The excavated city offers a snapshot of Roman life in the 1st century, frozen at the moment it was buried on 24 August AD 79. The forum, the baths, many houses, and some out-of-town villas like the Villa of the Mysteries remain well preserved.
Details of everyday life are preserved. For example, on the floor of one of the houses (Sirico's), a famous inscription Salve, lucru ("Welcome, profit") indicates a trading company owned by two partners, Sirico and Nummianus (but this could be a nickname, since nummus means "coin; money"). Other houses provide details concerning professions and categories, such as for the "laundry" workers (Fullones). Wine jars have been found bearing what is apparently the world's earliest known marketing pun (technically a blend), Vesuvinum (combining Vesuvius and the Latin for wine, vinum).
The numerous graffiti carved on the walls and inside rooms provides a wealth of information regarding Vulgar Latin, the form of Latin spoken colloquially rather than the literary language of the classical writers.
Portrait of the baker Terentius Neo with his wife found on the wall of a Pompeii house.
In 89 BC, after the final occupation of the city by Roman General Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Pompeii was finally annexed by the Roman Republic. During this period, Pompeii underwent a vast process of infrastructural development, most of which was built during the Augustan period. These include an amphitheatre, a palaestra with a central natatorium (cella natatoriua) or swimming pool and an aqueduct that provided water for more than 25 street fountains, at least four public baths, and a large number of private houses (domūs) and businesses. The amphitheatre has been cited by modern scholars as a model of sophisticated design, particularly in the area of crowd control.
The aqueduct branched out through three main pipes from the Castellum Aquae, where the waters were collected before being distributed to the city; in case of extreme drought, the water supply would first fail to reach the public baths (the least vital service), then private houses and businesses, and when there would be no water flow at all, the system would fail to supply the public fountains (the most vital service) in the streets of Pompeii. The pools in Pompeii were used mostly for decoration.
The large number of well-preserved frescoes provide information on everyday life and have been a major advance in art history of the ancient world, with the innovation of the Pompeian Styles (First/Second/Third Style). Some aspects of the culture were distinctly erotic, including frequent use of the phallus as apotropaion or good-luck charm in various types of decoration. A large collection of erotic votive objects and frescoes were found at Pompeii. Many were removed and kept until recently in a secret collection at the University of Naples.
At the time of the eruption, the town may have had some 20,000 inhabitants, and was located in an area in which Romans had their holiday villas. William Abbott explains, "At the time of the eruption, Pompeii had reached its high point in society as many Romans frequently visited Pompeii on vacations." It is the only ancient town of which the whole topographic structure is known precisely as it was, with no later modifications or additions. Due to the difficult terrain, it was not distributed on a regular plan as most Roman towns were, but its streets are straight and laid out in a grid in the Roman tradition. They are laid with polygonal stones, and have houses and shops on both sides of the street. It followed its decumanus and its cardo, centered on the forum.
Modern archaeologists have excavated garden sites and urban domains to reveal the agricultural staples in Pompeii’s economy prior to 79 A.D. Pompeii was fortunate to have a fruitful, fertile region of soil for harvesting a variety of crops. The soils surrounding Mount Vesuvius even proceeding its eruption have been revealed to have good water holding capabilities, implying access to productive agriculture. The Tyrrhenian Sea’s airflow provided hydration to the soil despite the hot, dry climate.
The rural areas surrounding Pompeii had an abundant agricultural plot that was considered to be heavily fertile and capable of producing much larger quantities of goods than the city itself would need. It is speculated that much of the flat land in Campania, surrounding the areas of Pompeii were dedicated to grain and wheat production. Cereal, barley, wheat and millet were all produced by the locals in Pompeii. These grains, along with wine and olive oil, were produced in abundance to be exported to other regions.
Evidence of wine imported nationally from Pompeii in its most prosperous years can be found from recovered artifacts such as wine bottles in Rome. For this reason, vineyards were of utmost importance to Pompeii’s economy. Agricultural policymaker Columella suggested that each vineyard in Rome produced a quota of three cullei of wine per jugerum, otherwise the winery would be uprooted. The nutrient-rich lands near Pompeii were extremely efficient at this and were often able to exceed these requirements by a steep margin, therefore providing the incentive for local wineries to establish themselves. While wine was exported for Pompeii’s economy, the majority of the other agricultural goods were likely produced in quantities relevant to the city’s consumption.
Remains of large formations of constructed grape vines were found in Forum Boarium, covered by cemented casts from the eruption of Vesuvius. It is speculated that these historical vineyards are strikingly similar in structure to the modern day vineyards across Italy. Water depressions have also been found in close proximity to the wineries and served as water wells for the produce and livestock.
Carbonized food plant remains via roots, seeds and pollens of certain items revealed commodities and agricultural goods that were likely exchanged prior to 79 AD. These remains from gardens in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Roman villa at Torre Annunziata revealed several alternatives for the obvious wine and grains, mainly involving fruits and nuts. Walnuts, figs, pears, onions, garlic, beans, peaches, carob, chestnuts and grapes were some primary produce items that were consumed and recorded by researchers at the sites in proximity to Vesuvius. The date was the only food that was solely imported from global regions rather than produced, namely to the Ancient Romans from the "Land of the Date".
Besides the forum, many other services were found: the Macellum (great food market), the Pistrinum (mill), the Thermopolium (sort of bar that served cold and hot beverages), and cauponae (small restaurants). An amphitheatre and two theatres have been found, along with a palaestra or gymnasium. A hotel (of 1,000 square metres) was found a short distance from the town; it is now nicknamed the "Grand Hotel Murecine".
In 2002, another discovery at the mouth of the Sarno River near Sarno revealed that the port also was populated and that people lived in palafittes, within a system of channels that suggested a likeness to Venice to some scientists.
Critiques | Translate
rbassin (23209) 2014-08-14 11:45
Une bonne prise de vue des ruines de Pompéi,
J'aime bien: la perspective, la couleur des murs, La lumière et les contraste avec les nuages.
williewhistler (16398) 2014-08-14 12:19
an interesting technique that displays very well the colours and textures of this iconic site.
ChrisJ (115569) 2014-08-21 1:20
I visited Pompei last year and the site is massive, much bigger than I expected. I like the diffused light and dramatic clouds. Good sharpness and well framed and composed. The square foundation structure in the centre makes a fine focal point. Good shadow detail and the horizon has been well positioned off centre. Tfs!