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THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT: THE GEOGRAPHICAL SETTING,

NATURAL FEATURES AND RESOURCE OF POMPEII AND HERCULANEUM


Geographic Setting

Pompeii and Herculaneum were situated in the province of Campania, in a


crescent shape volcanic plain along the Bay of Naples which gave access
to the Mediterranean Basin. The cities of Vesuvius were in close proximity
to Mount Vesuvius and the Sarno River.

Natural Features

The region was known as Campania Felix meaning fertile and lucky, as
according to Strabo, the mountain was covered with fertile volcanic soils
ideal for agriculture.
Pompeii and Herculaneum had an ideal climate due to the breezes from
both the ocean and the mountains, creating a temperate summer and mild
winter.
Pliny: one of the loveliest places on earth
The Sarno plain was dotted with mounds and spurs formed by lava flows,
providing strategic places for settlement.

Resources

The perfect natural harbour gave access to fish and marine resources such
as tuna and shellfish, supporting the production of garum. The Sarno River
was also a trade centre for merchants.
According to Pliny the vines never stopped growing. This is evidenced by
the production of Vesuviana wine, illustrated by the frescoe of Bacchus
and Mount Vesuvius in the House of Centenary.
Olives were used for oils and perfume.
Peaches, apricots, figs, cabbages and onions.
Tufa rock used for roads.

PLANS AND STREETSCAPES OF POMPEII AND HERCULANEUM


Both cities were fortified by large defensive walls.
Both follow a grid layout in rectangular blocks called insulae.
No sense of class zoning.
Decumani were streets that ran east to west. Cardines ran north to south.
Pompeii:
o 66 ha45 ha excavated
o 11,000 residents to 20,000
o Buried under 4m of volcanic material
o 8 gates
o 5m to 8.5m across streets for cart traffic
o Stepping stones
o Via dell Abbondanza (street of abundance)
Herculaneum:
o 12 ha to 20 ha 2.5 ha excavated
o 5000 residents
o Buried under 20m of volcanic material

o
o

Less commercial traffic. Streets 2.5m to 7.5m wide.


7 insulae

THE RANGE OF AVAILABLE SOURCES, BOTH WRITTEN AND


ARCHAEOLOGICAL,
INCLUDING
ANCIENT
WRITERS,
OFFICIAL
INSCRIPTIONS, GRAFFITI, WALL PAINTINGS, STATUES, MOSAICS,
HUMAN AND ANIMAL REMAINS
Written:
o Strabo wrote about the geographical setting.
o Seneca wrote about the 62 earthquake.
Archaeological:
o Epigraphic evidence such as official inscriptions such as dedications
on buildings, graffiti on walls (including electoral posters, notices of
property sales) reveal information about everyday life. Wax tablets
and papyri also reveal banking transactions such as the tablets
found of Jucundus. Household furnishings such as silverware found
at the House of Meander are engraved with mythological images.
Frescoes and Mosaics. Wooden furniture carbonised.
o Human Remains.
THE LIMITATIONS, RELIABILITY AND EVALUATION OF SOURCES
Lack of written sources from people living in Pompeii and Herculaneum at
the time.
Gender bias reveals more about elite males than any other group.
There are also gaps in evidence due to the nature of the eruption and
haphazard excavations.
THE EVIDENCE PROVIDED BY
HERCULANEUM FOR:
THE ERUPTION

THE SOURCES

FROM POMPEII AND

Pliny the Younger wrote two letters to Tacitus 25 years after the event
detailing the eruption and glorifying his uncle Pliny the Elder.
o Pliny the Youngers letters to Tacitus are assumed to be a reliable
eye witness account of the eruption of Vesuvius. However they were
written from memory and may well have been motivated by a
desire to glorify the role of Pliny the Elder. Pliny was staying at
Misenum, 30km from Pompeii and could not have known what was
happening at the shore, and he omits key facts such as the
tremendous detonation described by Dio. However he describes the
smoke to look like a pine, and describes the cause of death.
Vulcanologist Sigurdson consolidates Plinys description through a
comparative study of Mount St Helen.
Time Sequence of the Eruption:
o Plinian Phase: pumice and ash expelled from the crater, forming a
high eruption column reaching 30km. The ash and pumice fell into
the streets and buildings of Pompeii for 17 hours, causing the
collapse of some buildings and fires. Many Pompeiians wouldve fled

