access through tunnels for carts with equipment, activities- gladiators, exotic animals, executions of bad slaves, traders


If actors were loved, then gladiators were worshipped. A popular gladiator could become wealthy and could then be released from the arena and gain freedom.
Gladiator graffiti represented their popularity.

gladiators’ quarters were in the palaestra behind the Great Theatre
many pieces of armour were found here
bodies of 4 gladiators found in detention room

Gladiators entered arena in pairs, during fights, orchestra played and crowds cheered contestants. Fights continued until one gladiator was severely injured. A winner is decided and the wounded man pleas for mercy. If they had fought well the crowd would pardon him, if not, the winner would be ordered to finish them off. An official then dragged them through the death gates. After the contest, the results were announced.

Food and dining
Dinner parties – above
Bars and taverns

bars were tiny rooms opening onto streets
inside was a counter & oven
Food was stored in large earthenware jars embedded in counter
Taverns were usually small, some held only up to 20 people.

Evidence of thermopolium of Asellina- excellent example of a complete excavated bar. Many jugs and dishes were found on the counter. Small dishes including one on a tripod, suggest that hot snacks were served at the bar.


linen from Egypt and wool made by local weavers were used for clothing
toga was worn by officials and upper class Romans
men and boys wore a simple knee-length belted tunic with a loincloth underneath
women wore a stola, an ankle-length tunic covered by a long piece of fabric called a palla, which covered the head
both men + women wore sandals and sometimes jewellery
hats were only worn by salves or farm workers

Evidence from human skeletal remains suggest that:

populations of both cities were well fed and generally healthy
many people lived to old age
dental health tended to be poor

Private baths
Evidence: the bath houses of Valerius and Julia Felix in Pompeii

This shows that some wealthier Pompeiian houses had private baths. Private baths often had a changing room, which led to the cold bathroom (frigidarum). There was also a warm and hot room (caladarium). Both the hot and warm rooms were heated by hot air.

Public baths
Evidence: 4 large public baths in Pompeii- Forum, Stabian, Sarno & Central baths

The Stabian baths were the largest, several games were played & there was a room with exercise + games equipment. The warm room acted as an adjusting room, allowing body to get used to the change of temp between the change room and hot bathroom. Bathers would normally be rubbed with ointments in warm room before entering hot room. Before leaving heated rooms, they were rubbed with ointments again as a protection against the cold.

Evidence: Forum baths + Suburban baths
Women’s area- smaller than men’s
Suburban baths faced ocean, well preserved
Luxurious- large windows overlooking sea, statues and extensive use of marble

Water supply

An aqueduct brought water to city from hills
Water was carried through city in a system of lead pipes running under footpaths to wealthier houses, baths and public fountains
P & H obtained water from large bridges that brought water supplies

Sources of water
Rainwater: atrium collected rain in impulvium + stored it underground
Groundwater- water lifting devices
River water: Sarnus river

Essential part of everyday life- baths, fountains
Use of water-
Public baths
Private baths
Water displays- elaborate displays in private gardens – fountains + pools
Industry- bakeries, fulleries connected to piped system

Visible part of urban infrastructure-water towers
Characteristic of Roman urban living

Evidence: the public toilet in the Stabian baths

Public toilets are found wherever people gathered such as the forum, theatre and baths
The Stabian baths had a typical Roman toilet where seats were supported by stone blocks and set into the wall.

Stone seats have been found at several sites. They had small holes at the top that were extended to make u-shaped holes at the front
About 30cm in front of the seats is a shallow channel with water flowing
People cleaned themselves with a sponge on the end of a stick, which they used through the u-shaped hole. They then rinsed it in the shallow channel.

Sewerage and drainage: streets functioned as drains, transporting materials. Fullers’ workshops had substantial drains. Main sewers ran into Sarnus river and Bay of Naples

Public buildings: basilicas, temples, fora, theatres, palaestra, amphitheatres


Few public buildings have been excavated in Herculaneum
Basilica-partly excavated and its thought to have a number of purposes. Damaged in 62 AD earthquake. Statues of Balbus (rebuilder), his family adorns walls

See if H had temples, fora, theatres, amphitheatre

forum- has been located but not excavated
palestra- large sporting complex, cross- shaped pool

Private buildings: villas, houses, shops
Study houses and villas table- worksheet



Each insulae had houses, shops, restaurants and factories. Pompeii wasn’t divided into rich and poor areas. Many poorer houses existed near the wealthiest houses.
Public spaces were designed to impress visitors with the owner’s wealth and status

