Daily life in ancient Pompeii meant “little” work and many pastimes. Reading stories about the daily life of ancient Pompeii makes you wish to have a trip back in the past to live it, just as Marty McFly, played by Michael J.Fox in the cult movie Back to the future. Do you remember it?
Their working time
The citizens in roman age didn’t have so much to work, and so it was in ancient Pompeii.
Only freed slaves or slaves worked, the liberti, than often became rich entrepreneurs. Noble people or richest ones dedicated themselves to politic life.
In Rome there was a burocratic office that needed many “employees”, anyway not so many as today. But in the province there weren’t so many jobs. There were the traders, who worked, and Pompeii was rich of commerce, and there were the attache’s to leisure life, who were obviously numerous, as the majority of the population in reality was layabout.
Therefore the daily life of a pompeian probably begun by the tribute to the patron, i.e. by visiting the house of a rich noble person of whom they decided to be “customer”. The clientes, as they were called, were not customers in the meaning we give today to the word, but they were citizens who decided to support an important man who, inevitably, was involved in politic life and then they flattered him, bringing him homage in the morning, listening to his opinion, following him in his affairs.
If there wasn’t any electoral campaign (and we know that in Pompeii still remain the writings of electoral slogans), they accompanied him to the forum, they even followed in the practice of lawyer that was carried out in the basilica.
Listening to the trials was one of the activities preferred by the Romans and then by the inhabitants of ancient Pompeii, who went to the Basilica to listen, discuss, cheer for a lawyer or another. In the middle of the morning they ate, little and frugally, with a diet that today would seem decidedly vegetarian: no lamb meat, because then the sheep were used only for wool, no veal, even here the animals were used for milk or for agricultural work, cheese certainly. Maybe they opted for some fish, which was used for the Roman seasoning: the garrum, a sauce made by macerating fish (nothing pleasant for our taste, certainly). Then vegetables and bread, which was the base of sustenance. At this point they dedicated to entertainments, which in the perspective of the day / type of the inhabitants of Pompeii certainly did not make an excessive work effort.
Their free time
In their spare time they went to the tavern, first of all. Taverns in Pompeii are certainly not lacking. Some also offered something to eat, but at the most they sold drinks and then wine, which was mixed with water: then the wine was a syrup and it was still necessary to lengthen it according to pleasure and taste, and perhaps flavored with various spices.
The waitresses who served at the tables were held in very little moral account, very close to the prostitutes, a profession which many of them, on the other hand, carried.
Even today in Via dell’Abbondanza, you can see the shops of the hosts, with on the counter the place for the jars where to store food or drinks. The innkeeper often lived on the first floor of the shop.
But the real great fun for Pompeii was the thermal site, and in fact they spent there big part of their time, to do their own ablutions based on hot and cold baths, to swim, to do some exercise in the gym, but especially to meet friends and gossip .
Obviously if there were theatrical performances they went there and so they attended the mime shows, the most beloved, or the least popular comedies taken by the Greek authors. The best, however, took place in the Amphitheatre, where gladiator games were held, the passion of every Roman city and particularly in Pompeii where the Amphitheater is older than the Colosseum in Rome, ie the first stone amphitheater built in the capital of the world!
The passion for gladiatorial games was huge, typhus was very strong and united everyone, normal people and aristocrats, men and women.
In the evening, in the dark, the city emptied, everyone went to sleep: the ancient cities did not live by night.