As Pompeii Crumbles


Many wealthy Romans found the landscape and soil surrounding Mount Vesuvius remarkable. Pompeii, a lively city within the Roman Empire, lay southeast of Vesuvius and was fairly densely populated.


Mt Vesuvius 79 AD eruption

Somewhere around the neighborhood of twelve thousand people took up residence in the plentiful city. Although they knew that Mount Vesuvius was a volcano and not a mountain, they “thought it was extinct” (Moser & Gilman, p. 9). However, around midday on August 24th in AD 79, the volcano erupted. A column of debris, ash and smoke plumed upward and “reach[ed] a height of some 30 kilometers, making it visible for many miles around” (Moser & Gilman, p. 9). This stage of ash and debris was later called the Plinian Stage. “Ash and various sizes of rocks and pumice stones were ejected along with hot gases and water vapor at a rate of 1,200 kilometers an hour…” (Moser & Gilman, p. 9).800px-Karl_Brullov_-_The_Last_Day_of_Pompeii_-_Google_Art_Project

The Last Day of Pompeii


            Pompeii was found in the eighteenth century. A man by the name of Alcubierre found remains of a temple which he believed to be “the remains of Stabiae. It was not until 1763 that the excavators found inscriptions proving that these ruins belonged to the most famous of Vesuvius’ victims- Pompeii” (Stiebing, p. 150). Finding very minimal artifacts, Alcubierre and his group of men grew discouraged and returned to Herculaneum. However, he would not have done this if he would have known that the villas he had excavated lay on the far outskirts of the city.

He teamed up with a Swiss architect named Karl Weber who ended up finding a vast villa at the site of Herculaneum as well as many sculptures, paintings, and interesting ruins. This place was found because “in 1750 a peasant brought word that another well had uncovered an ancient pavement near the Augustinian Monastery” (Stiebing, p. 150). Inside what must have been a study, charcoal briquettes or logs were found. Most of these, once they were opened, were more philosophical works such as works of Philodemus and treatises by Epicurus. When Torre Annunziata (Pompeii) was finally understood to be the ancient city in 1763, all focus zoned in on the site. After all of the valuables had been taken, the uncovered portion was refilled with soil.

In 1860 Giuseppe Fiorelli was “appointed to be the director of excavations for Pompeii” and decided that the portions of the city that had been previously excavated and then refilled should be uncovered. From 1860 to today, excavations have focused on the streets of Pompeii and entering houses through the street level (Stiebing, p. 160). By digging this way, the city is getting fully uncovered one street block at a time.


These houses that were uncovered have been huge eye-openers towards the daily life of Pompeii’s ancient citizens. Whole villas have been uncovered and have shown how life worked back in 79 AD. I have heard that this eruption caught people so unawares what there is still food on the tables. This is great for us because we can know exactly what kind of food was consumed without having to make an educated guess based on plant or food residues. Each room that is excavated uncovers more of ancient life.



Casa con taberna

Before walking inside a villa’s street level doors, the first thing you would see was the shops. These “tabernas” were sometimes on the fascade of the homes. “Around eight hundred tabernae have been identified in the excavated area of Pompeii…” (Holleran, p. 112). Holleran also talks about how there were four different categories of shops- one being that the tabernae was “found in the front of atrium houses” (Holleran, 2012).



Atrium of the House of the Menander

            The atrum is the first room you would see when you enter a villa’s doors. This place was mainly a “show-piece for visitors” (Foss & Dobbins, 2009) while a secondary atrium was probably used for more private meetings or family gatherings. “The atrium was normally covered by a roof which sloped inwards. The rain water ran down towards the centre…” (Connolly, 1990) where there was a hole to drip into a pool. This small pool was called the impluvium and is shown in the center of the atrium in the picture above. The atrium was surrounded by other rooms and was the center of receiving guests.



The Tablinium facing the Atrium, decorated in the 4th Pompeii style

            Many people began to call on the wealthier people early in the morning. At six, they would all be ushered into the atrium and wait as each was called to be received by the master of the villa inside the tablinium. This small room “was at the back of the atrium… often completely open at the front divided from the atrium only by curtains or wooden screens” (Connolly, p. 34). Many times, if the room had wooden screens, there would still be big openings such as windows which opened up to the gardens on the other side.



Reconstructed Roman dining room in the Painting House

            The triclinium was another important room. Otherwise known as the dining room, the triclinium was very different from what we associate to be a dining room. “Romans reclined on couches leaning on their left elbows and eating with their right hands. The arrangements of a Roman dining room was very formal. It consisted of three large sloping couches covered with cushions…” (Connolly, p. 38). It was these three couches that surrounded a table of food. Most times these dining rooms were used during the winter. During summer seasons, the Roman people would “dine in the garden or in a room opening onto the garden” (Connolly, p. 38).



