Slaves at Pompeii


Archaeologists have discovered a well-preserved slaves’ room in the Villa of Civita Guiliana, just outside Pompeii.


Buried during the 1st century volcanic eruption, the room (pictured above) is 16 square metres in size, and was used both as a bedroom and as a storeroom. A small upper window provided daylight, while a hook on the wall may have held a lantern. There were three beds, also eight amphorae stacked in a corner. The chest held metal and fabric objects that were part of chariot horse harnesses. A chariot staff lay on one of the beds. An almost intact, richly adorned chariot was found near the room earlier this year. The slaves who occupied the room may have been responsible for the chariot.


Expert conservators have been able to make plaster casts of the beds and other perishable finds, which left impressions in the volcanic ash. The beds were crude, made from roughly worked wooden planks, constructed so that they could be adjusted for the height of the user. Two were about 1.7m long, the other 1.4m in length, perhaps used by a child. Webbed bases supported the sleepers, who were covered with blankets. The excavators believe that the room housed an enslaved family. Amphorae for private possessions, ceramic jugs, also a possible chamber pot, lay under the beds.


The Villa Civita Guiliana has been heavily looted and the current excavations are part of a campaign to preserve the residence. The discovery of the cramped slave room provides a sobering portrait of the daily lives of the numerous slaves who served the elite of Pompeii.



Image: View of the slaves’ room from the Villa of Civita Giuliana in Pompeii.

Ciro Fusco/dpa.