• 18 MAY 15

    Life in Pompeii before the eruption

    The extraordinary occasion that the visitor of Pompeii lives is to directly know the story of Pompeii, not through books, but with his direct experience. The chance to see a town of two thousand years ago stood still for centuries in all its activities, public and private ones, the rich and the poor’s ones, men and women’s, the powerful’s and the slave’s too, is unique.
    The visit to Pompeii is a journey into the past like no other place on earth can be. It is not the beautiful monuments, the public spaces and official of high artistic level, what makes the place unique and unforgettable Pompeii. It is the everyday life of an ancient Roman, a man who worked, loved, discussed politics, it has enjoyed two thousand years ago and that now we can follow step by step, in the most private of his house, and in the places of his public life.
    Goethe said that a catastrophe had never gotten so much satisfaction in subsequent generations.
    It is a terrible account of rare cynicism, but that’s what anyone visiting Pompeii secretly thinks. In addition to relive the agony and pain of the stunned 30,000 who lost their lives in those terrible three days of the eruption.

    The house of Pompeii obviously varied according to income and employment, ranging from modest houses where the poorest ones lived, the domus of the wealthy, set on the basis not only of a comfortable life, but also of the representation. And finally to the villa, from the most famous, the Villa of the Mysteries, beautifully frescoed, dwelling place for rest, the reception of guests, meditation, that otium which for the Romans was the higher purpose of life not so much the lack of jobs, but for the ability to take care of yourself, meditation, reading, reflection.

    Daily activities are all working in the city, by businesses (the little ones and those on a large scale too), industrial activities, such as large-scale production of bread, almost a small food industry of today, or the dry cleaners. And there are also signs of political activity, with the writtens that invite you to vote for one candidate or another.

    Then there are the public spaces, such as the Forum, the central place in the life of every Roman citizen, a place of worship – the temple of Apollo – the basilica, which has not had purposes of worship, but it was the place of the processes and businesses indoors. It is interesting to see how the cult of the ancient Romans developed outside of the temple, which was the home of the gods, in which only the priests could enter, and instead there was the space open to all, precisely the basilica, that was a civil and not religious place, were Christians who lived in the worship assembly (ecclesia, that is the church, it means “assembly”) had to choose as a model of religious building and the civil basilica, and not a religious temple, and so the term has become a symbol for us as a place of worship. In fact, visiting the basilica of the Forum can be seen as it has been built according to the model then used by our churches, with the columns dividing the aisles and the seat of the court in our apse which today is the most precious of the worship.

    But the Forum was also dedicated to the activity of privileged Roman leisure: the baths, where men and women (separated into different rooms) spent their time in bathrooms, gymnastics, massage, conversations.

    Leisure was then occupied by other activities: the inhabitants of Pompeii did not miss anything. There was the theater, and in Pompeii there are two, one large and open, and a small one which was then closed. There they represented the tragedies of the Greek tradition, but also, and preferably, the Roman farces and comedies, full of soldiers vain, greedy wealthy, maidens owls, clever prostitutes. Much has changed since then, but the human character has remained the same.

    But the favorite entertainment of pompeians, as by all the inhabitants of the Empire, were the gladiatorial games, which took place in the amphitheater suitable for this purpose. An amphitheater, large and beautiful, made of stone and not wood, is here in Pompeii, in the land of Campania famous gladiators, as anyone who has seen the television series dedicated to Spartacus, one of the oldest, because the Pompeians, we repeat , loved very much this sport which seems to us so cruel and inhuman. They loved it so much that they were rooting for their gladiators that they clashed – and it is not an exaggeration – with those of the other locations. And the fans also clashed, as had happened in Pompeii before the eruption a few years, when the ultras of Pompeii (as we would call them today) had a fight with those of Nocera, brawl from which many people had died. Little has changed since then, as we see: the sport is different, but the fans are always violent and bad. The difference is that then sports authorities were far tougher than today, so that the amphitheater had been disqualified for ten years, and at the time of the eruption the ban was still in force.

    But pastime of Pompeii did not end with the sport: there was also love for a fee. The city is rich in places of prostitution, from the brothel, one in which prostitutes offered their thanks to everyone who was willing to pay.
    Everything has changed since then, but the human motivation is still the same, and the experience that you live in Pompeii is complete: we can see how our ancestors held our own activities, with the same motivations, but with different occasions and occupations .

    Photos from DroneImages