Pompeii and Herculaneum

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Transcript of Pompeii and Herculaneum

12 Ancient History - Mark Royters

Pompeii and Herculaneum Assessment Task 1Part 1 - Introduction............................................................................................................................ 1 Part 2 - Plans and Streetscapes ........................................................................................................... 3 Part 3- The Economy ........................................................................................................................... 4 Part 4 - Social Structure ...................................................................................................................... 6 Part 5 Political Life............................................................................................................................ 8 Part 6 Everyday Life and Leisure Activities .................................................................................... 11 Part 7 Public Buildings .................................................................................................................... 13 Part 8 Religion ................................................................................................................................ 15 Glossary of Terms.............................................................................................................................. 17 Map of Campania .............................................................................................................................. 18 Plan of Pompeii ................................................................................................................................. 19 Bibliography ...................................................................................................................................... 20

Part 1 - IntroductionDiscussion Although the great eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD occurred many years ago, it leaves behind it a huge question just why did so many people perish in Pompeii as a result of the eruption? The answer is far from simple and lies within in the various primary and secondary sources regarding the eruption. The major source concerning the eruption however exists in the form of two letters written from Pliny the Younger to the great Roman historian Tacitus. Although written many years after the eruption itself, a fact which must always be remembered when analysing them, the letters contain a great deal of detail as Pliny was able to observe the eruption from his home in Misenum just 32km away from Vesuvius. One of the first clues as to why so many perished due to the eruption can be found in Plinys second letter, when he is outlining the typical reaction to the pre-emptive volcanic activity. Pliny states There had been tremors for many days previously, a common occurrence in Campania and no cause for panic. This provides insight into why the citizens did not heed the early warning signs and hence were trapped by the final eruption; it shows that the citizens did not view Mount Vesuvius with reverence, and simply treated its volcanic activity as everyday occurrences. Plinys great detail of the eruption, when it finally occurred, reveals more information as to why the eruption was so deadly. Early on in his first letter, Pliny describes the eruption as being a giant cloud filled with whiteand dark patches of dirt and ash rising high into the sky like a pine tree *supported+ on a very long trunk which spread some branches. This description, as analysed in the secondary sources written by Haraldur Sigurdsson, reveals that the eruption was not a standard magmatic eruption but rather a much more deadly Plinian eruption (appropriately named after Pliny). The categorisation of this eruption as Plinian, as well as the further descriptive detail of the eruption by Pliny, reveals that the nearby residents of Pompeii would have been immobilised and trapped by the giant cloud of ash and pumice that fell on their town less than half an hour after the eruption hence rendering many of the residents unable to evacuate. Sigurdssons work on the eruption of Vesuvius also reveals the different ways in which Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed, and the reason for this. Sigurdsson breaks down the eruption into eight key phases and, taking into account the combined written, scientific and geographical evidence, outlines how each of these phases affected Pompeii and/or Herculaneum. The first two phases of the eruption, the giant cloud of pumice and ash, only affected Pompeii as the town was situated downwind of Vesuvius and as mentioned above would have trapped many of the citizens in the doomed town. Herculaneum wasnt affected till many hours when it was hit by the first three surges and flows from Vesuvius. These surges completely covered the town however the citizens were unaffected by the terrible cloud plaguing Pompeii so many would have been able to leave before this stage. The forth to sixth flows made it to Pompeii as well as Herculaneum and would have covered the many citizens trapped after the ash and pumice fall. It was these different stages that reached both towns that led to the different ways in which they were destroyed.

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Research Although often overlooked due to the giant eruption that followed it seventeen years later, the earthquake of 62AD drastically changed the town of Pompeii for better or for worse. It not only did a great deal of physical damage but also did a great deal of social damage and, according to the excavator Amedeo Maiuri, caused a major social and economic transformation in the city. In terms of evidence of the physical impact of the earthquake, the two major sources are the archaeological finds of repair work on many buildings, and a letter written by Seneca the Elder, a prolific Roman writer and philosopher. Physical evidence of repair work uncovered at Pompeii reveals the great and widespread damage of the earthquake. Fiorelli was the first archaeologist to properly reveal the damage of the earthquake as his systematic and stratigraphic approach uncovered extensive repair work on the foundations of many buildings shaken down by the earthquake. Further work carried out by Spinazolla and in particular Maiuri, who was trying to find evidence to support his Crisis Theory, revealed even more extensive damage incurred on roads, large public structures, housing roofs and statues by the earthquake. The extent of the physical damage in Pompeii is best summarised by Seneca who states that the earthquake lowered Pompeii to the ground1. In terms of social damage, the majority of evidence comes from Maiuris secondary source publications in which he argues his Crisis Theory, a hypothesis that the earthquake created a critical period of social and economic reform. Maiuri believed that the earthquake created a kind of social vacuum in which wealthy patricians left the town leaving behind a motley crowd of enriched merchants, second hand dealers, bakers, fullers, decayed patricians and thrusting industrialists dabbling in politics.2 If this reshuffling of class is to be believed, some critics believe Maiuris long and lavish work to be lacking in detail and scientific evidence, than it would have completely changed the social backbone of Pompeii.

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Paraphrased translation from Quaestiones Naturales, VI

2 Maiuri A (1942). L'ultima fase edilizia di Pompei

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Part 2 - Plans and StreetscapesDiscussion In its first years of operation, the organization of the Pompeii site was confusing, convoluted and downright impractical. It wasnt until the appointment of Giuseppe Fiorelli as inspector of excavations in 1860 that this system was given a complete overhaul. In tune with his vision of a systematic digging approach, Fiorelli came up with and implemented a consistent numbering and naming system to be used all over the Pompeii site. This new system divided the topography of the entire site (including areas that still had to be excavated) into nine regions (regiones), each of which contained 22 town blocks (insulae), which themselves contained numbered entrances to houses and shops. This new grid system was immediately beneficial, as it made site plans much simpler and easier to draw up and made the location of individual sites far simpler. By far the most important characteristic of the system however was its impact on the approach to excavation carried out at Pompeii. Until Fiorelli and his grid system, excavation was random and unstructured, with digs being made wherever archaeologists believed they would find something of interest. The implementation of Fiorellis grid system heralded in a new era of systematic excavation in which specific teams of archaeologists worked along the lines of the roads. Without Fiorellis grid system it may have been many years before proper, logical excavations began at Pompeii and as a result it remains one of the most important archaeological advancements to take place at the site. A true testament to its importance is the fact that it is still used today. Research The towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum were very public places and hence roads and streetscapes became an integral part of everyday life. The cleverly planned streets of Pompeii and Herculaneum connected all of the different sections of town together and would have allowed residents easy access to and from the various public buildings located all over town, such as the amphitheatre, baths, temples and most importantly the forum. Streets also played a large commercial role as all of the major streets were lined on either side by various tabernae (shops) such as bakeries, taverns and brothels. The construction of the various roads in Pompeii and Herculaneum was carefully thought out and represents the ingenious town planning that took place in Roman towns. All of the major streets were intricately paved and were flanked on eit