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Work and Play in Everyday Pompeii

Work and Play in Everyday Pompeii

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  • TTUAlison TTUAlison's Avatar 05-24-06 | 05:13 PM
  • The volcanic eruption of AD 79 that buried Pompeii and other settlements on the Bay of Naples has given us a fascinating window onto the everyday life of a Roman town. This window is not always clear - some inhabitants of Pompeii managed to take some of their belongings with them as they fled the eruption, or returned to salvage what they could after it, possibly obscuring the record by doing so. The archaeological record has also been affected by clandestine excavations, and by the poor preservation of some materials, such as wood.

    Yet at Pompeii we still have still a wealth of evidence - architecture, wall-paintings and mosaics, domestic artefacts - of a kind that is rarely found at other archaeological sites. And this evidence provides a unique insight into the lives of ordinary Romans in the first century AD.

  • TTUAlison TTUAlison's Avatar 05-24-06 | 05:22 PM

  • Shown here is the stone cooking range from the House of the Vettii, along with bronze cooking vessels that were found in the kitchen of this house. Cooking took place on top of the range - the bronze pots were placed on iron braziers over a small fire.

    In other houses, the pointed bases of amphorae storage jars were used instead of tripods to support vessels. Firewood was stored in the alcove beneath the range. Typical cooking vessels include cauldrons, skillets and pans, and reflect the fact that food generally was boiled rather than baked.

    Not all houses in Pompeii have masonry ranges or even separate kitchens - indeed, distinct kitchen areas generally are found only in the larger houses of the town. It is likely that in many houses cooking took place on portable braziers.

  • AmyW AmyW's Avatar 05-25-06 | 10:28 AM
  • Wonderful article. I find any info on Pompeii sooo interesting. It is one of my favorite historical places to study. The pics on the website are fantastic! Very good info!
  • TTUAlison TTUAlison's Avatar 05-25-06 | 06:16 PM

  • This wall-painting depicts the sale of bread - loaves of bread are stacked on the shop counter, and the vendor can be seen handing them to customers. It is thought that the inhabitants of Pompeii bought their daily bread from bakeries rather than baked it themselves at home, since ovens rarely are found in the houses of the town.

    The number of bakeries that have so far been excavated (33) tends to support this belief. Bakeries are identified by the presence of stone mills to grind grain, and large wood-burning ovens for baking.

    Bread may have been bought directly from the bakery, but it is likely that it was also sold from temporary stalls set up at different parts of the town. Two graffiti discovered on the precinct wall of the Temple of Apollo are an indication of this. They read Verecunnus libarius hic and Pudens libarius, which can be roughly translated as 'Verecunnus and Pudens sell sacrificial bread here'.

  • TTUAlison TTUAlison's Avatar 05-26-06 | 12:29 PM

  • This painting shows a banquet of the sort that, along with dinner-parties, were an important part of Roman life. Guests reclined on couches padded with cushions and draperies and were served food and drinks by slaves (usually depicted as smaller in scale, to suggest their status, as in this painting).

    Examples of wooden couches have been found in several of the excavated houses of Pompeii, and there are also many masonry couches in the gardens, for use when dining outside. Dinner-parties could be an opportunity for the rich elite to display their wealth, for example by providing entertainment in the form of dancers, acrobats and singers or by using an expensive dinner service.

    In this wall-painting, a slave (centre) holds out a drinking cup to one of the diners. Occasional silver services, such as the famous vessels discovered in the House of Menander, have been excavated at Pompeii, but in general most vessels that might have been used for dining were made from bronze and glass.