What were the main features of the Pompeiian and Herculanean economies?

The main features of the economy at Pompeii can be divided into three integral areas: commerce, trade, and industries.

The main commercial center in both Pompeii and Herculaneum was the forum, although a forum in Herculaneum is yet to be excavated. In the Pompeii forum, the main market area was known as the macellum, which was an open-air fish market, this is revealed through the evidence of fish scales in the drainage of Pompeii. Stalls selling fruit, vegetables, cereals, jewelry, perfumes, and other products were also abundant in the forum as well as near the amphitheater during games and other events. Additionally, both Pompeii and Herculaneum include evidence of tabernae, which were small roadside shops, often having housing (insulae) above them. The tabernae were run by people known as tabernai (usually freedmen) who sold food and other consumables. The tabernae of A Umbricus Scaurus reveals evidence of garum sauce and fish sauce containers being sold as well. Other elements of the commercial spectrum were the cauponae and taverns, which were run by innkeepers. A final element of commerce can be seen through the prostitution industry, evidence for this is seen through the Lupanara at Pompeii which has been identified as a brothel.

Although both Pompeii and Herculaneum were mainly self-contained economies, Strabo claims that the port in Pompeii accommodates a “traffic in both imports and exports”. Evidence for trade is provided in Southern France where a bottle of Garum sauce is found with the name of “A Umbricius Scaurus” inscribed on the bottle. Additionally, there is evidence for the import and export of wine as seen through an amphora label found outside Pompeii addressed to Euxinus “at Pompeii, near the amphitheater”. Furthermore, Pompeii imported lamps from Northern Italy, furniture from Naples, pottery from Gaul and oil from Spain.

The major industries in Pompeii and Herculaneum included wine and oil, garum production, bakeries, and fishing. There is an abundance of evidence for the wine and oil industry both inside Pompeii and in suburban villas outside both Pompeii and Herculaneum. Archaeologist Wilhelmina Jashemski found a commercial vineyard near the amphitheater as well as the Inn of Euxinus. Furthermore, wine presses and pressing rooms have been found at the Villa Regina and Villa of the Mysteries. These villas also include fermentation rooms. The Garum production industry was arguably a major industry in both Pompeii and Herculaneum. Evidence for this is seen through the Tabernae of A Umbricius Scaurus.

Additionally, the baking industry was prominent in both Pompeii and Herculaneum. Pompeii had 28 bakeries. Evidence for this is seen through the Bakery of S Poctulus Felix in Herculaneum where bronze pans of various sizes were found. In Pompeii, at the bakery of Modestus 81 carbonized loaves of bread were found in a large oven. Furthermore, the fishing industry is prominent in Herculaneum where a fishing net and mending tools were found, revealing fish as a major source of food.

In conclusion, the main features of the economy in both Pompeii and Herculaneum can be described through 3 integral areas: commerce trade and industries.


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