The rich and poor

as ambitions for luxury increased, houses of the rich grew.
around Pompeii there are many little rooms that were occupied by the poor, which were built into the front of houses
large % of townhouses had architectural elements & various features in common

P & H  middle class apartments were small, lower class had one-roomed flats

Four types of housing

shops + workshops
larger workshop residences
average Pompeian house
largest houses

Features of a town house

Atrium - dev into a ceremonial and sacred place holding family shrines. Atriums were sometimes elaborately decorated with mosaic floors. This impressed visitors, as they were sometimes a view of the house from the windows.
Peristyle - extended the house, brought in more light
Cubicula - generally thought to be rooms for sleeping, sometimes had no windows but were richly decorated with erotic scenes
Kitchens were small enough to hold only one or two slaves only. Some had a brick oven, running water and sink and no chimneys, making fires a common problem
Toilets near the kitchen used the same pipes for the water supply, showing unhygienic aspects.

Cooling, heating and lighting in houses
- Artificial & natural lighting
- Terracotta, bronze or glass lamps
- Wealthy designed houses caught summer breeze, airy rooms were near garden
- Winter rooms were painted black to absorb heat

Security- doors had a bronze lock; occasionally iron protection was used to prevent thieves from accessing house

small town - mixture of public buildings + private houses, reflecting a range of social classes
4 housing blocks have been excavated - suggest mixture of social classes lived close by


Remains of 100 villas have been discovered
Villas vary in scale, architectural features + luxury
Unlike the urban domus, they did not look inward but were designed to take in the view over the sea or countryside

Two types of villas

Villas built purely for leisure (otium)
Often built on diff levels with terraces, expansive gardens, water displays, thermal baths and sometimes even a series of hot + cold baths.

Villa Rusticae
Wealthy Pompeians took control of country farms + added elaborate residential quarters
Main focus = agricultural production, vineyards, olives
Facilities = barns for food storage & large rooms for keeping olive and wine presses
Cellars and courtyards had terracotta jars buried into the floor for food storage
Stables, tool sheds and cramped quarters for workers + slaves


Remains of the main road’s shops can be recognised by their wide openings onto streets
Owners advertised their business with paintings outside walls
about 200 eating and drinking places have been identified in P
wine bars + taverns were scattered through both towns & hot wine was popular

Structural features-
Service counter often with coloured fragments of marble
Upper floors have been interpreted as living quarters for managers and families, or guest accommodation or dining areas

Influence of Greek and Egyptian cultures: art, architecture, religion

Greek influence examples-

The Greeks settled in Italy in the 7th century BC and so P & H had distinct Greek characteristics. The large theatre and Odeon theatre used to be of Greek design. Palaestras or ancient Greek gymnasiums were found in Greek style cities. Houses of H show a strong Greek influence esp. in the decorative use of columns. Papyrus scrolls found in H were the works of Greeks.

Landscape painting found throughout Pompeii
Frescoes, popular art, mosaics show impact of Greek influences
Greek artistic tradition is reflected in many statues
Some inscriptions and graffiti were written in Greek.

features of ionic columns in layout of P streets show Greek influence
baths and gymnasiums show Greek influence
layout of P & H were influenced by Greeks with designs of rules of town planning, developed by Greek architects

Roman religion was influenced greatly by Greeks of Campania from 6th century BC and various gods were adopted and adapted to suit Roman needs. In Pompeii and Herculaneum, people worshipped a range of deities: Roman adaptations of the Greek Pantheon, nature and household protectors and eastern gods and goddesses, both in the public and private sphere.

Temple of Apollo and Doric Temple in Triangular forum- the best evidence for the worship of Dionysus in Pompeii is found in the Villa of Mysteries, where a triclinium had all its walls painted with vivid scenes from the Dionysiac secret rites

‘Alexandra’ mosaic is an example of Greek carpet technique
Peristyle courtyards with mosaics
Greek clothing worn by people of P & H


Egyptian influences- art, architecture, religion

House of Faun’s decoration featured the Nile River.
Rome’s recent conquest of Egypt may have led to an invasion of Egyptian craftsman and a replication of Egyptian motifs and styles such as the Isis symbols and scenes of Nile on frescos and mosaics. Influences could’ve also been for long- term trade.

