Pompeii: fragments of daily life in the world-famous roman citadel


A few curiosities on the eating habits of our ancestors, forerunners of the Mediterranean diet.
What makes the archaeological site of Pompeii a unique place is the fact that visitors can find themselves thrown back in time into a 1st century Roman citadel and be free to walk around and see houses, noble villas, workshops, brothels, squares, and temples, and almost feel the daily routines of people who calmly conducted their affairs, lived their love life, concluded their business deals, and made plans for the future without knowing that it would be wiped out by the Vesuvius. We are left with a fascinating, yet tragic, pinpointed moment in time that still attracts millions of people from all over the world after two millennia.
Among all the information that Pompeii gives us about the lives of people at the time the thing that intrigues visitors the most are how common people lived their daily lives: how they washed, slept, loved, and, especially, ate.
The working day began at dawn to use as much daylight as they could and they had breakfast with bread and cheese, vegetables, or food left from the day before. Lunch consisted of focaccia bread, fried fish, sausages, cakes, and fruit; it wasn’t usually consumed at home but in places called Thermopolia a street tavern with brick counters where food was stored in jars placed in dedicated holes. These places could be decorated with frescos of Mercury, the god of commerce, and Dionysus, the god of wine. Dinner was consumed quite early; in noble residences in a room called triclinius where people ate lying down cheered by music, dances and plays. Knives and spoons existed, but not forks, so fingers were used and for this reason during banquets the commensals were provided with water bowls to wash their hands.
The marketplace was called Macellum, and probably were very crowded and noisy places. In a corner of the forum a rectangular portico with lines of workshops hosted counters selling meat and fish, in another area celebrations and banquets in honour of the emperor were made. The people of Pompeii must have been bread and focaccia lovers, as their descendants are pizza lovers: 34 bakeries have been identified in Pompeii, complete with wood ovens and igneous rock grindstones.