Cities of Vesuvius

- Syllabus Content -

The Economy

Trade, Commerce, Industries, Occupations

Use the "Evidence provided by the sources from Pompeii and Herculaneum for..." template to organise your material for the four listed areas.

Focus Questions:
  • In what ways was the economy of Pompeii and Herculaneum based on agriculture?
  • What types of occupations and trades were available in Pompeii and Herculaneum?
  • Where were shops and workshops located in the towns?
  • What evidence is available for the economic activity in and around Pompeii and Herculaneum?

See Chapter 7 of your text book: "Social structure, economy and politics"
"Commercial Life" pp.89-101.

  • The economies of Pompeii and Herculaneum were influenced by their geographical position by the sea and on the fertile volcanic soils of Vesuvius. They were based on agriculture and fishing. Within the towns, many trades were practiced, there were many different types of shops and workshops, and many different occupations were followed.

  • Evidence for these comes from the buildings, frescoes and graffiti, inscriptions and artefacts.

Wine and oil industries
  • Commercial vineyard within Pompeii, 2014 vine-root cavities (Wilhelmina Jashemski). Smaller vineyards next to Inn of Euxinus and Inn of the Gladiators.
  • Amphorae found in wine shops.

Inn of Euxinus (I.11.10-11):
Outside this inn is a painted sign depicting a phoenix and two painted peacocks. A short text wishes good fortune to its customers (“The phoenix is lucky; may you be too.”) The name of the innkeeper Euxinus appears in an electoral notice painted on its façade (“Euxinus asks you to elect Quintus Postumius and Marcus Cerrinius aediles, together with Iustus. Hinnulus wrote this.”), and three amphorae bear labels instructing their delivery to his address (“At Pompeii, near the Amphitheatre, to the innkeeper Euxinus.”). Excavation revealed that thirty-two vines were planted in the garden in irregular rows. Their grapes could have been fermented on the premises in two large pottery vessels (dolia), found partially embedded in the ground. Each of these had a capacity of about 100 gallons. Presumably Euxinus made available to his customers a range of wines, both home produced and imported. (Cooley p.162)
  • Wine production in rural villas: torcularium (pressing room) and wine press [Villa of the Mysteries] and large dolia for storage [Villa of Pisanella and Villa Rustica]
  • Epigraphic evidence for variety of wines on sale – graffiti on bar walls and inscriptions of amphorae: "(Wine from the farm of) Fabius at Sorrento. When Vespasian was consul for the second time {i.e. AD 70}".
  • Oil production in rural villas: olive presses made from lava stone; storage jars. Presses also have been found in town houses.
  • Forum markets may have housed an olive oil market
A replanted vineyard near the Amphitheatre in Pompeii
The Villa Regina at Boscoreale
Olive press in the Antiquarium at Boscoreale
Wine press in the torcularium in the Villa of the Mysteries
Inn of Euxinus at Pompeii in Pictures
Inn of the Gladiators and Vineyard at Pompeii in Pictures

  • Pliny the Elder: “Furthermore, there is another type of choice fluid, called garum, produced from the guts of fish and anything else which would have been discarded, steeped in salt – in other words it is the fermentation of decaying matter.” Natural History 31.93
  • A prominent manufacturer: Aulus Umbricius Scaurus - four large mosaics of fish sauce bottles were found in the atrium of his house (VII, Ins. Occ. 12-15) with the following inscriptions: “Scaurus’ finest mackerel sauce from Scaurus’ workshop”; “Finest fish purée”; “Scaurus’ finest mackerel sauce”; “Best fish purée from Scaurus’ workshop”.
  • Over fifty fish sauce bottles have been found in or around Pompeii. One was even found in southern France. “Finest fish sauce from Umbricia Fortunata, belonging to Veturinus Iulianus” (inscription on a fish sauce bottle).
Garum residue - Antiquarium at Boscoreale
Garum bottle mosaic from house
of A. Umbricius Scaurus

Cloth Manufacture and Treatment
  • Fullonicae – 18 in Pompeii, e.g. Fullonica of Stephanus, containing the basins for washing and rinsing.
  • Painted sign in the Workshop of Verecundus in Pompeii showed the processes of cloth manufacture.
  • Clothes press found in the House of the Wooden Partition in Herculaneum.
  • Building of Eumachia on the Forum was the headquarters of the Guild of Fullers and possibly a wool market.

Building of Eumachia (from outside)


Building of Eumachia (from inside)

  • Thirty bakeries in Pompeii. These are indicated by the lava stone flour mills, a table for kneading dough and a wood-fired oven.
  • Some bakeries had a separate area for selling their own bread.
  • 81 loaves of bread found in the Bakery of N. Pomidius Priscus (aka Bakery of Modestus).
  • Different sized bronze baking pans found in the Sextus Patulcus Felix in Herculaneum.

Grain mills

Other Industries
  • Epigraphic evidence shows there were carpenters, plumbers, wheelwrights, tanners, tinkers, ironmongers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, marble-workers, stonemasons, gem-cutters, glassmakers.
  • Perfume industry. According to Wilhelmina Jashemski (1979), the Garden of the Fugitives and Garden of Hercules were for flower production for the perfume industry: root cavities probably of rose bushes; fragments of terracotta and glass perfume containers.

  • Much commercial activity was centred on the Forum.
  • Macellum: fish and meat market and possibly fruit and vegetables. An arcaded courtyard with shops between the columns; a round covered market in the middle, with probably a pool for live fish. Fish scales and bones have been found in a drainage channel.
  • Horrea and/or olitorium: market for grain, vegetables. Contained a table with the official set of standard measures (mensa ponderaria).
The round fish market in the Marcellum


The Horrea in the Forum


The mensa ponderaria


Amphorae stored in the Horrea

  • Shops attached to most houses. The Via dell’Abbondanza was the main commercial road with many types of shops. Painted signs or paintings on the outside wall indicated the type of shop.
  • Thermopolia (take away food shops) are identified by the marble-topped bar with dolia for holding food and drink. As most houses did not have kitchens, these were very popular businesses.
  • Cauponae (wine bars and taverns) are often identified by graffiti on the walls.
  • “Hedone says, ‘You can drink here for one as, if you give two, you will drink better; if you give four, you will drink Falernian.” (from bar attached to house VII.2.45)

The big thermopolium opposite the palestra entrance in Herculaneum

Amphorae in a taverna in Herculaneum

Hotels and Inns
  • Hotels for travellers have been found inside and outside the walls of Pompeii. Hotel of the Muses on the (ancient) banks of the Sarno. Hotel near the Forum and hotels inside the Herculaneum and Stabian gates.


Prostitution was widespread in Pompeii and Herculaneum, though only one building (VIII.12.18-20) has been identified as being used as a brothel. Prostitution also took place in taverns, bars and baths.
  • Erotic paintings in the Suburban Baths outside the Marine Gate at Pompeii.
  • Graffiti in many bars and in the brothel. (They can’t be printed here!)
The lupanare at Pompeii

Agricultural production and fishing
  • A number of villa rusticae have been found, e.g. Villa Regina at Boscoreale.
  • Fishing gear (nets, hooks) found at Herculaneum.

Public toilets near the Forum at Pompeii