Mosaic of Alexandra the Great shows work of skilled Alexandrian (Egyptian) craftsmen

Egyptian religion

Egyptian influence is evident with Temple of Isis in Pompeii.
There is evidence for the worship of Isis in H with its statue and paintings showing how rituals were preformed
Temple of Isis- one of the most important sanctuaries in the city, was one of the few buildings restored immediately after the AD 62 earthquake- shows importance. As well as the statue of the goddess, it held images of Horus and Anubis- two other Egyptian gods.
beside the temple the statue of Osiris was found- and so was a small, underground room in which Nile water used for sacred washing, was stored
Behind the temple were large rooms, the biggest one being the hall for secret meetings of the initiates.
The walls of the large rooms and a nearby shrine were decorated with frescoes of cult motifs referring to Isis, Serapis and Osiris
chapel was dedicated to Isis & Serapis - in the House of Gilded Cupids, private P home.

Religion: temples, household gods, foreign cults, tombs

Roman– columns in front
Greek– columns all around

Dedicated to Isis- loving Egyptian mother goddess
First poor people worshipped her, then she became increasingly popular
Found near triangular Forum
Built 100 BC
Similar appearance to Greek/Roman temple, tall Corinthian columns, architecture follows Roman customs
Important features- alter where offerings were made, burnt flowers as offerings for god here
Significant because it shows architectural skills

Dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, Minerva
wasn’t rebuilt as quickly- suggesting that rich people may have left
Built in Roman style
Important features- alter for offerings
Although it wasn’t repaired quickly after earthquake, its significance is attained as it provides evidence for the Rome’s variety of religions

Dedicated to Apollo- goddess of civilisation
Built early 6th century
28 columns all around and alter- important features
significant = shows how P was influenced
seriously damaged in 62 AD, so repairs were not completed

With the introduction of the imperial age, another religious element was added- cult of the emperors is where emperors were given security of loyalty

silver statue of goddess (of fortune) - shows wealth of emperor
important features- previously had alter
significant - this religion wasn’t as popular, wasn’t repaired
Roman style

Dedicated to Vespasian (emperor)- after he died, they treated him like a god
Built in 7 BC
Seriously damaged, so they were repaired a lot

Early temple:
6th century BC
triangular forum- evidence of archaic structure
columns around entire structure- meant for it to be viewed from all sides

Temple of Apollo
animals were sacrificed + burnt on alter
forum was built around it
in civic centre- architecture marked it as important

Temple of Jupiter
found in forum
later used for Jupiter, Juno and Minerva - Capitoline Triad
alter in front temple steps
shrine rep Jupiter
followers usu= lower social classes

OFFICIAL religions

Priestly offices were political appointments, and each citizen had a political duty to carry out rituals such as sacrifice and prayers, to the gods, to ensure prosperity, good luck and protection for the state and its people. Priests were presided both in public and domestic shrines.

Although no temples have been excavated at Herculaneum, sanctuaries at Pompeii, as well as other buildings, private homes, taverns and shops in both towns, reflect the degree to which religion was incorporated into social and political life.

The Capitioline Triad

The triad of gods consisted of Jupiter (protector of state), Juno (protector of women) and Minerva (patroness of craftsmen). A temple dedicated to the triad dominated the Pompeian Forum. The massive temple base held sacrificial equipment and public treasures

State religion and household cults
the chief temple of the city was the Capitolium- dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, and located beside the Forum
temples to other deities such as Mercury, Hercules and goddess Roma, were scattered throughout Pompeii
in private homes, the cult of Lares was predominate, being worshipped at a small shrine called lararium
Venus was the goddess who supported Pompeii
hero Hercules was the god who supported Herculaneum


Household gods

The Lar Familiaris, mythological domestic guardian sprit cared for the welfare and prosperity of a household. A lararium was a shrine for the Lar Familiares, usually near the fireplace or in a corner of the atrium. The public Lares was a building intended to house statues, but there is still controversy over its purpose.
Penates were domestic spirits who protected the master of the household and his immediate family. The Lar Familiaris protected all household members- free or slave.

Type of Lararium-
wall niche found in poorer houses with painted black + white figurines
Three dimensional miniature temple set on podium, lined with marble or painted with statues. Found in richer homes
wall painted to look like the miniature temple, with household gods painted

Household guardians-
LARES: protectors of household, a pair of dancing youths in tunics holding a drinking horn and a wine bucket
PENATES: supposed to reside in house
GENIUS: essential spirit of head of house
SNAKE & ALTER: snake is shown rearing its head or wrapping itself around alter-it protected the home and family life, brought fertility

Worship and offerings-
Regular daily offerings & monthly celebrations
Offerings of a meal such as fruit and eggs
On important occasions a lamb could be sacrificed
Rituals carried out

Foreign cults
The two most powerful foreign cults in P and H were of Isis and Dionysus. It appears that at first they were popular with women and lower classes of slaves and freedmen, but eventually became more widespread through society. This is understood by the motifs, objets and paintings associated with both cults found in private homes.