The peristyle of the House of Menander

            The peristyle surrounded a garden. Rooms opened up to this area which shows that “If the traditional pattern was a group of rooms around an atrium court, with a golden plot behind, the colonnades of the peristyle initially serve to give luxury and magnificence to the garden plot” (Foss & Dobbins, p. 287). The oldest villas, or earliest style in Pompeii had this place towards the back of the house as basically an add-on when peristyles became popular. The Hellenistic style came about and became another atrium. This is because every room began to open up on the sides of the peristyle and gardens instead of the atrium within the villa. When this new style came about, they decided to put gardens inside the peristyle “instead of leaving it as a beaten clay court or paving it with cobblestones, cement, or mosaics…” (Jashemski & Meyer, p. 15)




            The Cucina rarely had more than a sink and a brick oven. Many pots have been found in the remains of Pompeii. This gives fascinating insight on the types of cookware Roman citizens had during that time period. One kitchen that was excavated showed that “Lunch was being prepared for the staff when the eruption came. The cook fled leaving a pot still on the boil. Other cooking utensils were found hanging on the wall or resting on the side of the oven ready to use… at [another] house in Herculaneum bread, salad, eggs, cake, and fruit were found on the table preserved by the sea of mud that engulfed the town” (Connolly, p. 36 & 38).




            Another place where food could be found was outside in a thermopolium. This place was the “fast-food joint” of Pompeii. “The embedded vessels had hot or cold food. Many street corners had these, sort of like McDonald’s, and just as in big cities today, many people bought a lot of their meals there. A lot of homes didn’t even have kitchens” (Description of the thermopolim picture on Wikimedia Commons).


Connolly, P. (1990). Pompeii. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Foss, P., & Dobbins, J. J. (2009). The World of Pompeii. Routledge.

Holleran, C. (2012). Shopping in Ancient Rome: The Retail Trade in the Late Republic and the Principate. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jashemski, W. F., & Meyer, F. G. (2002). The Natural History of Pompeii. Cambridge University Press.

Moser, B., & Gilman, B. (2007). Ashen Sky: The Letters of Pliny the Younger on the Eruption of Vesuvius. Getty Publications.

Stiebing, W. H. (1993). Uncovering the Past: A History of Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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Class Systems Under Alexander the Great


Battle of Issus

Alexander overthrew Darius III as king of Persia in 333 BC and, therefore, became king of Persia. Dominating almost every country in the known world, Alexander the Great lived up to his name and was the ultimate king- the conqueror of the time.  People lived their lives while he acquired country after country. Power struggles and class systems always seem to begin when a civilization starts to establish itself. It was already apparent when Alexander took the throne but was an important part of the people and society. Usually the establishment of a new group of people involves the break off from one civilization, resulting in the creation of another. “He had planned to create a ruling class by intermarriage of Macedonian and Persian nobles. He himself married foreign, Roxanne of Bacteria and later a Persian princess” (Marx).

There were two distinct groups within Persian society while Alexander ruled: the upper and lower classes. Although “Macedon was a male-dominated society, the queens and royal mothers were greatly respected” (Skelton & Dell, p. 80)


Alexander The Greate and Roxane

This respect was shown because they came from wealthy families and would be the ones to produce the next heir to the throne. Struggle for power occurred regularly between the queen, the king’s mother, and even his advisors.

The king, aristocracy, and religious priests made up the upper class. Most of the aristocracy within the upper class was in command of the army as generals or in the cavalry. Their preferred interests were “fighting, hunting, and heavy drinking. The king could only gain respect from the nobility if he was an expert in all these activities” (Skelton & Dell, p. 80). Alexander loved to hunt and ended up heading a huge army with an enormous camp of followers trailing behind him.


Alexander with the Spear

Although the spear is long gone, this statue shows the “conqueror” part in Alexander’s title. He was a true Macedonian and king of Persia. His love for fighting proved correct when he led his men into India and other countries ultimately conquering what was seen as the “world”.

The lower class lived very different lives from upper society. Most of these people were workers or laborers. “Freemen got paid and could choose where they worked. Bondsmen were serfs and slaves, and had little or no choice about where and for whom they worked” (Skelton & Dell, p. 80).

