Pompeii (Higher Tier)

The focus of this unit is the study of Pompeii as a unique source for our understanding of everyday life in a prosperous town at the height of the Roman Empire.

In studying the individual aspects of Pompeii, candidates will be expected to assess the evidence provided by the town and to draw conclusions about its prosperity, the values and priorities of its citizens, and the attractiveness of living in such a town. Candidates should recognise how life in Pompeii reflects the success of the Roman empire as a whole.

Candidates will also be expected to understand how the nature of Pompeii’s destruction was a key factor in its preservation and thereby its value as an archaeological site.


Specific topics:

The original site

  • Its advantages as a place for settlement


  • The earthquake of 62 AD and volcanic activity immediately prior to 79 AD.
  • The events of 24–26 August 79 AD, including the substances that buried Pompeii.
  • Pliny as a source.
  • Evidence of how the inhabitants died.
  • The contribution of Giuseppe Fiorelli to the excavation.


  • The town house (domus) – typical design, layout, main rooms, decoration and furniture – with particular reference to:
  1. the House of the Vettii
  2. the House of the Faun.
  • The owners, the layout, particular rooms of special interest, decoration, unusual features, objects found, mosaics and wall paintings; and how the houses reflected the tastes, values and wealth of their owners.

The Forum    

  • The layout and the main buildings and their positions:
  1. commercial buildings – Macellum, Eumachia, Weights and Measures office,
  2. granaries (horrea)
  3. religious buildings – Temples of Jupiter/Apollo/Emperor (Lares)
  4. political buildings – offices of the aediles and duovirs, Basilica, comitium.
  • Graffiti, statues of leading Pompeians, porticoes, stalls.
  • The importance of the forum as a commercial, political, administrative, social and religious centre.


  • The town council and magistrates. The duties and responsibilities of decurions, duovirs and aediles.
  • Guilds and elections; political graffiti, election posters.

Inns and Thermopolia 

  • Layout, evidence for types of food and drink sold, with specific reference to the Thermopolium of Asellina.

The Theatre  

  • The Large Theatre: size, design, including stage and scenery.
  • Comedies and their production in Plautus’ time: typical plots and types of character, use of masks.
  • Audience attitudes to shows in the theatres, their involvement and comfort.

The Baths      

  • Candidates should have detailed knowledge of the Stabian Baths including:
  1. typical features, the layout, the heating system, the bathing experience (apodyterium, palaestra, tepidarium, caldarium, frigidarium), other amenities.
  2. The baths in relation to the climate, daily routine, business and social life of the Pompeians.

The Amphitheatre

  • The building and the layout, the shows, their purposes, the riot of 59 AD and its consequences.