Factors Affecting the Economy of Pompeii

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The economy of Pompeii owed much to two factors, the fertility of the Campanian soil and the town’s position as the harbour for the surrounding region. Wall paintings indicate that a wide range of fruits and vegetables were grown in the region. In these, as in grain the city would have been self-sufficient. The two most significant agricultural products were undoubtedly wine and olive oil. Both of these were widely exported and they must have contributed greatly to the wealth of the rich landed families.

The one exception to this predominantly agricultural economy was the production of woollen goods. The wool was produced in the highlands of Samnium and Lucania. The widow Eumachia built the large courtyard building in the Forum to serve as the headquarters of the trade association of wool traders and fullers. Election posters that were found refer to many other trade associations such as transport, dealers in poultry, fruit and vegetables, fishermen, bakers and goldsmiths.

Pottery was another flourishing local industry, both for domestic use and to supply the containers in which wine, oil, garum and other local products could be stored and shipped. Many small one roomed workshops are found throughout Pompeii. In the Mensa Ponderaria, weights and measures were examined to ensure they were uniform with the official Roman units or weight checking equipment.

Commercial establishments in Herculaneum seem to have been small scale, perhaps sized to meet local demands. Fullers were well represented, though not nearly as extensively as in Pompeii. With the exception of net making businesses that catered to fishermen, other trades in the town paralleled those in Pompeii.

Wall paintings, inscription, graffiti, mosaics, frescoes, various artefacts and studies of excavation sites, provide an insight into the various industries and occupations at both Pompeii and Herculaneum.
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