What Does Archaeological Evidence Reveal About How People In Pompeii And Herculaneum Lived?

1586 words - 6 pages

The Romans would have had a word for it: Fortuna. It was surely thanks to the intervention of the goddess Fortuna that the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum ever again were to be seen in the light of day. For archaeologists, it is certainly heaven-sent fortune that these two holiday resort cities were discovered; their ruins revealing much of the daily lives of the towns' citizens."Hail Profit!" This piece of graffito at the House of Vedius Siricus (Pompeii) captures the essence of daily life in Pompeii (and to lesser extant Herculaneum). While findings of fishnets, sinkers, and bronze fish hooks imply a quiet fishing life for Herculaneans, Pompeian life was highly commercial. The day began with the Patricians greeting their clients in their forum, then immersing their day at the Basilica for business or attending to their land lording. Proletarian merchants going to their shops in the forum to ruthlessly promote their wares (evidence of their commercial ruthlessness comes from an ad at a Herculaneum winery which used religion to promote their wares: the god Bacchus appears on the wineshop's wall). Slaves and freedmen led hard lives: the large crests on bones of 'Helmsman' at Herculaneum led NG anthropologist Dr Sara Bisel to conclude: "slaves appear to have been dreadfully overworked" doing extensive manual labour on their master's property, such as construction. After midday, following work and siesta (evident from the '1000 lamps' found in Pompeii's Stabian Baths), citizens went to the baths-an important part of daily life (indicated by 3 baths in Pompeii and 2 in Herculaneum, all occupying prime positions) , which allowed people to socialise, exercise and clean. Supper followed where they ate in the triclinum lying on coaches. Examination of teeth reveals a diet of honey, rather than sugar, using much less sweetening on their food. Food remains found during the recent Anglo-American Project's excavation of the House of the Vestals were carbonised: bread, chicken, eggs, lentils, herbs and figs.Epigraphic evidence such as graffiti and public notices are extremely useful evidence as they give an unedited feeling of daily life in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Through election notices, we learn of the important role of politics in daily life. Patrician would have spent great portions of their lives preparing and gaining support for the municipal elections-"The worshippers of Isis request the election of Sabinus as aedile". Less graffiti in Herculaneum suggests a quieter town life. Thus, epigraphic evidence sheds light on life in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Women enjoyed relatively emancipated lives. They took on business, land lording (Julia Felix), and led living public lives (the statue of Eumachia in front of Eumachia's building supports this). The Fresco of Terentius Neo with his wife beside him holding a stylus and book confirms that women often looked after their family's business and were literate. However, this source's reliability comes into...

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