Infrastructure in Ancient Pompeii

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The infrastructure in Ancient Pompeii refers to the utilities and foundational systems and other facilities necessary for the city's operation, safety, and public health. The infrastructure in Pompeii encompassed water supply and drainage systems, roads and streets, and defensive structures. Each component played a vital role in the city's overall infrastructure network, reflecting advanced Roman engineering and urban planning.

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The infrastructure of ancient Roman city of Pompeii was a sophisticated and integral part of its urban landscape and architecture. It included advanced water supply and drainage systems, well-designed roads and streets, and robust defensive structures.

These infrastructure elements not only supported the city's daily operations but also contributed to the health, safety, hygiene and overall quality of life of its residents. The ingenuity and effectiveness of Pompeii's infrastructure highlight the remarkable engineering capabilities of the Romans and their ability to create thriving urban environments.


circa 600-100 BCE

The fortifications of ancient Pompeii, built in various phases between sixth and first century BCE) were integral to the city's defense and played a crucial role in protecting its inhabitants from external threats. These fortifications consisted of robust city walls, strategically placed gates, and additional defensive structures like watchtowers. Together, they showcased the Roman expertise in military architecture and urban planning.

The city walls of Pompeii were substantial and strategically designed to provide maximum protection. Constructed primarily from a combination of local stone and rubble, these walls were built to withstand attacks and provide a formidable barrier against invaders. The walls were made using opus incertum, a technique involving irregularly shaped stones set in mortar, which provided strength and durability. In some areas, the walls were faced with opus reticulatum, a type of masonry with a net-like pattern of stones. The walls extended approximately 3.2 kilometers in length, enclosing an area of about 66 hectares. They varied in thickness and height, typically around 2.5 meters thick and up to 8 meters high, providing a solid defense perimeter.

Interspersed along the walls were watchtowers, used for surveillance and defense. These towers allowed guards to monitor the surrounding areas and provided strategic points for launching defensive measures during an attack.

Pompeii's city walls were punctuated by several gates that served as entry and exit points. Each gate was fortified and strategically located to control access to the city. The Porta Marina, one of the most significant gates, located near the harbor, provided access to the sea and facilitating trade and transportation.

circa 50 BCE

Mensa Ponderaria
In a niche in the western perimeter wall of the Sanctuary of Apollo there is a copy of the Mensa Ponderaria, the original of which is kept at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. It is a counter used to check the capacity measures used for goods in trade. Both liquid and solid food, such as cereals, could be measured. These were placed in the appropriate containers and sealed with caps and then emptied after verification. This counter was already present in pre-Roman times, as indicated by three inscriptions in the Oscan language then deleted when colony was founded (80 BCE), and upgraded to the system of Roman weights and measures, as evidenced by the inscription that is still visible.

circa 40 BCE - 10 CE

Honorary Arch of Tiberius or Germanicus
This honorary arch is located at the North east corner entrance to the Forum, north of the Arch of Nero and south of the Arch of Caligula. This has also been referred [See notes] to as Arco di Nerone [Garucci], Arch of Nero Caesar (son of Germanicus) [Mommsen], Arco di Tiberio [Mau], Arco di Germanico e dei suo figli Druso e Nerone [Spano and Sogliano]. This arch was possibly surmounted by an equestrian statue of the Emperor Tiberius, with niches for statues of Drusus and Nero, and fountains on the other side.

circa 30 BCE

Large Water Tank
The water tank (Castellum Aquae) or the water distributor is situated at the north-eastern corner of the Regio VI, just inside the Vasuvian Gate (Porta Vesuvio). It was constructed at the highest point of ancient Pompeii (42 meters) and, through its connection with the Augustan aqueduct of Serino, near Avellino, the water supply was guaranteed to the entire city. The structure allows you to appreciate the high level of development achieved by hydraulic engineering at the time: the castellum had a large circular basin within, served by a pipeline found on the north side, and fitted with a gate system and breakwaters, which adjusted the water distribution accordingly. The water used the drop pressure to be conveyed from here towards three pipes at different heights. If necessary, these could be closed with wooden wedges. The structure was damaged by the earthquake in 62 CE and does not seem to have been in use at the time of the eruption in 79 CE, unlike the 40 fountains distributed around the city.

