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.

Pompeii and Europe

Pompei_e_lEuropaAn exhibition on the end of the city by the Vesuvius and the birth of the myth of Pompeii seventeen centuries later.

Among the most fascinating and suggestive finds that capture the attention and the heart of those who visit Pompeii the plaster casts of the victims of the eruption, devised by the inspector of the excavation at the time Giuseppe Fiorelli, are certainly worth mentioning. In 1863 during an excavation campaign Fiorelli, having found cavities in the ground containing skeletons, had the ingenious idea to fill the empty spaces left by the pulverized bodies obtaining a perfect cast of the body, its position and sometimes even the facial expressions of the people trapped by the rain of ash and lapilli that followed the eruption of the Vesuvius in AD 79. During the 19th and 20th centuries more casts are made, always using Fiorelli’s technique, by leaving the victims where they have been found protected by a glass case. Of particular emotional impact is the group of thirteen surprised people immortalized during the escape in the insula and it has been nominated “Orto dei Fuggiaschi”, the Garden of the Fugitives, and they are the emblem of the agony of the victims of mount Vesuvius, which was then considered simply a mountain since there is no historical data of a previous eruption.
The 20 restored casts are currently in exhibition in the interior of the archaeological site inside a pyramid located in the Amphitheatre of Pompeii, along with a rich selection of photos that tell about the site’s history. “Rapiti alla morte” (Kidnapped from death) is the title of the exposition and represents a section of the exhibition “Pompei e l’Europa 1748-1943”. At the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples the section “Natura e Storia” which intends to analyze and retrace the influence that the excavated city has exercised on the spirit and the imagination of the European artists and intellectuals from the 18th to the 20th century.
Pompeii and Europe. 1748-1943
26th May 2015 – 2nd November 2015
Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples – Pompei
Schedule: working days and holidays 9.00 am – 7.30 pm
Telephone: 081 4422149
Website: http://mostrapompeieuropa.it/index.html