at this point, whilst Herculaneum wouldnt have been affected due


to the winds carrying the pumice away from the town.
o Second Stage: At least six pyroclastic surges of searing hot ash and
poisonous gasses spread out along the sides of the volcano at
speeds over 100km per hour, incinerating everything in its path.
The first surge killed those in Herculaneum, but did not reach
Pompeii.
The second also dissipated before reaching Pompeii.
The third and fourth covered Pompeii.
The 5th and 6th surges and flows completely buried Pompeii.
Herculaneum, Stabiae, Oplontis and perhaps other villages
yet to be discovered.
Pompeii was covered by 4 metres of Volcanic material, mainly hardened
ash and pumice, while Herculaneum lay beneath 25 metres of debris
which cooled into a solid mass of volcanic material.
The Sarno River was turned from its course, the coastline was extended
into the Bay of Naples by about 500 metres and raised by about 25
metres.

THE ECONOMY: TRADE, COMMERCE, INDUSTRIES, OCCUPATIONS

Pompeii was a bustling trade and communication hub with a booming port
and thriving economy, as goods were shipped inland and exported by the
Sarno River. Pompeii had a small scale manufacturing industry, and was
primarily self-sufficient.
600 shops/tabernae have been excavated
130 thermopolia which served hot food
20 taverns
Industries:
o Olive and Wine Industry
Grown by wealthy Pompeiians on country estates, such as
Jucundus and the Vetti Brothers.
Private wine and olive presses have also been found, as well
storage containers called dolia.
Olives were a base for perfumes and cleansers in baths.
Some oil imported from Spain.
o Fish and Garum
Fishing ents, bronze hooks and fish skeletons have been
found in Herculaneum.
Garum exported too all areas of the Roman Empire, as it was
an additive in Roman cuisine.
fish centric mosaics in the House of the Faun.
Garum stored in amphorae.
Fish sold at the Macellum in a large pool.
o Textile Industry
Laundires and fullonica were responsible for laundering,
bleaching and recolouring clothes. 18 have been found in
Pompeii.
Fullers used urine to clean cloth, due to the alkaline agent.

The Guild of Fullers was a powerful organisation, evidenced


by the Eumchia Building in the Forum.
o Baking
30 bakeries found and 10 different kinds of bread.
Lava stone mills were utilised.
81 loaves discovered still cooking the bakery of Modestus.
o Other occupations include potters, scribes, artisans, goldsmiths and
prostitutes.
9 lupinari in Pompeii, the largest owned by Africanus.
153 tablets at the House of Jucundus reveal contracts,
receipts from auctions and money lending. Limestone
weights and measures at the Forum.
85 trades according to Dobbins.
Herculaneum was a quiet resort and fishing town with less commercial
activity.

SOCIAL STRUCTURE; MEN, WOMEN, FREEDMEN, SLAVES

The basic unit of society was the household (familiar) which included
slaves, headed by the paterfamilias.
Distinctions between classes evidenced by amphitheatre seating and the
clothing worn.
Freeborn Men
o Senatorial elite and members of the patrician class.
o The local elite were wealthy landowners and businessmen who
dominate local government.
o They gained status by fulfilling political roles.
Freedmen
o Freedmen or liberti were slaves who had been freed through
purchase or reward.
o Many of them ran workshops or small businesses, often with slaves
they purchased.
o The children of freedmen could become citizens.
o Some gained considerable wealth such as the Vetti Brothers.
o Still tied to their master through patron-client relationships.
o Used tombs as a public declaration of their status.
Freeborn women
o Could not vote or stand for office, but played a significant political
role through their endorsement of candidates.
o Some owned property such as Julia Felix and Eumachia, as well as
Neros wife Sabina Poppaea. Women could inherit a share in their
fathers estate.
o Women could own slaves and conduct business transactions.
o Worked in the clothing industry, alongside their husbands, in
taverns or as midwives.
Freed women
o Some married well and established their households.
Slaves
o Could be bought and sold as inheritance.
o Estimated of the population.

o
o

Cooks, cleaners, nurses and servers. Educated slaves worked as


tutors.
Greek slaves prized.