Isis followers were thought to be slaves or freedmen
Spread because it combined many features in one, was open to anyone
Egyptian influence was strong in P in religious, artistic & commercial spheres
In Roman world- Isis offered consolation from suffering, happiness & salvation
Religion soon spread among elite, incorporating shrines dedicated to Isis & gardens with statues and paintings
2 major festivals were held in Isis’ honour – “Navigation of Isis & Isia”

Originally only attended by women, later men were allowed
Dionysus- Greek god of wine & fertility, cult spread rapidly
Roman senate believed that the secret and excessive nature of rites of Bacchus was a threat to public order and provided opportunities for political conspiracies
A senatorial decree authorised reps to suppress Bacchic societies, but worship of god by individuals wasn’t forbidden
Cults popularity in evident in P and H
Villa of Mysteries present an excellent example of its rituals- one of best group of paintings that have survived. They appear to have been undertaken by mistress herself

The imperial cult =home. Foreign cult- outside

Emperor worship seen with the cult of emperor- upheld by locals to raise their status and maintain positions
The Sanctuary of the Household Gods at Pompeii inc the statue of Genius of Augustus with ten young dancers rep the Lares
The Collegium Augustalium in H is dedicated to the imperial cult

The Temple of Fortuna Augusta in Pompeii
Built by an official on his own property- a way of repaying an imperial favour, & would’ve encouraged deification of emperor
Populus didn’t have access to shrine

The Edifice of Eumachia in Pompeii
Dedicated by a priestess (Eumachia) and her son to the “Concordia and the Pietas Augusta”
Has statues of Aeneas, Romulus, Caesar and Augustus – an obvious dedication to Julio- Claudius

Evidence- of P is seen outside the city walls- tombs of all sizes, shapes and decoration

Many tombs have been excavated & studied for their architectural and artistic designs, varying from brick enclosures to the most elaborate monument with sculptural decoration
By studying the inscriptions and actual burial and structure of tombs we can find the rituals performed
Info such as sex, age, height and evidence of injury in individuals can be interpreted from preserved bodies
Writing inside + outside tombs, or pictures painted help us understand the individual and family as a whole better
Stone coffins were decorated, depicting scenes from ancient Greek myths, while tablets & tombstones were inscribed with outstanding actions of the dead
Grandest tombs rep wealthy elite whose statues and buildings dominated the town. Poor were buried under tiles, with little belongings.
Ashes were placed in urns, stored inside tomb or underground.
Herm= funerary monument, sometimes displaying deceased name & age
Some tombs were situated just outside gate of Pompeii- a public honour to the deceased

Example- Eumachia was a very grand, large tomb. Had a terrace, raised above street level, huge seat area, frieze of Amazon fight

3 Investing, reconstructing and preserving the past

Changing methods and contributions of nineteenth and twentieth century archaeologists to our understanding of Pompeii and Herculaneum
In the nineteenth century a scientific approach to excavation and recording of archaeological finds developed.



19th century

Caused destruction of H site- smashed pictures, artefacts were removed from context
Famous Italian archaeologist Fiorelli started excavating at H but stopped 5 yrs later & Maiuri proposed to reopen the excavations
Scientific excavations of H
Funds were probably provided by king of Italy
Two town blocks and a narrow strip of buildings were uncovered
Excavations were difficult with the cutting of hardened volcanic deposits and modern apartments that overlay it
Excavations were suspended in 1877
Ash and pumice could more easily be removed from P
P was more focused on, H was little visited
1903 Charles Waldstein tried launching an international org to fund excavations at H
plans were abandoned because Italy saw it as a foreign interference

20th century

work continued in H as Italy became more interested in its past
gov funds for excavations were increased
modern machinery such as earthmoving equipment made progress swifter
rail track was built to remove excavated debris
1927-29: a whole block was excavated and houses were exposed
1921-34: central baths were revealed
1931-38: sports area was revealed
excavations were very difficult with the encasement of hard volcanic material
little done in H in post-war years, attention fixed on P
large international interest came when a few skeletons were found on beach
previously it was thought that lack of skeletons meant that most fled from H. Theory was proved wrong with discovery of Roman boat with as many people who attempted to flee  brought popular interest
with new interests and more tourists, funds for H increased

