Notes for Pompeii and Herc

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  • Topic: Pliny the Elder, Pompeii, Pliny the Younger
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  • Published : February 10, 2012
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The physical environment: the geographical setting, natural features and resources of Pompeii and Herculaneum Pompeii and Herculaneum are both located on the west coast of Italy, about 200 km south of Rome on the Bay of Naples. They were built on the plain of Campania, a fertile farming area around Mt. Vesuvius, which was 14 km away. The Bay of Naples was the playground of the rich, who built luxurious, sumptuously furnished villas.

Geographical setting (Pompeii):
Pompeii was 22 km south-east of Naples, on a bay bounded by the shores of Surrentum and Stabiae on one side and Herculaneum on the other. The town was 500 m from the coast itself.

Herculaneum was on the bay, eight km south east of Naples and 16 km north east of Pompeii.

Natural features (Pompeii):
-situated on a raised area- a prehistoric lava flow
-steep cliff dropping to the sea
-natural bay- site for a port
-south-east slopes of volcano
-sarno river for water and shipping
-fertile land for farming estates
-abundance of vegetation
-hot springs nearby

-volcanic plateau south west of Mount Vesuvius
-sheer cliff over sea
-two stereams- one to the east, one to the west
-natural, safe, but small harbours down in river bays.

-water available from river
-fertile land for agriculture and grazing
-fish in the sea
-market gardens, orchards and vineyards
-port and estuary for shipping
-network of roads to other towns

-water available in streams
-salubrious climate
-limited port facilities
-vineyards on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius
-fish in the sea
-main coast road running straight across town

Plans and streetscapes of Pompeii and Herculaneum
Both towns show town planning and local government typical of Roman towns. The streetscape of both cities shows both wealthy and poor housing, shops, taverns, workshops and rented flats, with the streets and roads dividing the towns into neat rectangular blocks called insulae. The blocks contained from one to twelve dwellings- houses, apartment blocks and shops.

-67 hectares, four fifths of it excavated
-consisted of 117 blocks/insuale as Fiorelli numbered each.
-Pompeii’s streets formed a regular grid that was based on two manin streets, the Via Dell Abbondanza ‘the road of plenty’ (evidence of commercial town) runnig E to W and the Via Stabiana running N to S. -The roads varied in width, being 2.4, 3.6 or 4.5 m wide

-the roads had raised footpaths with stepping stones on the road so pedestrians could get from one footpath to the other without getting their feet wet, as drainage was poor -at street intersections, fountains were found

-Pompeii had a 3 km wall built of volcanic tufa. It had watchtowers and eight fortified gates -roads have deep wheel groves caused by the constant stream of heavy wagons- visible proof that it was a major commercial town -the population was about 20 000.

-22 hectares
-a large part of Herculaneum lies beneath the modern city of Resina -only four insulae have been excavated
-the roads running north to south are Cardo III, Cardo IV and Cardo V -the two main streets running east to west are Decumanus Maximus and Decumanus Inferior -Herculaneum had less wheeled traffic as it was not a large manufacturing or trading centre, it was mostly residential -it had a sea wall, storm drains and an underground sewer beneath the roads which sent sewage and rainwater to the sea. It had no need for pedestrian stepping stones -the population was about 5000

The range of available sources, both written and archaeological, including ancient writers, official inscriptions, graffiti, wall paintings, statues, mosaics, human and animal remains

Pliny the younger
The most important writer was Pliny the Younger, a friend of Rome’s greatest historian...
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