LOCAL POLITICAL LIFE

Patronage System: Patrons provided financial support and protection to


clients in return for political support.
Pompeii was a Roman self-administering municipality, answerable to Rome
by royal decree. This ability for Rome to interfere is demonstrated by the
59 banning of games by Nero.
Pompeii was divided into voting electorates known as vici. Only male
citizens could vote, leaving the government to be controlled by wealthy
aristocrats.
2000 pieces of electoral graffiti/programmata have been identified.

Political Buildings:
o Basilica: used as law courts and a meeting place for business.
o Comitium: polling station with podium for magistrates to preside
over elections.

Curia: large hall for political meetings.

EVERYDAY LIFE: LEISURE ACTIVITIES, FOOD AND DINING, CLOTHING,


HEALTH, BATHS, WATER SUPPLY AND SANITATION

Leisure
o Gladiatorial games
Most popular form of entertainment.
The Amphitheatre held up to 20,000 people.
60 identified gladiator remains, as well as helmets and
weapons found in the barracks.
Graffiti demonstrates that gladiators were celebrities.
o Theatre
Large Theatre: 5000. Tragedies, comedies, farces.
Odion: 1500. Concerts, poetry, lectures, pantomimes.
o Gambling (i.e. on games and cock fights) took place as laws against
werent enforced in Pompeii.
o Exercise at the palaestra, such as wrestling and swimming.
Food and Dining
o Garum was a popular flavouring sauce and wine was a common
beverage at every meal. The family would eat in the triclinium, and
the utensils found in the kitchen of the House of the Vetti
demonstrate food was mostly boiled, not baked.
o Carbonised food items in Herculaneum include bread, eggs, fish,
and animal bones of sheep and pigs.
o Dining at thermopolium was a daily occurrence, and drinking and
gambling went hand in hand.
o Wine bars and taverns were concentrated near the amphitheatre
and the gates.
Clothing
o Virtually the same as the rest of the Roman world. Clothes were
made by salves and were wool or linen.
o Men wore tunics and women wore longer stala and a headdress.
o Togas were worn by officials of the upper class; purple stripes
indicated influence.
o Lower classes had to make do with tunics and darker wool.
Health
o Pompeii and had good health and excellent teeth due to a low sugar
died.
o Estelle Lazer has challenged the idea that the people left behind
were the very young, the very old or the sick, as her study of
skeletal remains reveal a cross section of the society.
10% had arthritis
Teeth were worn due to the wheat being ground by coarse
stone mills, but there was no evidence of decay.
Age related disease HFI present in post-menopausal women.
Comparable life expectancy.
o Surgical instruments
Baths/ Thermae

o
o
o

Upper class Pompeiians would visit the baths everyday for social,
business and political engagements.
Massages, gymnastics, sports.
Main Baths in Pompeii:
Stabian
Forum
Central
Sarno
Main Baths in Herculaneum:
Forum
Suburban
General Features:
Covered in stucco
Oil used as soap
Caldarium: hot room with heated bath
Tepidarium: warm room
Laconicum: sauna
Frigidarium: cold room with bath

Water
o 42 public fountains
o Water was sourced from the Appenine Mountins via a branch of the
Augsutan Aquaduct. Water was fed through the castellum aquae, a
brick holding tank, through lead pipes to public baths, fountains,
and to separate private houses.
o Compluvium in roof, impluvium in atrium floor.
o Overflow washed down the streets in Pompeii. Stepping stones.
Sanitation
o Public latrines drained away to cesspits beneath the roadway.
o Herculaneum had a much better underground drainage system
which utilised the natural contour flowing towards the sea.

BASILICAS, TEMPLES, FORA, THEATRES, PALAESTRA, AMPHITHEATRES

The Forum was an open area where the main public buildings were found.

Municipal Offices

Basilica
o Large building for all business and legal matters and main law
courts.
Temple of Apollo
o Surrounded by 48 columns. Raised inner sacred area, an altar and
two statues of Apollo and his sister Diana (artemis)
Horrea: Grain warehouse and marketplace
Arch of Germanicus
Temple of Jupiter
o Capitoline Triad: Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. Damaged by the
earthquake of 62. Still not restored.
Macellum: Covered fish, meat and begetable market. stalls around the
periphery. Fish tank.
Temple of the Lares Publici
Temple of Vespasian
o Central place in the forum. Importance of the imperial cult. Raised
area at the back and an altar for scarifices at the front.
Eumachia
Comitium
Amphitheatre: near the sarno gate. 20,000 people. Eliptical. Large linen
cloths to protect from the sun and rain.
Triangular Forum
Forum at Herculaneum still unexcavated.
College of Augustales on the decumanis Maximus, Herculaneum.

