Notes from The Roman Street: Urban Life and Society in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Rome

p 35

“it is worth noting that the character of a single street varied markedly: it could literally be a matter of night and day. After the sun went down, what light was present filtered out of streetside buildings, such as taverns, which cut visibility and the safety it afforded in cities without a standing police force. Juvenal’s narrator Umbricius articulates Roman anxieties about nocturnal passage. He constructs a scene in which a sleepless, drunk thug picks out her prey on the dark streets “But however high on wine and burning with young blood the man may be, he steers well clear of the fellow with the scarlet cloak, who is surrounded by a long line of bodyguards plus plenty of torches and bronze lamps. But me, as I return home escorted only by the moon or a sad little candle that demands my constant attention – me he despises. Hear how the pathetic brawl starts – if you can call it a brawl when you do the beating and I just take it.”

p, 65 “Because of Roman practices of slavery and adoption, exposed or destitute children may have been absorbed into households more frequently in Roman cities than in others renown for their street children, such as Mexico City or Bangalore. Nevertheless .. poor youth on the street were likely very common … Outside city walls, some took refuges in tombs or used them as parts of huts or lean-tos… the Theodosian Code is … suggestive. It required lean-tos abutting public or private buildings to be torn down because they posed a risk of fire, narrowed streets or infringed on porticos.”

p. 159 “How could you distinguish certain classes of people and their virtues and vices from the way they moved? In the broadest terms, those who were most suspect such as cinaedi (sexual deviants) were identified by their excessive motion … their natural nearing compelled their arms and fingers to move too much, and their necks and sides to rock back and forth.. too much movement was read as a shortcoming in moral steadiness

p. 161 “the decided severity of house facades in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Their aesthetic of austerity and lack of frilly adornment held meaning precisely by showing very little … an architectural and decorative demonstration of, or at least aspiration to, the self-restraint appropriate for elite self-presentation in the public sphere… the street frontage of commercial properties was generally more extravagant and commonly employed the figural decorations that houses routinely shunned.”

p. 188 “Direct textual evidence for the position of doors during the day is scarce, but what survives suggests the practice of leaving house doors open was routine… Leaving one’s access door open usually required positioning a guard at this critical threshold.. also probably a sacrifice limited to Romans of a certain financial level, which made door-opening a social marker in itself. But the way that this act made interior architecture visible to the street provided more opportunities for scoring social points ”

p. 270 “Nineteen electoral endorsements are painted across this section of wall… Fourteen messages name no endorser but the other five intriguingly list women as endorsers. Four women individually support candidates: Maria, Zmyrina, Aegle and Asellina.. female enforsements represent a mildly widespread practice, with about 50 posters. Women’s inscriptions follow similar patterns to endorsements by named men … there is no ‘female way’ to enter the political fray….. scholars have woven the various threads present into elaborate tapestries. They picture a bar owned by Asellina because she has the Latinate name and becomes the titular head of a collective presentation. And they imagine the women as foreign workers, possibly slaves, who furnished food, drink and perhaps sex… although the women’s routine is largely lost, the material evidence allows us to stitch together some sense of their interactions. first, the space on the ground floor is very restricted, especially behind the counter, which likely put the women in close contact with one another and with customers, who may have spilled onto the extensive sidewalk or headed upstairs. The bar’s wide entryway granted the women a view and perhaps knowledge of the neighbourhood’s workings. For instance, if the huge entryway next door preceded a sizeable house, then the women probably knew much about its activities by watching its denizen’s comings and goings, by catching up with its dependents over a glass of wine, and by hearing sounds emanating from its doorways and courtyards. Similar with a grand residence and smaller house across the street. in the latter, an industrious doorkeeper seems to have looked back across the street while carding wool. In other words, even if these barmaids were stationary, they soaked in much.”

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