Last Updated 27 May 2020

Anicent History Pompeii- Trade & Commerce

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Trade and Commerce in Pompeii Before the tragic eruption on Pompeii it was a well established thriving market town situated right on the coast of Italy that was very advanced for its age. Evidence throughout the town suggests that Pompeii had a healthy commercial life but there has been little evidence of manufacturing and trade although still enough to show the importations and exportations of the town providing archaeologist with a sufficient amount to have a great knowledge and understanding of what life was like in Pompeii in terms of their trade and commerce.

Pompeii was known as the trade centre of southern Campania for around 600 years and traded with various areas around northern Italy which involved the importation and exportation of goods. The geological positioning made it ideal for trade having a great access to the Mediterranean shipping as well as the Sarno River allowing access to other smaller towns. The harbour was constantly active with ships merchants and sailors keeping the industry flowing.

The trade industry was severed as a leveller in society which had even concerned the elite. Investigations have shown the most prominent exportations of Pompeii were pottery, garum (fish-source), wine and olive oil. Workshop production was on a small scale so very few goods were produced to be exported. Despite their local producers there is evidence of a limited range of imported goods such as pottery from Gual, lamps from northern parts of Italy, wine from Spain, Sicily and Crete, and would even get oil from southern Spain.

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Most producers would trade their merchandise with negotiators in exchanges for goods from other regions. The majority Pompeian imports and export goods of Pompeian origin have been found throughout the Roman Empire but mostly within the city itself which reinforces the fact that the trade industry was not comprehensive yet has been able to supply evidence that there was an active trade industry.

Where as the trade industry can be contrasted with the commercial life of Pompeii, as it was bustling with the towns desire of profit it was accumulating great wealth which has a substantial amount of evidence providing support such as 600 excavated privately owned shops, bars, workshops and inns, the city controlled markets around the forum, epigraphic evidence of the number of guilds of tradesmen and retailers, and inscriptions on walls and floors paying tribute to the pursuit of profit and so much more. The commerce in Pompeii was conducted in public buildings in nd around the forum for marketing and private shops that extended along the main street the goods sold in these shops were sometimes brought from local merchants but mainly made on the premises or in adjoining workshops. The common commercial shops are the fullers and dryers, vinryards and wine production, graum the fish sauce production and bakeries as you can see they are dominate by food. The main food market was in the north-east corner of the forum the ‘macellum’ around perimeter was where the small shops and stalls.

Fresh produce from local farms were sold throughout here of raw and prepared foods such as graum, olive-oil, wine, fruit and vegetables. Food shops being the msot common along the streets of Pompeii with the majority selling hot foods and drinks which are known as ‘thermopolia’ that has already been 130 excavated providing evidence of a large food industry. Taverns were also had a big contribution but has only had 20 excavated, these were known as ‘cauponau’. These food shops and the trade industry involving lots of local produce has clearly helped keep the commercial life flourishing in Pompeii.

Outside the temple of Apollo near the ‘macellum’ a limestone table containing an official set of weights and measurements where market goods can be tested, there are early inscriptions that show Oscan weights and measurement were first used then the table was mortified for the Roman standards this was set up near to markets in the forum and is known as ‘mensa ponderaria’. This is evidence that there was a well run economy, and everyone had the same amount for what they pay for keeping it equal while allowing the commercial life to run smoother in terms of the food industry.

Lastly two collections of carbonised waxed wooden tablets had been excavated recording a wide collection of various business transactions. 154 of these tablets were found in the house of the banker Lucius Caecilius Jucundus, these were records of receipts of rents and loans. The other collection of around 120 waxed tablets were found belonging to the Sulpicii which was a firm of freedmen working as financiers more than 80 of the tablets reveal different kinds of business documents composed of contracts of sales, loans, leases, accounts and many more and the other 40 of them report of judicial matters, oaths and court proceedings.

Which is again more evidence support that was a thriving commercial life in Pompeii. In conclusion there has been a substantial amount of excavated archaeological evidence as well as found artefacts tracing back to Pompeii to provide people of the modern age with enough information to gain a greater knowledge and understanding of how life was really like in the town of Pompeii of an active but not extensive trade industry and a healthy commercial life, the town was flourishing before it was buried but the eruption and lost hundreds of years.

Anicent History Pompeii- Trade & Commerce essay

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