What Did People Do In Pompeii

Immersed in History: What Did People Do In Pompeii?

The ancient city of Pompeii was a thriving Roman seaside township situated in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius in the region of Campania, modern-day Italy. Placed at the mouth of the River Sarno, it had strategic importance and was a bustling cultural centre for trade, politics, and entertainment.

The first settlers appeared in the 6th century BC and by 79 AD, Pompeii had grown to some 10,000 people who enjoyed a sophisticated lifestyle. This all changed, however, when Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the city many metres deep and preserving the ancient architecture in ash, along with the bodies and artefacts of everyday life. As a result, we have a remarkable insight into what people were doing in the city two thousand years ago.

Pompeians were great architects, and their constructions reached sophisticated heights. Of particular note are the series of connected thermal spas that were built throughout the city and included a range of pools, baths, and saunas using a complex network of aqueducts to move hot and cold water.

The streets and alleyways of Pompeii were bustling with traders and merchants, selling everything from olives and product from the sea to grain, fruit, and vegetables. Most of the hundreds of villas found throughout the city were decorated with beautiful wall mosaics and frescoes, and many have been preserved in the ruins.

Pompeii also had an advanced road network, connecting it to nearby sister cities and larger cities in Italy. At the centre of the city, a theatre and amphitheatre served as entertainment venues and hosted gladiator fights, plays, concerts, and poetry readings. Religious life was equally important, and the city featured many temples.

Archaeological excavations of the city have unearthed places of worship associated with various gods. Two of the holiest places were sanctuaries offering sacrificial items to gods such as Dacian, Hecate (a goddess of magic), Orcus (the keeper of the underworld), and Mars (the god of war).

What’s more, Pompeiians enjoyed an extensive nightlife. Various inscriptions and images depicting musicians, dancers, acrobats, and jugglers testify to the existence of entertainment theatres and shows. Taverns and bars were plentiful, and the remains of a hallowed-out walnut served as a primitive sound system!

Public Hotspots

In a bustling city such as Pompeii, public gathering places were of great significance in life. Some of the most iconic places included a bathing complex, the Forum, Markets, and a network of public baths.

The city’s bath complex dates back to the mid-1st century BC and was a popular meeting place. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of communal dining, games of chance, and theatrical performances in the porticoes, with images of nymphs and satyrs decorating the walls.

The Forum was the centre of political and social life, with the central plaza being used for public meetings and political speeches. Markets existed in several locations in the city and served as a hub for merchants to sell and trade their goods.

Finally, a network of public baths populated all areas of Pompeii. These baths were a central source of socialization and were located next to other public spaces, including the Forum. They featured various amenities such as hot and cold water, massage rooms, and exercise facilities.

A Vibrant Healthcare Environment

Healthcare and medicine played an important role in ancient Pompeii. Although primitive by today’s standards, sophisticated treatments did exist – many based on herbal remedies, dietary advice, and massage.

The city housed a number of medical clinics and hospitals where doctors, cosmeticians, and dentists would have worked. Therapies available included acupuncture, trepanation, and scarlet fever. Even more radical treatments included pouring boiling metal over patients’ heads to get rid of worms!

The city also boasted its own health inspector, tasked with looking after the public’s health. His job included sterilizing wells and streets, treating the water supply, disposing of rubbish, checking food stores, and managing sanitation.

Healthy lifestyle options were plentiful in Pompeii, and a range of exercise activities were available, including swimming, running and martial arts. Sports houses and facilities catered to these needs, and there were outdoor pools surrounded by exercise equipment.

Popular Art and Theatre

The modern-day tourist flocking to Pompeii can still admire Roman art and architecture, a vibrant appreciation for the musical and performing arts, and the theatre, which lends a unique insight into Roman society.

Archaeological remains show that Pompeian art and poetry were influenced by Greek and Hellenistic cultures. Wall mosaics, frescoes, and sculptures created using a combination of marble, china, shell, rock crystal, and bronze bring insight into the culture of the city.

The theatre and amphitheatre were central hubs in the city, with people packing out shows featuring gladiators, dramas, and comedies put on by professional actors. Music and dance were also popular, with the remains of many musical instruments being unearthed. People also flocked to the theatre to watch pantomimes and mime.

Religious Festivals and Traditions

Religion permeated all aspects of life in ancient Pompeii. Festivals, processions, and sacrifices were all part of everyday life and featured gods, goddesses, and deities from the mythology of Ancient Greece and Rome.

The most popular gods were Apollo, the god of music and poetry; Aphrodite, the goddess of love; Demeter, the goddess of grain; and Ceres, goddess of agriculture. Most of the temples in the city were dedicated to these gods, and vast sacred grounds extended beyond their walls.

The majority of religious festivals had an agricultural aspect, such as the Floralia to honour Flora, the goddess of flowers. Others were attended to strengthen social ties, such as the worship of Vulcan, the god of fire.

Every day, pots of incense would be lit in temples and shrines and displayed in streets and shopfronts, with sacred processions being held at specific times of the year. Sacrificial altars, where items such as bread, cheese, and fruits were offered, were also regular fixtures in the city.

Food and Feasting in Pompeii

Feasting and banquets were common in Pompeii and took place regularly in eateries and private homes. The people of the city enjoyed an array of delicious food, with a selection of produce ranging from olives and figs to fish and meat.

The traditional diet consisted of staples such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, and grain, while meats such as beef, pork, and wild game were also consumed. Olive oil and wine were commonly used or drunk and foods were usually flavoured with spices, herbs, and fruits.

Various cooking techniques were employed, including grilling and baking. There’s evidence that hedonistic banquets were thrown, with extravagant starters followed by luxurious main courses of noble delicacies.

Most of the food was consumed by dipping bread into a shared plate of food, rather than using cutlery. Drinking water would have been taken from public reservoirs or from fountains, but wine and beer had to be bought from local suppliers.

Leisure and Recreation in Pompeii

Leisure activities in Pompeii covered a wide range from theatre and sports to literature, gambling, and partying. Recreational activities, such as chariot racing, ball games, and dice-throwing, were very popular, as were gardens and parks.

Throughout the city, a variety of gyms and sporting facilities were available, including two palaestrae (gyms) and areas to play ball. Numerous terrains were available for running and leisurely walks, such as a garden in a large villa and a half-mile long exercise racetrack. Swimming pools were widespread, as were public and private baths.

Pompeii also offered opportunities to enjoy literature and the arts. At least 20 libraries have been uncovered dating from the 4th century BC to the AD period, along with art schools and academic centres. Gambling was also popular with dice-throwing, tossing coins, and chance-based board-games.

Re-prising Ancient Entertainment

Today, though lying in ruins, the city of Pompeii offers a glimpse into the lives of its ancient citizens. Visitors to the city can admire the engineering prowess, appreciate the complex lifestyles and habits of Pompeians, and marvel at their devotion to entertainment and the arts.

The city is a popular tourist site and provides fascinating opportunities to see how the Pompeiians lived. Although much of their culture has been lost, modern-day visitors can still join in with long-forgotten pastimes of chariot racing, dice-throwing, swimming, and theatre-going.

Many of the artifacts once used by the ancient Pompeiians, such as furniture, kitchenware, jewelry, and even everyday items, have been remarkably preserved and can still be seen today. As a result, Pompeii is living proof of how people lived two thousand years ago.

Herman Shaw is a passionate traveler and avid photographer who has seen many of the world's most awe-inspiring monuments. He has developed expertise in various aspects of world architecture and culture which he enjoys sharing with his readers. With deep historical knowledge and insight, Herman's writing brings life to these remarkable artifacts and highlights their importance in the grand scheme of human history.

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