You may wish to read a page on the town first.
The Macellum was the main marketplace of Pompeii (today Italian macello means slaughterhouse, but è un macello! means "it's a mess!"). It was a square portico with stalls for the sale of fish and meat at the sides of a small "temple" which housed a statue of the emperor.
These stalls had racks which could be easily washed. Activities at the Macellum were under the vigilance of ediles, municipal officers who inspected the measurement instruments used by the vendors and the quality of the goods sold. When appropriate they could fine the vendors and confiscate their merchandise.
It was decorated with paintings (which are shown in another page) and marbles (the image used as background for this page shows marble mouldings).
Pompeii was renowned for its wool industry, an activity which one would not expect to find in a location by the sea, but the town was founded by Italic tribes living in the mountains who practiced sheep husbandry. Eutichia was a priestess who was regarded as a patron of this industry and the basilica dedicated to her was most likely the wool market. All the many processes of this business, including dyeing and finishing the woven products, were performed in the town. Old wool clothes were recycled.
According to Pliny the Elder, Pompeii was a garum manufacturing centre. Garum was a sauce made up of small fish and intestines of large ones which were macerated with herbs. Spain and Africa (Tunisia) were large suppliers of garum (you may wish to see a page on Neapolis in Tunisia where archaeologists have unearthed a garum factory).
Two "thermopolia" (that on the right belonged to Lucius Vetutius Placidus, its painting is shown in another page)
Fast food is not a modern invention because many small taverns at Pompeii sold food and beverages to passers-by. We can assume they mainly operated at lunchtime when public buildings and markets were open. Their customers came from other towns or just did not have time to go home and have lunch. A more elaborate thermopolium with an inner garden has been found at Ostia. The word means "sale of hot (food)".
A large "thermopolium" near the Forum with grindstones and big jars
89 thermopolia have been identified at Pompeii and they have provided archaeologists with an incredible number of small coins. 1385 coins were found at the Thermopolium of Lucius Vetitius Placidus inside a jar. Other coins were hidden elsewhere. The majority of them were asses, the smallest value Roman coins. The small treasure of Vetutius Placidus shows that, similar to what occurs today, shopkeepers were not as poor as they pretended to be.
House of the Bakery: (left) grindstones; (right) ovens
This large bakery did not have a section for direct sales so it is believed it supplied thermopolia and street sellers. The millstones are of the same type found at Ostia and at many other locations throughout the Roman Empire (e.g. Mamfis in Israel). Their hard volcanic stone did not lose small particles into the flour which could end up in the loaves of bread. Bread was introduced in Rome by Greek bakers in the IInd century BC. Before that time flour was used by the Romans to prepare puls, a sort of soup with mashed legumes.
Paintings and reliefs at House of the Vetti and near Terme Stabiane
(if you do wish to see these images for adults click here - it opens in another window)
Passengers of large cruise ships calling at Naples are offered tours of Pompeii. The visit lasts a couple of hours.
Participants can be as many as 2,000 and are divided into 30/40 groups. Notwithstanding the limited time they gladly queue to see a small brothel near Terme Stabiane and houses decorated with phalluses. The latter in no way indicated the ill reputation of the ladies who lived inside, but had an apotropaic purpose, i.e. to avert evil. Paintings depicting Priapus with his gigantic phallus were a warning sign to trespassers or a good-luck symbol for the guests to touch.
Pompeii did not live off prostitution as did some large ports such as Delos and Corinth.
Archaeological Museum of Naples - Gabinetto Segreto: (left) Satyr and Maenad (from the House of Lucius Caecilius Iucundus); (right) Venus and Mars (from the House of Meleager)
In 1819 paintings and statues which were deemed to violate decency standards were placed in Gabinetto Segreto, a special section of the Archeological Museum of Naples, the access to which was restricted. Only in 1971 it was opened to the general public.
Tombs of C. Calventius Quietus (left) and C. Munatius Faustus (right) outside Porta Ercolano, two citizens
having right to a "bisellium" (a folding seat at the theatre)
The funerary monuments of Pompeii, similar to those of Rome (e.g. Tomb of Marcus Virgilius Eurysaces), provide interesting data about the economic and political life of the town. The inscription in the first monument reads: "To Caius Calventius Quietus, Augustalis. On account of his munificence he is honoured with a bisellium by decree of the decurions and with the consensus of the people." The second one shows a ship at sail which most likely was owned by the dead.
Archaeological Museum of Naples: the "Blue Vase"
This beautiful vase was not found in a house, but inside a small tomb. It testifies to the wealth and taste of the inhabitants of Pompeii who were prepared to part with such an exquisite object to honour their dead.
Electoral advertisements near the House of Paquius Proculus (which is shown in another page)
Positions in the administration of Pompeii were unpaid; nevertheless the town was covered by electoral graffiti supporting candidates. Campaigns were expensive as dinners were offered and candidates committed themselves to improve public buildings. Was all this effort made just for a bisellium at the theatre? It is a question which applies to today's politicians as well, who say they do it for the people.