PRIVATE BUILDINGS VILLAS, HOUSES, SHOPS

Urban Housing
o Small and medium sized tabernae (shop) at the front of street

o
o
o
Villas
o

facing houses
officina (workshop)
Average sized house (8-13 rooms)
Features of atrium houses
Villa Otium:
multileveled with terraces an swimming pools. i.e. Villa of the
Papyri.
Long and narrow entrance
Villa Rusticae: working estate combined with luxurious living spaces.
Atrium with compluvium and impluvium
Tablinium: large room off atrium to conduct business and
morning salutation. Filled with frescoes.
Preistyle garden.
Alae: small rooms
Cubicula: bedrooms
Triclinium: dining room

Hotels
o Hotel on the Muses on the bank of the Sarno for wealthy traders.
o Two Hospitium in Herculaneum.
INFLUENCE OF GREEK AND EGYPTIAN CULTURES: ART, ARCHITECTURE,
RELIGION
Greek Influence
o Greek colonisation in 7th Century BCE region Hellenised
o Alexander mosaic in House of the Faun
o Mosaic of the Dioscuri found at the villa of Cicero in Pompeii
o Library of Greek and Latin works and copies of Greek statues in the
House of Papyri (named as such as it was found with 1000 scrolls
written on Papyri) in Herculaneum
o Herculaneum derived from Hercules
o Greek architecture found across cities peristyles, columns,
temples, porticoes, palaestras, theatres and public buildings.
Columns Doric, Ionian and Corinthian
o Greek gods adopted and Romanised (Egyptian too)
Aphrodite Venus
Dionysus Bacchus
Zeus Jupiter
o Greek graffiti
Egyptian Influence
o Incorporated into Empire in 31BCE
o Niolotic frescoe in House of the Faun
o Egyptian goddess Isis was extremely popular in Pompeii statuettes
and amulets found in both cities, as she was worshipped by
merchants and traders. Temple of Isis.
o Egyptian sundial discovered in the Stabian baths.
o House of the Julia Felix featured Egyptian water features
RELIGION: TEMPLES, HOUSEHOLD GODS, FOREIGN CULTS, TOMBS.
Public Religion
o Worship of the Captioline Triad
o Imperial Cult- Lares Publici
Mystery Cults

o Cult of Isis
o Cult of Dionysus
Household Gods
o Lares worshiped at lararium (household altar)
o Worship of ancestors using wax masks
Deaths, Funerals and Tombs
o Rituals carried out by the paterfamilias
o Cremation and burial outside the city
o Family tombs
o Tombs used to declare status and achievements
CHANGING METHODS AND CONTRIBUTIONS OF NINETEENTH AND
TWENTIETH CENTURY ARCHAEOLOGISTS TO OUR ----UNDERSTANDING OF
POMPEII AND HERCULANEUM
1863-1896: Fiorelli
o Systematic approach.
o diaries and daybooks.
o divided Pompeii into manageable regions (9) and each region was
divided into city blocks (insulae).
o room to room, building to building, documenting everything he
found and later publicized.
o Introduced plaster casts
1911-1924: Spinazzola
o Continued excavation of the Via dell Abbondanza and concentrated
on reconstructing the facades of buildings
1924-1962: Maiuri
o Excavated insulae either side of the Via dell Abbondanza,
amphitheater, palaestra, Villa of the mysteries and Herculaneum
Gate. Re-excavated Villa of Julia Felix. Concluded Pompeii was in
decline. Excavated in great haste.
Mau: categorized wall paintings into four decorative styles
1977: Zevi suspended excavation
1980s: Sarah Bisel
o Concentrated on skeletons found at the boathouses. Determined a
high vegetable, seafood, low sugar and red meat diet. Further
research by Bisel and Estelle lazar has revealed that many of the
women had a hormonal disorder from lead poisoning.

