Archaeological excavations of Pompeii represent an exceptional source of information about daily life in Pompei and in Roman Empire under the rule of Emperor Tito. Historians wrote about daily life in Roman times, a routine that was not different from the one of our grandparents. Life was made of simple actions and it was actually far from our “stressful” life.
HORA PRIMA DIURNA (4.27-5.42): Since there was no electricity, people had to live according to the “rhythms” of the sun. They got up very early in the morning to start their work. Only a few houses had water so most citizens had to go to take water at public fountains. Water was very important, this is why it was used with great parsimony. For their personal care and to wash themselves, Romans went to thermal baths. For breakfast, they ate bread and cheese, maybe with vegetable or anything left. Barber’s shops opened at sunrise: these shops were also a place to chat and relax.
HORA SECUNDA (5.42-6.58): Everyone was at work, from noble merchants to slaves. Shops were open, markets were ready, farmers were in the fields. Everyone was performing his/her personal job.
HORA SEPTIMA (12.00-13.15): this was the moment for relax. Sometimes rich noblemen offered to the town an exhibition of gladiators and so people went to the amphitheatre. This was a very cruel and violent show: we could not appreciate it today. Some people consider the gladiators and their performances like the football matches of today. Fans fought as they do today. After a terrible fight between fans from Pompeii and fans from Nocera that provoked several deaths, the shows with gladiators were prohibited for several years. Nero restored them to satisfy a request by Poppea, who came from Pompeii. This is also the perfect moment for a break made of bread, cake, fish, fruits, etc.
HORA OCTAVA (13.15-14.31): this is the moment of thermal
baths. They were cheap and also slaves can use them. This was the best
way to allow people to wash themselves also relaxing or having fun in
a period in which only a few houses were provided with water. Average
life expectancy during Roman age was 35 years, more than the previous
and the following period. Romans could not know that the most important
discovery for human health was hygiene.
Today we cannot understand why they passed from hot water to cold water. But thermal baths do not have to be considered as modern beauty farms. They were also the place for business and politics. People also exercised in these facilities: “mens sana in corpore sano”.
HORA DECIMA (15.46-17.20): a short time before sunset, Romans had dinner eating olives and eggs and if they could afford it, also fish, meat, cakes. They did not have many possibilities of entertainment. Streets were not a safe place. So they went to bed early.
More info (in Italian) about Roman calendar and Roman day on (https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calendario_romano)
Written by Ettore Panella
Translation by Linda Liguori
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