Pompeii- five fascinating take-aways

Wow! I’ve been to Rome, Istanbul, Barcelona, Crete and other places with ruins and ancient history. Even on a cold and windy day, this was something special. Maybe the guide with her excellent stories made it more alive than you can ever get it from a book or guidebook.

The roads are in great shape and some of the buildings too. Here is my list of five fascinating things about Pompeii that I never learned in history class:

  1. Story about the original pedestrian crossings (crosswalks)
  2. Ingenious solutions in the pavement
  3. Easy to read menus at service establishments
  4. Road signs for illiterates
  5. Theatre vs. amphitheatre

1. The original pedestrian crossing

You might sometimes wonder why the pedestrian crossings are raised. You might even wonder why there are spaces between the white lines. Here are some basic, quite believable explanations. Pompeii was built on a slope, by the sea. The at first, the rich people lived at the top, and the poor lower down. Building a sewer system in the relatively hard volcanic ground was not a priority, so all the waste ran down the roads. And I mean ALL.  The pavements were raised so that pedestrians didn’t have to wade in shit all day. That’s why the crossings are higher too.

The gaps between the stones are for the chariot wheels and the donkeys pulling them. The chariots wheels are exactly two donkeys asses apart, which is also the width of the standard gauge railway these days. You can see the grooves left by the charts.

2. Ingenious solutions

You can see that the roads aren’t that wide and in a bustling trading town like Pompeii, speed and ease were a necessity. So the curbs had ready made holes in them. You could easily park your donkey and tie him down. On a windy day, the shopkeeper could tie down his tent or canopy as well. Here’s something we could use even today.

And what about those white stones lying around? They actually glow in the dark from being in the sun and having some reflections from the street lights.You don’t have to stumble around. And we thought it was smart with the reflecting white lines on the black asphalt….

Why the need for speed? Well here are some pictures of the original fast food restaurants. No space to sit down, you just grab the food and keep going.

3. Easy to read menus

When you go to a service establishment, it’s a lot easier pointing at pictures than trying to explain what you want. Especially if you’re a foreign sailor and don’t speak the language so well. Here are some pictures from the lupanare, brothel.

4. Road signs for illiterates

Literacy was not that common a couple of thousand years ago. So finding your way with modern street signs would have been difficult. In Pompeii they fixed this with pictures. All water fountains had different sculptures so you would know in which part of town you were in. And finding your way to the closest brothel shouldn’t be that hard.

5. Theatre vs. amphitheatre

Both Roman and Greek theatres were shaped like a half moon or half oval. And the acoustics are supposed to be great. The amphi- part just means both sides or around, which is what you get when you face two theatres toward each other. I never knew learning ancient greek could be so interesting and fun.





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