The top of the social hierarchy was the Senatorial Elite. This class did not necessarily live in Pompeii and Herculaneum; rather they visited the towns for holidays away from Rome. Sometimes the Senatorial Elite became patrons of towns and would pay for many public buildings in the town. The next class was the Local Elite who wealthy landowners and merchants in Pompeii and Herculaneum. This class was involved in local politics and also lived in Villas on the outskirts of town.
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The top of the social hierarchy was the Senatorial Elite. This class did not necessarily live in Pompeii and Herculaneum; rather they visited the towns for holidays away from Rome. Sometimes the Senatorial Elite became patrons of towns and would pay for many public buildings in the town. The next class was the Local Elite who wealthy landowners and merchants in Pompeii and Herculaneum. This class was involved in local politics and also lived in Villas on the outskirts of town. Further down the hierarchy was Freedmen who were previous slaves who had bought back their freedom or had been released by their masters.
The Freedmen could not vote, although, their children could. Some Freedmen became wealthy business owners but many took on the unsavoury work such as in the fulleries. Women were not a specific class in Pompeii and Herculaneum, though, their rights and status as a part of society were somewhere between Slaves and Freedmen.
They had no vote or office but could inherit and own property. A woman could be influential if she was wealthy such as in the case of Julia Felix who owned one of the largest estates in Pompeii. Finally, Slaves were at the bottom of the Social Pyramid. Not much is known about their daily lives but they made up 40 percent of the population in Pompeii.
Slaves were considered a part of most Roman families, although, they could be traded, sold and bought at will by their masters. Shackles found in both cities suggests that at least some of them were chained. Another important social relationship in Roman society was the Patron and Client relationship. This involved a powerful patron who would support a client in business and politics and invited them to the occasional dinner party Chandler, Talpin, Bingham: The Osborne Internet Linked Encyclopaedia of the Roman World: In return the client would vote for the Patron who could have many clients.
The imperial government, however, only interfered in matters of imperial security such as the Cult of Bacchus and the Gladiator Riots. Graffiti around Pompeii shows that the town was enthusiastic about elections. The shows that the citizens of Pompeii wished their leaders to be respectable and noble Cartwright: Pompeii: Graffiti, Signs and Electoral Notices: Some women were able to influence political elections by scratching graffiti on walls in favour of political candidates.
The social structure and political life of Pompeii and Herculaneum were closely linked with each other. Click to view image credit. The Basilica was the centre of political and legal affairs.
In Herculaneum the position of Quaestor was also available. Herculaneum was a quieter resort city for retired soldiers whereas Pompeii was a holiday city with a bustling economy.
Pompeii had around shops, inns and workshops. Most produce was sold in shops out the front of houses, in the markets or in pop-up stalls by street vendors Hurley, Medcalf, Murray, Rolph: Antiquity 2: Interpreting the Past: For both towns the sale of agricultural and fishing products made up the main merchant activity.
Gracco, T states in Pompeii Ruins that the fishing industry dealt mainly in crustaceans, molluscs, fish and garum fish sauce for which Pompeii was renowned. Oil and wine were the most lucrative agricultural products, however, the rich could only undertake this enterprise because the wait between the first crop and the olive and grape presses were very costly.
Archaeologist Wilhelmina Jashemski located a large commercial vineyard near the amphitheatre in Pompeii with approximately plants Bradley: Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum: The size of this vineyard shows the booming wine trade in Pompeii before the Vesuvian eruption. Another business which Pompeii dealt greatly in was prostitution. The sex trade was considered a normal and acceptable part of life in Rome.
Nine brothels have been locates in Pompeii but none so far in Herculaneum. Thomas McGuinn, an archaeologist who studied brothels in Pompeii, suggests the prostitution was not limited to brothels but took place all over the city as an essential part of daily life. Evidence that points to this is the 23 of April, which was a recognised holiday for sex workers.
Prostitutes were mainly foreigners and lower class citizens and had to be registered with the city magistrates aediles to work. The economy of Herculaneum would have mainly focused on seafood so the town could provide enough food for itself.
A salt pan near Herculaneum also made up a small part of the salt trade Bradley: Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum: The economies of Pompeii and Herculaneum varied in size but the both dealt in fish and agricultural produce, for which Pompeii was famed for due to the fertility of the soil which was a result of Mount Vesuvius.
A wine press found in Pompeii. A mosaic showing the varieties of fish found around Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum
Cities of Vesuvius : Pompeii and Herculaneum
Cities of Vesuvius Pompeii and Herculaneum by Pamela Bradley
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