There was somewhat of a middle class also. “Hoplites are most often associated with Greek city-states and by-and-large represent these communities’ middle class. Typically these heavy infantrymen were to supply their own equipment, the round, three-foot in diameter shield, the seven-to-eight-foot stabbing spear, grieves, and breastplate, since the cities themselves were seldom wealthy enough to do so” (Anson 18). It seems that a lot of this middle class was made up of soldiers. Therefore, within the cities and society, there was a huge distinction between high and low class and somewhere in the middle were the soldiers.

Works Cited

Anson, E. M. (2013). Alexander the Great: Themes and Issues. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Marx, I. (1997-2000). Empire of Alexander the Great – Expansion into Asia and Central Asia. Retrieved 04 24, 2015, from Silk-Road:

(2009). Part II: Society and Culture. In D. Skelton, & P. Dell, Empire of Alexander the Great. New York: Chelsea House.


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Women’s Fashion in the Roman World

Throughout time, clothing has morphed from a sole necessity of survival to a luxury of status. Fashion has defined individual groups of people and put a significant barrier between classes such as nobles and slaves. Several other groups can be ranked through what they wear and how they conduct themselves.

The Roman people loved their material possessions. In fact, there were several types of merchants that came from all over the known world to bring exotic things to the wealthy class. These exotic things could have been part of the cause for that significant barrier clearly observed between wealthy and deprived.


Roman toga diagram

Stolas and togas were mainly worn as the basic form of clothing for the Roman people. Depending on your status, you either added to or took away that basic form.


Ancient Times, Roman- Costumes of All Nations

Women, as well as men, used clothing as a marker of money and rank. Their class could be picked out just from looking at what they were wearing. “Widows were usually distinguished from wives, and the ‘mothers of the family’ from other matrons… Not only veils but also the other garments of women served as indicators of their status and social function” (Sebesta 46). Clothing, whether it was the dye used to color the cloth or how much layering was done, could change how the public saw individuals. Being adorned was very important for women of that era and. As Livy said, “elegance, and ornamentation, and care of the self- these are the insignia of women, in these they delight and glory; this our ancestors called ‘women’s world’” (Olson 7). Women with colorful stolas and brooches were normally on the wealthier side. “Poorer women made do with coarse brown or gray cloth, fastened with a treasured brooch or pin” (Williams 24)

Jewlery and ornamentation was also used to show status. We have seen glimpses of this while looking at evidences in Pompeii. “As Rome’s empire grew richer, ordinary people could afford gold rings, and rich people wore rings that were truly massive. Some rings bore their owner’s name” (Williams 26). Roman women also received engagement rings when they were betrothed to be married. “An engagement ring was often made of iron, so that only its jewel gave it material value; but we know that there were rings of gold because it is said that sometimes on engagement ring was the first bit of gold jewelry a girl possessed” (

Puella Inguena, a Freeborn girl, would wear a toga praetexta and had braided hair tied with a vita, luna. A toga praetexta was also worn by freeborn boys and could have just been what brothers and sisters alike wore as day-to-day clothing. This kind of toga, as seen in this portrait of a child, was based from an “adult male’s but had a narrow, reddish purple woven border along one long edge” (Sebesta 46).



An adulteress or Adultera “was not permitted to wear the stola and vittae. Instead, according to custom, the woman divorced of promiscuity wore a plain toga. The symbolism behind the assumption of the toga would seem not to be that the woman had assumed the sexual freedom allowed males, but that she ahd lost her status and role as a sexually mature woman in Roman Society” (Sebesta 50).

Viduas (widow) possibly wore a ricinium, stola, and vittae. The ricinium was for everyday wear for women- the equal to a men’s toga. As time passed, the ricinium, now a dark colored material made out of wool, was used as a sign of mourning.

Works Cited

  • Olson, K. (2008). Dress and the Roman Woman: Self-Presentation and Society. New York: Routledge.
  • Sebesta, J. L. (2001). Symbolism of the Costume of the Roman Woman. In J. L. Sebesta, & L. Bonfante, The World of Roman Costume (pp. 46-53). Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Williams, B. (2003). Ancient Roman Women. Chicago: Reed Educational & Professional Publishing.


