How did the people of Pompeii enjoy themselves?

See how this ancient civilisation spent doing during their downtime!

Nestled along the coast of Italy lies an ancient city like no other! A captivating archaeological site that was buried thousands of years ago by a volcanic eruption by the nearby Mount Vesuvius.  It is a perfect snapshot that showcases the life of the ancient Romans who once covered the region.

Visitors can wander the streets and see the artefacts, learning about the daily lives of these past humans. One of the leading questions visitors have is about the lifestyle of the Pompeii people-How they lived, worked, and enjoyed their life. The Pompeii People’s delights are a fascinating discovery and showcase the differences and similarities between the ancient Romans and modern-day people.

  • 1. Entertainment

    Public amusement was one of the prominent delights for any Pompeii citizen. These included ancient entertainment such as the gladiator fights, animal hunts, rituals, and even executions. The grand Amphitheatre of Pompeii was the main entertainment venue, holding numerous public events throughout the year. It was a symbol of common ground among the classes, as no matter who you were, everyone was welcome to watch the public entertainment.

  • 2. Bathhouses

    An integral part of daily life in Pompeii was the use of the Bathhouses. Unlike these days, bathing yourself was a public event, and involved mingling, gossiping, and relaxing with your friends and neighbours. The Bathhouses of Pompeii were beautifully decorated, with huge pools and steam rooms that the citizens slowly went through to wash away their daily grim. It wasn’t simply a practical daily chore for this ancient civilization, but for some, was the only time they could relax during their day of work. Every member of the community attended the Baths, a sweet and relaxing break for their afternoon.

  • 3. Feasts

    Although some people ate on the street, fancy feasts took place in the triclinium (dining room) or gardens. The high-class citizens of Pompeii had a rich and exotic diet, hosting numerous feasts in their homes throughout the week for their friends and associates. The feasts were always extravagant, showcasing the host’s wealth by serving a range of expensive food and drink. The more exotic the food, the more impressive the feast was, with imported seafood, flamingo bird meat, and even reports of giraffe are said to be a part of these private dining events. Imported or high-class wine was also very fashionable in high society, with jugs and buckets filled to the brim to be served to the sozzled guests. No matter what type of imported food was served, the majority of the time it was only boiled, smoked, fried or baked, usually seasoned fish sauce or thick syrup wine. Due to this, all of the food was incredibly rich, which the Pompeii citizens adored, even having room for rich desserts such as stuffed dates soaking in honey to finish off.

  • 4. Festivals

    Festivals in ancient Pompeii were a very significant part the Roman religious life. They were referred to as Feriaes, and there were three types of them. The first being Stativae, which were annual holidays that were on a fixed date, a contraceptive that was moveable feasts, and Imperative that were holidays held on demand. Depending on the holiday, the festivities were either funded by the Roman Church or wealthy families of Pompeii. Here are just a couple of Pompeii’s favourite festivals.

    • The Festival of Vulcanalia

      This was the very last festival ever held at Pompeii, and ironically, it was honouring the God of Fire. Vulcan was the god of fire and volcanoes, renowned for his master skill in metalworking. The festivities were celebrated with large bonfires and shrines displayed throughout the city. Numerous games were held, and live fish or small animals were thrown into the fires as a sacrificial offering to the God of Fire.

    • The Festival of Diana

      This festival of Diana was to honour the goddess of wild animals and the hunt. She was also seen as a fertility deity, who helped women in conception and delivery. This festival was so important, that even salves were given the day off to celebrate. Taking over three days to honour the goddess, where the people of Pompeii would make offerings of fruit or small statues of animals. They would also ask for her blessing by tying ribbons to trees in the groves by lakes or the ocean, even writing specific requests or prayers on the ribbons.

  • 5. Brothels

    In the ancient society of Pompeii, prostitution was permitted both socially and legally. It was a standard activity for Roman men to regularly visit these Brothels to let off steam or enjoy themselves in a group. There was no stigma within the city, as the Brothels were seen as a typically shop much like any other service. The venues were dark and intimate, with a series of small rooms covered with flicking candles, beautiful curtains, and a sensual atmosphere. Due to the buildings having smaller windows, to create stunning scenery, large frescos were painted on the walls of exotic acts. There are multiple theories to these frescos, many thinking they were mainly done to excite the newcomer guests, others state the exotic acts displayed was a kind of menu visitors could order off. Each small room held a companion inside, ready to welcome their next guest with each with a companion inside ready to welcome their next guest. These mostly contained women although at times there were men. These companions ranged in appearance, but as the city’s beauty standards preferred blondes with pale skin, foreigners from northern European countries were routinely taken and sold as sex worker salves. To compete against these foreigners, other prostitutes dyed their hair blonde to appeal to the guests.

Related article: What did the people of Pompeii look like?

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