The city of Pompeii was frozen in time, or rather volcanic ash, after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. While information is still being discovered, we have learned quite a bit about this ancient Roman city. Here are a few things that you probably won’t find casually mentioned in a text book.
Fast Food: We know that a variety of fast food places existed from the architecture of certain buildings. These are small buildings with grooves for doors that would slide over at night when the business was closed. These would have been small markets as well as fast food places, but the later have a space for a quick sit down meal.
Prostitution was a thriving business in Pompeii. An entire corner of the city was devoted to the practice and was filled with lupenare, or brothels. Why? Many of the lower class prostitutes were uneducated and did not speak the common languages that Romans spoke, so, according to legend, they would howl, or yell in order to communicate. This earned them the nickname of she-wolf or lupa. Both men and women engaged in prostitution and this was considered as legitimate as any trade, though did not offer social standing.
Phalluses: The Romans were proud of their penises and saw nothing wrong with phallic imagery. Sometimes, these were even used as indicators on the streets- though in a less reputable part of down. These, along with erotic images were found well preserved in Pompeii.
Self Cleansing Between Meals: The Nobles of Pompeii certainly enjoyed a grand feast that could total up to ten different courses. To refuse food from a host was a grave insult, but no one wanted to get too full- so what’s a guy or gal to do? According to ancient Roman etiquette, when one was full, one must excuse him or herself from the table and stick a feather down one’s throat. This allowed the person to throw up the last three courses in order to make room for more food. Throwing up food such a common practice that we have people depicted with feathers designed for the purpose. Roman children were taught this practice from a young age. Despite the practice, people preserved their teeth, some say, thanks to the copious use of urine as mouthwash.
Urine: The citizens of Pompeii were not wasteful people. Even urine served multiple functions including cleaning of clothes, cleaning of the mouth, and even hair dye. Because urine is sterile, and because there was no soap or tooth paste, Romans used it as a cleaning product. This proved to be a smelly, yet fairly effective solution as remains in Pompeii show pretty well preserved teeth. A specific type of urine was used to dye the hair of Roman women blonde, which later proved to be quite a serious issue and left the women to resort to other methods.
Published by Irina Yakubin