The water castellum (distribution tank) on the west flank of the gate is the terminus of a branch of the Serino aqueduct built by Augustus to supply the Roman naval base at Misenum around 35 BCE.

circa 20 BCE - 10 CE

Arch of Augustus
The Arch of Augustus (Arco di Augusto) is located in the north west corner of the Forum at the south west corner of the Temple of Jupiter. Also referred to as Arco di Druso, figlio di Tiberio [Spano and Sogliano]. It was one of four monuments for the imperial family, probably the pedestal for a colossal statue of Augustus.

circa 37 – 41 CE

Arch of Caligula
This arch is set astride Via di Mercurio, of which it marks the beginning, in front of the forum baths and the Temple of Fortuna Augusta, near the intersection where Via delle Terme, Via della Fortuna, Via del Foro and Via di Mercurio intersect. This is an honorary arch in brick with a single passage-way and its attribution to Caligula is based on an equestrian statue in bronze, found in fragments, which must have originally been set on the attic and which has been identified as Caligula. The arch was built on the same axis as the arch attributed to Tiberius or Germanicus, which constitutes a monumental entrance to the Civil Forum, and which was also topped by an equestrian statue.

circa 40 CE

The city of Pompeii was supplied with water by the Aqua Augusta aqueduct system. The Aqua Augusta sourced spring water from the Apennine Mountains located to the east of Pompeii. Constructed to link various cities along the Bay of Naples to the springs at Serino, this aqueduct carried high-quality water over a distance of 96 kilometers, descending from an elevation of 370 meters above sea level to reach Pompeii (Olsson, 2015). Roman engineers designed the aqueduct with a continuous downward gradient, ensuring that gravity alone propelled the water throughout its entire journey.

circa 65 CE

Forum Lavatory
Located in the north-west corner of the forum, this is one of the many public lavatories in Pompeii. The protruding stonework which can be seen around the edges of the latrine would have had the seats on them. Under the seats there was a flow of water taking away the waste and the drain can be seen at the back of the picture. Roman public toilets were communal and were not divided into cubicles as our toilets are today, only the wealthy had private toilets. The offset entrance allowed privacy for passers by.

circa 63 CE

Forum Granary
Stretching along the western side of the Forum with eight openings separated by brick pillars these were used as storage areas for the fruit and vegetable market (Forum Holitorium). Today they form the greatest archaeological inventory of the city and have more than 9000 artefacts from the excavations in Pompeii and its territory since the end of the 19th century. They preserve the terracotta crockery that was used in the last decades of life of the city for every day activities, such as pots and pans for cooking, jugs and bottles, and amphorae, large containers used to transport oil, wine and fish sauce throughout the Mediterranean. The exhibited items also include marble tables and baths for fountains that adorned the entrances of houses and some casts of victims of the eruption as well as that of a dog and a tree. The building was built after the earthquake of 62 CE and it might have not been completed at the time of the eruption.


Roads and Streets in Ancient Pompeii
The roads and streets of ancient Pompeii were intricately planned and meticulously constructed, these thoroughfares were vital arteries that facilitated the movement of people, goods, and information throughout the city. Pompeii's streets were laid out in a well-organized grid pattern, reflecting the influence of Roman engineering principles that prioritized efficiency, functionality, and connectivity. The main streets, or "viae", were relatively wide (approx. 2.5 to 4.5 metres in width) and often lined with shops, houses, and public buildings, creating a bustling urban landscape that catered to the daily needs of its inhabitants.

Architecturally, Pompeii's roads were paved with large, polygonal stones that provided a durable and stable surface for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The roads were ingeniously designed with raised pedestrian sidewalks and stepping stones that allowed residents to cross the streets without getting their feet wet during heavy rains as the streets were often filthy due to the lack of a proper sewer network. This sophisticated drainage system, which channeled water into underground sewers, showcased the Romans' expertise in hydraulic engineering. Historically, the streets of Pompeii also served as social hubs where citizens gathered, conducted business, and participated in civic life. The wear patterns on the stone pavements, caused by the constant passage of carts and chariots, offer a tangible connection to the everyday experiences of the ancient Pompeians, highlighting the dynamic and interconnected nature of their urban environment.

In line with the patterns used for the street layout of Greek cities, Pompeii's main streets running from west to east were referred to as decumanus, while the streets generally running from north to south, connecting the various decumani, were known as cardo. Although, the streets bear names today, it was not always so. The names assigned by modern archaeologists reference to various notable houses, geographical landmarks, other cities and in some cases only due to the abundance of discoveries on a particular road, such as Via dell’Abbondanza (the street of abundance).


Public Water Fountains
The key elements in the water supply for the inhabitants of Pompeii were the 40 street fountains; almost all were equipped with a spout (plus a small sculpture) and a square or rectangular basin. Its overflow water went into the drain (where present). Some (nearly all) of the fountains were equipped with a hole just above the bottom, to be used during cleaning actions. Also there were no bigger fountains nor nymphea in Pompeii. The arch in the north-east corner of the forum may have been equipped with a reservoir feeding the fountain at the north side of the arch, but this container was situated too high to be fed with aqueduct water.

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