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Romans weapons of war

Romans weapons of war

Rome was an empire and to build an empire requires war and to win a war you need weapons. Weapons come in many different forms. The weapon of words the weapon of fear and just plain old weapons made of metal and wood. The roman army had to find weapons to fit their tactics and fighting style and through time they found what worked best. The Gladius a short sword usually about 18 inches long and 2 inches wide with a double-edged blade used for thrusting at short range used in the parts of close courters combat that sometimes came in battle and made longer weapons useless. For the long range Featured imageweapon they used a javelin with a long thin iron shank with a barbed tip and a heavy shaft these features gave this weapon a armor piercing ability that was devastating when used in the right way they were even hard to throw back because the barbed tip kept it from being pulled out of things and the initial throw would often bend the shank making it impossible to use again. These were also used in formations to create a spikey wall that they could ram up against an enemy with.Featured image Most romans carried two pilum and threw them as they charged enemy soldiers. They wore many other weapons from other forms of spears to daggers that were placed on them in the chance that they get disarmed. It was these weapons that made the romans so fearsome in battle but even more then the weapons was how they used them and how they used them was to completely dominate their enemy to form one of the world’s great empires.


“Mainz Gladius” by Jononmac46 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

“Uncrossed gladius”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

“Legionary Weapons and Equipment.” Legionary Weapons and Equipment. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

“Roman Weapons.” Roman Weapons. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <;.

“Heavy Metal from the Ancient Romans.” Heavy Metal from the Ancient Romans. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <;.

“Pile of Roman Armor, Weapons Discovered in U.K.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <

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Watering an Empire

When most people hear about the Romans, they think of grand achievements like the Coliseum or the Pantheon, which are very large and ornate. But they are rather small when compared to the vast stretching aqueducts. The aqueducts not only brought enormous amounts of water into Rome, but were also used to flush the waste water and sewage out of Rome, simply by using gravity.


Most of the water in Rome ran under the city. Tunneling through two hundred and sixty miles of rock, and around thirty miles of crossways and bridges. Relying on gravity for a continuous flow, the water was drained into large cisterns in the city, where it was then distributed throughout the city using lead pipes. (

Instead of using geography to accomplish all of the gravity needed to bring large amounts of water to the cisterns, the Romans built the large bridges and arches when hills were not present. By doing this, the aqueduct would not interfere with roads or buildings, the aqueduct was simply built over them. But a majority of the aqueducts were not visible. Most of them were underground, tunneled through the hard bedrock at a slight grade in order to manipulate gravity, in order to have a never ending flow of water to the every thirsty cities. When there were no other ways of keeping the water flowing, the Romans would use a siphon technique. Siphons are complicated because they used the weight and pressure of the flowing water to push the water up hill. Any weak point or breech in the pressurized pipes and tunnels would cause the entire system to fail, so this technique was used sparingly. (Hansen)


Although large amounts of water were carried to Rome everyday, only the rich population had direct access to it by diverting (stealing) it, although it rarely flowed any higher than the lower level. Most of the population accessed the water by a constant flowing public fountain. (Gill)



Work Cited

  1. Hansen, R. Water and Waste Water Systems in Imperial Rome.
  2. “Roman Aqueducts.” Rome Italy Travel Guide. 2015.
  3. Gill, N.S. Aqueducts, Water Supply and Sewers in Ancient Rome. 22 April, 2013.

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Women in Ancient Rome

Women in ancient Rome had a unique position when compared to women of other cultures. “Unlike some other ancient cultures such as the Greeks who had formed a creation myth where woman was a creature secondary to man and, more specifically, in the form of Pandora, a bringer of unhappiness and vices, the Romans had a more neutral approach where humanity, and not specifically the male, was created by the gods from earth and water (” Roman women were educated and went to school. In different ancient writings, it is suggested that girls and boys were educated together. Upper class women seemed to have been well educated but most are not remembered for their educational endeavors. In religious affairs, women could participate very little. “Of this exclusive religion of the family, the father was the high-priest…. Before the family altar women had no independent place. They took part in the ceremonies only through their fathers or husbands (Women in Early Roman Law).” They usually had marriages arranged for them and generally noble women would marry younger to ensure she was a virgin (  They could refuse the match, but only if they could prove their expected husband had a bad character. “For it was a lasting principle of Roman law that not only connubium (right of intermarriage), but also consent, were necessary to a valid tying of the nuptial knot. The term “consent” here included not only the woman’s consent but his also in whose power she was (Couch).” After she married, she left the legal protection of her father and she and her children came under the rule of her husband. Marriage did not require a ceremony, even though it was customary to prove they had married. Divorce was unusual but occurred usually on the grounds of adultery. “Here all that was necessary was simply an expression of a desire or commandy by the husband that the wife should no longer dwell in his house (Couch).”  The woman would leave her husband’s house and take her dowry, and it was socially acceptable. Remarriage and concubinage was also common among the Romans.

