Cities of Vesuvius

- Syllabus Content -

Plans and Streetscapes of Pompeii and Herculaneum

See Chapter 3 of your text book:
"The Urban Landscape" p.30.

Describe the main features of the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Write a paragraph for each town with at least ten points in each paragraph.



Identify the following features on your plan of Pompeii
  • 66 hectares in area. Only two-thirds of the site of Pompeii has been excavated.
  • Walls – 3.2 km of wall built from tufa. Some sections of the wall at the east of the town had been dismantled
  • Watch towers – some towers still remain in the wall, on the north side of Pompeii
  • Gates – seven gates provide entry points to Pompeii (Porta Marina, Porta di Stabia, Porta di Nocera, Porta di Sarno, Porta di Nola, Porta Vesuvio, Porta Ercolano). An eight gate, Porta di Capua is referred to in many books, though recent archaeological work suggests that there is no gate there (see Dobbins p.143).
  • The streets are laid out on a grid pattern with streets running east-west (decumani) and streets running north-south (cardini). The main north-south street is Via Stabiana. The main east-west street is Via dell'Abbondanza.
  • Grooves had been worn into some street by the wheels of carts.
  • Water arrived in Pompeii from an aqueduct and was fed into the castellum aquae, which then distributed the water into three main large lead pipes which then ran through the town.
  • To reduce the water pressure there were water towers at a few locations.
  • There were numerous public street fountains with continuous flowing water. Few houses had their own private water supply.
  • The town plan was divided into nine regions by Giuseppe Fiorelli in the 1860s. Each block (insulae) in each region was numbered. Each entrance in each insula was numbered. Every building in Pompeii can be identified with a number, e.g. The House of Pansa is VI.6.1, that is, Region 6, Insula 6, Entrance 1.
  • Stepping stones were placed across streets to allow people to cross the street without getting wet or muddy (or worse).
  • Cats' eyes (small white stones) were inserted in road surfaces to assist in walking at night.
  • The Forum was surrounded by public buildings: temples, government buildings and large commercial buildings.
  • Necropolis: outside the Porta Ercolano and outside the Porta Nocera.

Some of the uses of land in Pompeii:
  • Temples – Forum Temples (Apollo, Jupiter, Fortuna Augusta). Also: Isis (near the theatres) and Venus (near Porta Marina)
  • Two Theatres: Large Theatre and Small Theatre (Odeon)
  • Amphitheatre – In southwest corner – the oldest extant Roman amphitheatre
  • Palaestra – Large Palaestra next to amphitheatre, smaller palaestra at Stabian Baths.
  • Baths – Forum Baths, Stabian Baths, Central Baths, Suburban Baths (outside Porta Marina)
  • Houses, shops, workshops, brothel
  • Cultivated area
  • Villas: Mysteries and Diomedes: suburban villas outside the walls of Pompeii.

Pompeii Plan showing the Region and insula numbers


  • Smaller area than Pompeii - possibly 12 hectares.
  • Insulae (incl. Insula Orientalis): Insulae are numbered. Only insulae III, IV, V, and VI have been fully excavated.
  • Streets: decumani, cardini. The north/south streets are Cardo III, IV and V; the east/west streets are Decumanus Maximus and Decumanus Inferior.
  • Underground drainage system.
  • Situated on a cliff overlooking the sea. Boatsheds have been found on the ancient beach.
  • Baths: Suburban Baths in south-east corner of excavated area. Forum Baths in Insula VI.
  • Open excavation area and underground excavation area. Difficult to get a full understanding of the layout of the town because it has not all been uncovered.
  • Street fountains.
  • Mixture of residential and commercial uses.
  • Forum
  • Theatre (not shown on plan)
  • Villa of the Papyri (not shown on plan)

Compare the relative sizes of Pompeii and Herculaneum with the area from Kingsgrove to Bexley North.
Each photo is same scale.
Kingsgrove to Bexley


Herculaneum (excavated area is indicated)