Daily Life: Origins

A view of Pompeii

From small town to multicultural city on the move

Pompeii is now world-famous, but this important historic site began as a small coastal settlement which covered about 10 hectares. As in many modern cities, the shape of the older town is still visible within the grid of later construction. By the sixth century BC, however, the town had expanded to more than six times its original size and was dominated by the Etruscans, though its culture also borrowed freely from the Greek cities of the region. Late in the fifth century BC, Pompeii changed hands again, this time thanks to Samnite tribesmen from the mountains, and it continued to grow in wealth and sophistication as the Romans continued their expansion through the Mediterranean.

Pompeii was located near Italy’s largest port, Pozzuoli, and Pompeian merchants took advantage of this proximity to set up successful businesses and trade routes, particularly with Greece. The considerable wealth they brought home spurred a building boom in Pompeii in the second century BC, and the cultural influence of Greek art and architecture on the villas these wealthy merchants built is obvious.

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