Cities of Vesuvius

- Syllabus Content -

The limitations, reliability and evaluation of sources

See Chapter 4 of your text book: "The range of sources and their reliability".

For your notes: write a detailed paragraph on the following:
"Despite the extraordinary range of archaeological sources that has come to light at both Pompeii and Herculaneum, there are some significant 'gaps' in the evidence."
Cameron and Lawless, Secrets of Vesuvius, p. 25
With reference to the above source and other sources, assess the significance of the 'gaps' in the evidence when trying to reconstruct what life was like in Pompeii at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius.

Andrew Wallace-Hadrill: past neglect, damage, failure to document carefully.

Much evidence has disappeared forever. Problems: reporting was patchy; no excavation reports for some buildings; some reports are totally unpublished; subjective judgements and conjecture. Many artefacts and paintings were looted or removed without record of context. Literary evidence is unavailable or disagrees with the architecture (e.g., Vitruvius).

Maiuri’s view that Pompeian patrician class had declined and was superseded by new rich is not based on evidence but inaccurate assumption.

Official Inscriptions
  • Civic charters and regulations on public buildings
  • Commemorative plaques for dedications by wealthy individuals
  • Funerary inscriptions

Evidence provided = prominent families, government structure, dates of construction and renovation, changes in society (political, economic and social)
Examples of inscriptions p.42-43 (Eumachia, epigraphs, tomb epitaphs)

Wall writings: public notices. Painted in red or black on freshly whitewashed walls.
  • Scriptores: professional scribes
  • Dealbeater: whitewasher
  • Lanternarius: holder of the lantern

Sometimes the painting was done by oneself

  • Electoral slogans
  • gladiatorial programs (edicta munerum)
  • sales and rental advertisements

Any type of message scratched onto the surface of a wall: visible and outside. Examples on p.45

Wax Tablets and Rolls of Papyri
  • Wax tablets showing financial records of L. Caecilius Jucundus
  • Herculaneum tablets: a record of a tight-knit business community
  • Villa of the Papyri (Herculaneum): epicurean writings mostly of the Greek, Philodemus

Decorative Arts
  • frescoes
  • paintings
  • mosaics
  • geometric patterned floors
  • decorative sculpture
  • furnishings

in public and private buildings
all levels of society
kitchen and slave quarters not painted
even walls of gardens painted (e.g. Venus Marina)
  • documents lost paintings
  • shows development of Roman art over three centuries
  • sheds light on the process of fresco painting

1882 Augusto Mau
  • 1st Style (3rd C. BC – c. 80 BC) – structural or encrustation. Imitated stone or marble.
  • 2nd Style (c. 80 BC – c. 20 BC) – architectural. Columns, porticoes and niches were depicted with perspective.
  • 3rd Style (c. 20 BC – c. AD 50) – ornamental. Pictorial reality. Wall divided into three horizontal zones and two pairs of narrow vertical panels. Central area with mythological painting.
  • 4th Style (c. AD 50 – AD 79) – fantastic. Bright shimmering colours – Theatrical fantasy. Archtectural perspective returns to the middle section.

Popular Art
Exterior walls and trade signs.
depicted the whole range of human activities.

Found on walls, floors, columns, nymphaeum, even vaulted roofs of baths.

Objects of Everyday Life
see list on p. 53.