Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
When we think of Roman cities, it is tempting to conjure images of temples, baths, and amphitheaters. This talk storms into the narrow streets of Pompeii to make the case that, for most Romans, the real action happened on the neighborhood level. By examining five stories at just one intersection far from the monumental center of this city, we will learn about (a) streetside religion, the former slaves who presided over it, and the suspicions that they sought to tamp down; (b) eating and drinking by regular folk, as well as the key connective roles played by barmaids in Pompeian society; (c) small-scale industry and the way that shopkeepers deployed deities to push product; (d) neighborhood rivalries across competing businesspeople and their efforts to outdo one another via street signs; (e) and the retorts that elite Pompeians used to undercut upstarts. All told, we will see how ancient historians repopulate “empty” ancient spaces with a raucous cast of upper-class politicians, slaves, hucksters, donkeys, and so many more – all trying to scratch out a living, make their mark, and upstage competitors in the street.
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:
Hartnett, J. 2017. The Roman Street: Urban Life and Society in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Rome (Cambridge University Press)