Dr Penelope Allison provides new information on room use in Roman


houses and the living conditions in Pompeii between 62-79CE. Pompeii
originally interpreted as time capsule frozen in time Pompeii Premise.
Allisons research challenges this assumption that such a site exists

CHANGING INTERPRETATIONS:
TECHNOLOGIES

IMPACT

OF

NEW

RESEARCH

AND

Estelle Lazar: studied the Lady of Oplontis using CT scans and x-rays.
Lazars study concluded that the lady was between 30 and 40, and of
good health at time of death. Dispelled myths about the people who
stayed at Pompeii.

Wilhelmina Jashemski: research into Pompeiis crops indicated a high level


of agricultural production within Pompeii. From the carbonised nuts, seeds
and plants discovered she was able to identify 184 different plants.
Pompeii Forum Project led by Dobbins, studied the architectural layout and
decorative remains of the site using electronic surveying with drones and
AutoCAD, a technical drawing design program. Dobbins disputed the idea
that the Forum was used as a builders yard, and thus challenged the signs
of decline in the site. Conversely found evidence of urban renewal and a
new building project on the eastern side of the Forum.
New technology was also employed in the Villa of Papyri to read the 1800
carbonised papyri scrolls.
Jaye Pont studied the red slip pottery vessels using petrological thin
section analysis, and her work challenged the original interpretation that
pottery was mostly imported from the east. Found a thriving pottery
industry from the local region.
Digital imaging reading the scrolls.

ISSUES OF CONSERVATION AND RECONSTRUCTION: ITALIAN AND


INTERNATIONAL CONTRIBUTIONS AND RESPONSIBILITIES; IMPACT OF
TOURISM

Early restoration and conservation was poorly completed by amateur


workers, many of whom had ties to underworld crime syndicates, and
lacked specialized skills and proper materials/tools.
1997: Italian Government passed a law to enable ll gate revenue to be
spent on conservation
2008: Italian Government declared a year-long state of emergency.
1998: UNESCO declared Pompeii and Herculaneum World Heritage Sites in
danger.
Poor Site Management
o Henri de Saint Blanquat: second death of Pompeii. Also discovered
31 species of parasitic plants such as ivy.
o Frescoes exposed to light and air they began to fade and
disintegrate. Acid rain has dissolved the high calcium component of
frescoes, causing them to turn black.
o Buildings exposed to wearing from the elements and erosion from
water damage
o By 1957 a third of the known paintings had disappeared and many
hadnt been documented.
o Weeds take root in bare patches of earth, on walls, in cracks and
gaps in floor.
o Steel reinforcing beams have been exposed due to poor concrete.
They have since rusted and expanded causing more damage.
Concrete Cancer.
o Feral dogs and pigeons
o 2010 Collapse of the House of the Gladiators
Tourism
o Vandalism
o Theft

Frescoes stolen from the House of the Chaste Lovers in 2003


2.5 million visitors each year
Many walkways worn down exposing lead pipes due to the
foot traffic.
Stepping stones worn down as they wouldve been replaced
in ancient times.
Steps taken to reduce impact:
o Rotational access.
o Removal of artefacts to the Naples Museum.
o Less than of the monuments are accessible. Just 16 sites are
open in 2016.
o Barricades and signage.
Herculaneum Conservation Project (Packard humanities and British School
of Rome): serious groundwater problems. Solved by restoring ancient
network of underground sewers and drainage channels. Replaced roofs,
safeguarded walls and consolidated frescoes.
o

ETHICAL ISSUES: STUDY AND DISPLAY OF HUMAN REMAINS

Contentious issue largely due to the demands of cultural groups who see
the study and display as an unethical practice and offensive to religions
such as Judaism and Islam. There is no law to prohibit the display or
removal of human remains from a historical site. However, the 2004
International Council of Museums Code of Professional Ethics asks for
sensitivity.
Visitors have also expressed concern that this is insensitive to the dead,
their relatives and cultural groups.
Italy, a Catholic country, has a long and unobtrusive history of displaying
human remains from the ancient world. This practice is supported

universally by museums
New standards and codes of ethical practice are being introduced by
management groups at Pompeii and Herculaneum. These standards aim to

ensure a balance between scientific study and cultural belief


Replicas Fakes Forgeries (Reconstructions Hollywoodisation)

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