Overall aim of H Conservation Project (HCP) was to conserve H & advance knowledge for H site and its artefacts. Aims- slow down rate of decay of site so it can be maintained in future, aims to document, publish and improve access to artefacts in H

Changing interpretations: impact of new research and technologies

The Applied Research Laboratory
Opened in 1994 under Superintendency of Pompeii
Inc Italian and foreign specialists from a range of areas
Has worked on areas such as collecting and classifying samples of marble and organic matter from the Vesuvian area

The Pompeii Forum Project
Started in 1988
Uses comp science to examine Forum
Aims to produce more accurate plans of remains of Forum, using photography and comp models as well as structural engineering techniques
Uses architectural analysis of data to consider urban problems
Team- archaeologists, architects, an architectural historian and comp experts

Earthquake of 62 AD - buildings that weren’t repaired in 79 AD raise questions

Historians Mauiri & Penelope Allison see this as evidence of economic decline and social disorder
Historian Cooley however thinks too much emphasis was placed on damag in Pompeii from AD 62. Structural damage has obviously been done at some stage, but Cooley questions the likelihood of people repairing Pompeii 17 years after the earthquake- maybe another recent cause of damage.
Interpretations on the buildings that weren’t repaired were impacted with new research by vulcanologists and seismologists. They suggest a series of earth tremors leading up to the eruption, had caused damage.

What human remains revealed about the eruption

In the 1980s, 75 victims of Vesuvius were found in a room at Oplontis, not far from Pompeii. A cast of one of them, made from transparent epoxy resin rather than the usual plaster, became known as the Lady of Oplontis. Mature female had a classic pose at time of death. Body was x rayed (CT scan).

Pottery - With the technological use of microscopes examining the property of clay, Naples was identified as the clay’s original region. It was thought to be from somewhere else before and therefore theories on trade were impacted and changed.

Scrolls - machine was devised to slowly unroll scrolls. The high tech digital cameras led to writing being able to be read. With timber in H, dendrochronology (dating of timber by counting rings) was used to date the timber.

Issues of conservation and reconstruction: Italian & international contributions and responsibilities, impact of tourism
For over 200 years, excavation has lead to the damage and destruction of parts of Pompeii. This has been caused by the following factors-

1. Neglect through poor site protection causing natural decay.
2. Failed attempts at conservation in 1930s- for ex, using softwoods to replace original timber features has led to rotting and the spread of mould
3. Theft and vandalism – for example its been estimated that 600 items were stolen from Pompeii 1997-1992
4. Sunlight and pollution caused faded paintings, decay of original materials, discolouration and erosion
5. Damp conditions lead to growth of weeds and parasitic plants

Many problems of conservation and restoration in Herculaneum are now being “corrected” by the Herculaneum Conservation Project

The impact of tourism

Tourism is a massive industry- over 2 million people visit Pompeii and about 500 000 visit Herculaneum each year
Visitor erosion- nothings been constructed to protect the streets and buildings. For example, the heavy foot traffic of tourists has led to the wearing down of streets and damage to water pipes below
Poor supervision and management of Pompeii has left it vulnerable to vandals. Tourists remove pieces of mosaics, wall items and other items
On the other hand, profits from tourism is now used to improve the management of the site and conservation
Pompeii earns over 20 million euros per year
Falcons (birds) are used in Herculaneum to control problems caused by pigeon infestations.

Ethical issues: study and display human remains
In the past, human remains were treated with disrespect. They were often destroyed or posed around buildings to impress visitors. Most were tossed aside or piled up. They were sometimes collected as curiosities.

Some people now believe that it is unethical to display any human remains and they should not be excavated or studied, as a mark of disrespect for the dead person. Others feel that this is an extreme opinion and scientists should be allowed to study human remains as long as they are treated with respect, as there is a great amount we can learn from them.
It is now held that displays of human remains must be carried out in ways that respect other people’s cultural or religious beliefs, or that casts should be used instead of the actual remains. The International Council of Museums Code of Professional Ethics 2004, does not ban the display of human remains but urges a sensitive and respectful approach to increasing such displays.

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Cities of Vesuvius Pompeii Herculaneum


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Cities of Vesuvius Pompeii Herculaneum