Roman_fresco_with_a_Woman_on_a_Balcony_-_Getty_Villa_CollectionFresco of a Roman woman on a balcony

Women, if free, were considered citizens but could not hold any sort of political office or vote. There was little difference in status between a noble woman and a freedwoman, but only freedwomen could work outside of the home as a noble woman was expected to rely on her husband to provide for her. In the early empire, daughters had the same rights as son, even if they played different roles. “[I]n the inheritance of her father’s estate the daughter took an equal share with the son, provided she had not by marriage left her father’s family (Couch).” But through all of this they were not recognized by public law. They could not own property, witness in court, or make wills (Woman in Early Roman Law).  During a woman’s adult life, especially if she was an aristocrat, she was expected to be able to run a large household, which included entertaining guests, living frugally, and producing clothing. Women were not expected to be idle and took an active part in business. Women could own their own land and help in their husband’s businesses to earn their own living. “Lower class Roman women did have a public life because they had to work for a living. Typical jobs undertaken by such women were in agriculture, markets, crafts, as midwives and as wet nurses (” Women also enjoyed active social lives. They traveled around the city, gathering in streets with friends, attend religious ceremonies, and visit baths. “In our eyes these seem very trivial privileges; but if we call to mind the absurd restrictions place upon the movements of Greek and other women of antiquity, we must confess that these trifling concessions were a great stride towards that perfect equality of the sexes finally reached in Rome (Couch).”


“Women in Ancient Rome – Crystalinks.” Women in Ancient Rome – Crystalinks. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.


“Women in the Roman World.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.


“Honors3.html.” Honors3.html. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.


Couch, John A. “Woman in Early Roman Law.” Harvard Law Review 8.1 (1894): 39-50. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.



“ Roman Fresco With a Woman on a Balcony “By Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup (Flickr: Getty Villa – Collection) [CC BY-SA 2.0

<, via Wikimedia Commons>

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Fortune favors the bold! (fortes, inquit, fortuna iuvat).

Featured image

Pliny the Younger wrote this now famous quote as Pliny the Elder commanded his ships to sail closer to the flaming Pompeii. Fortune was one of the more popular Roman goddesses, and her favor was sought by many. Fortune is the Roman goddess of luck and chance, creating Rome’s abundance and fertility, as well as the downfall of Rome’s enemies.

According to “Personifications of Eudaimonia, Felicitas and Fortuna in Greek and Roman Art,” by Marina Prusac (2011), gaining the favor of the goddess of Fortune meant a good and happy life. Fortune was responsible for the many things that created a happy life; a fertile marriage brought a happy home and good health, prosperity of the State created wealth and a strong economy.Featured image

She is always depicted with a cornucopia, the horn of plenty, but she was very fickle with her bounty. Fortune’s favor could make or break an Empire; enemies fell before her curses and allies grew strong under her blessings. Emperors claimed her acceptance when they rose to power and lamented her disapproval just before their fall from grace.

According to “Reversed Epiphanies: Roman Emperors Deserted by Gods,” by Olivier Hekster (2009), the Roman Emperor Galba attributes Fortune to his ascension, not himself. Galba declared Fortune had come to him a dream, declaring “that she was tired of standing before his door—and that unless she were quickly admitted, she would fall prey to the first comer.”

Just as Galba had to invite Fortune in, he also had to make an error of sacrifices to lose her favor and therefore the prosperity of Rome. Fortune was a very jealous goddess. Galba mistakenly offered a necklace to the goddess Venus, an offering that was originally meant for Fortuna.

“The next night Fortuna appeared to him in a dream, complaining of being robbed of the gift intended for her and threatening in her turn to take away what she had bestowed” (Hekster, 2009).

Featured image

Roman Emperors often minted coins with Fortune’s image to show favor with the Goddess of Abundance and Prosperity.

Galba had fallen from grace, and would be killed shortly after. It was important for the Romans to show that the Goddess had not failed in protecting her favored one, but that, instead, Galba had fallen from her favor. Pliny the Elder shouted for Fortune’s favor on the waves towards Pompeii, but she did not oblige him. Instead, he died on those waves and, like Galba, fell in Fortune’s absence.


Burke, Thomas. The Younger Pliny Reproved.

Elagabalus. Elagabalus Denarius Fortuna.

Hekster. “Reversed Epiphanies: Roman Emperors Deserted by Gods.” Mnemosyne 63 (2009): 601-615.

Prusac, Marina. “Personifications of Eudaimonia, Felicitas and Fortuna in Greek and Roman Art.” Symbolae Osloenses, no. 85 (2011): 74-94.

Steffenheilfort. Deutsch: Fortuna 1855 – Halbrondell Neues Palais Sanssouci.

Younger, Pliney the. Pliney the Younger. Translated by P.G. Walsh. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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