Essay Question: Using five ancient sources, two of which must be written, explain the economy of the cities of Vesuvius. The economy of the cities of Vesuvius was small and commonly restricted to being local. The textile industry along with bakeries, vineyards, farms and the fishing industry all played part in the thriving commercial activity present at Pompeii and partly at Herculaneum, despite the fact that Herculaneum was primarily a fishing village, with little evidence of major craft manufacturing. It is widely accepted that agriculture dominated the economy, which is further endorsed by statements from historians which include Cato and his account ‘On agriculture’. Ancient sources reveal extensive information concerning the economic activity of the cities of Vesuvius, the importance of the textile industry is demonstrated by the sizeable Eumachia building which is believed to be the guild hall of the cloth industry. Bakeries were a significant feature of the streetscape in both Pompeii and Herculaneum suggesting the prominence this industry played in the economy of the local area. Pompeii appears to be more economically important as their markets were a place where fresh agricultural produce from local farms and specialty shops were sold, such as Pompeii’s famous ‘garum’ and wine.
The economy of Pompeii and Herculaneum was primarily agricultural. Farms cultivated a number of essential products, several of which were vineyards – and other crops such as, wheat, barley, grain, wool, grapes and olive trees. Working farms such as the ‘Villa Rusticae’ would have been worked by slaves and freedmen who held the economy together and perhaps owned by wealthy citizens of the town, as farming was considered to be honorable and elite. An exceptional agricultural product was olive oil, which was widely used and exported. The prominence olive oil played within the economic activity of Pompeii is demonstrated in sources from individuals such as Cato and his account ‘On Agriculture’ that discusses the expenses involved in purchasing an oil mill at Pompeii which was used to create olive oil. According to Perkins the success of the agricultural economy of Pompeii was based on two primary factors; the fertility of the soil (due to the volcanic properties it contained) and the climate of the area which made it an excellent area for farming. Pompeii relied heavily on its rural economy and olive oil was one of few products that were exported beyond the city, trade was not of primary importance as the agricultural income was more than sufficient.
The textile industry is considered by some to have been the principle industry in Pompeii, in the city’s most affluent years the economies focus was on mercantile activity, such as the cloth trade. Along with markets and small workshops that include the Fullery of Stephanus, the Eumachia building is renowned for its contribution to the textile industry and is known to be the guild hall of the cloth trade. Many historians portray Pompeii as a wool town, including Walter O. Moeller who contributed to the belief that Pompeii was the centre of the textile industry. Fullers, bleachers and dyers played a considerable role in everyday life and are well attested in Pompeii; this is supported by the extravagant Eumachia building in the forum being the home the cloth trade. Although the theory of Pompeii being an economy dominated by the textile industry has been challenged by Willem Jongman and he states that textile manufacturing was not as significant as suggested and believes the industry was small and not a major one, the fact that there are only a few references to textiles in graffiti supports Jongmans’ theory that ‘Pompeii had no 'textile industry' beyond what was needed to clothe its own inhabitants’.
Herculaneum, like Pompeii relied heavily on its rural economy. The basic need for food supply made grain the most important product in the ancient economy, as grain was a main ingredient in...
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