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La Victoire de Samothrace, Unknown, 190 BC

Pompeii

1st c. AD

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Pompeii had more than 150 taverns or "thermopolia" (Latin for "places that sell something hot").

As most Pompeiians didn't have kitchens, many would pop out and grab food here - like a tapas bar or fast-food restaurant today.

A typical thermopolium consisted of a L-shaped marble counter top with a stove, and clay jars embedded in the counter from which the servers could dish out food.

A typical snack would include bread, fish, dried meat, baked cheese, lentils, honey and spicy wine.

The most popular spread was garum - a condiment made from fish guts!

Taverns would be busy and noisy, and upper-class Romans could be very snooty about them.

Playwright Plautus describes them as "seedy places for lowly Greeks", where "thieves go when they've stolen something, with their heads covered, drinking hot drinks."

Graffiti one some thermopolia walls suggest a lively, rowdy atmosphere.

"I f****d the barmaid"

"We two dear men, friends forever, were here. If you want to know our names, they are Gaius and Aulus"

"Innkeeper. You sell us water and keep the good wine for yourself"

"Whoever wants to serve themselves can go on and drink from the sea."

Emperors were weary of these taverns and sometimes shut them down in times of crises.

Some thermopolia could have political graffitti on their outer walls :

"I beg you to elect Cn. Helvius Sabinus aedile, worthy of public office. Aegle asks for this"

"I beg you to elect Cn. Helvius Sabinus aedile, worthy of public office. Maria asks for this"

Fun fact : during excavations 3 kilos of coins were found in a pot inside one of the thermopolia - money made by the thermopolia right before the eruption!

La Joconde, de Vinci (1519)

Next:

House of Julia Felix

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