Pompeii a Window on the Roman World
A away of life that time spopped


Roman City Pompeii

The eruption destroyed the Roman city, killing its inhabitants and burying it under tons of ash. Evidence for the destruction originally came from a surviving letter by Pliny the Younger, who saw the eruption from a distance and described the death of his uncle Pliny the Elder, an admiral of the Roman fleet, who tried to rescue citizens. the town was founded in the seventh or sixth century BC by the Osci or Oscans. It came under the domination of Rome in the 4th century BC,


The people and buildings of Pompeii were covered in up to twelve different layers of tephra, in total 25 meters deep, which rained down for about six hours.

Life in Pompeii 1st Century

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 Roman City of Pompeii
from the villa of the mysteries to the amphitheatre


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 11,000 inhabitants, and was located in an area where Romans had holiday villas. "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 (main east/west road) and its cardo (main north/south road), centered on the forum.

Garden sites and urban domains to reveal the agricultural staples in Pompeii’s economy

IMG2333 The Battle of Issus shown on the Alexander Mosaic in the House of the Faun in Pompeii



Food, Entertainment

Carbonized food plant remains, roots, seeds and pollens, have been found from gardens in Pompeii, Herculaneum and from the Roman villa at Torre Annunziata. They revealed that emmer wheat, Italian millet, common millet, walnuts, pine nuts, chestnuts, hazel nuts, chickpeas, bitter vetch, broad beans, olives, figs, pears, onions, garlic, peaches, carob, grapes, and dates were consumed. All except the dates could have been produced locally.

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". Geothermal energy supplied channeled district heating for baths and houses.



Romans loved to eat outside, small taverns (called Thermopolium) where it was possible to purchase ready-to-eat food. A typical thermopolium would consist of a small room with a distinctive masonry counter in the front. Embedded in this counter were earthenware jars (called dolia) used to store dried food like nuts (hot food would have required the dolia to be cleaned out after use, and because they are embedded in the counter, it is believed that they were not used to store hot food, but rather dried food where cleaning wouldn't be necessary). In Pompeii we have found 150 of them


Pompeii Fresco Painting
Both Herculaneum and Pompeii worshipped little gods such as Lares or Penates in household shrines or lararium Pompeii fresco paintings are a great window into the everyday life of the lost city of Pompeii were very open about their sexuality… it was very normal to live side by side with erotic frescoes as if they were landscapes of still life, they treated religious and mythological themes with a very earthly approach: ancient gods and goddesses were something that decorated their houses.

Other favorite themes of Pompeii fresco paintings were country scenes, magnificent landscapes, views of the sea and blue skies, architecture, fruit trees and lush vegetation, still life…The most intriguing example of Pompeii fresco art still today is the frescoes that adorn the famous Villa of the Mysteries’ Initiation Chamber. Still to this day art historians can not agree on the interpretation..



To see more fresco's from Pompeii and Herculaneum
click on the images below or here for a pdf file



Stabiae, Villa of Arianna, Atrium, Couple in Flight


Part of a Wall Painting From Pompeii, Venus, Mars & Cupid


Wall Painting From Pompeii, "Flora" Woman Picking Flowers


Bacchus and Vesuvius
in the house of the Centenary