Maps of Pompeii
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The principal axes consist of Via di Nola - the major decuman
road - and Via Stabiana (the main cardinal road. With the expansion
of the city, two other streets were added to support the urbanistic
layout and run almost parallel to the former: these are Via
dell'Abbondanza, which became the town's new main decuman road, and
the Via del Foro, which wound its way parallel to Via Stabiana to
make a second cardinal road. Both were linked to the large civic
Forum, and constituted the centre of the town's political and
Two important crossroads - the Orpheus crossroads and the Holconius crossroads - were the junctions for the main axes in Pompeii. Around these axes a close network of streets sprang up, which served to mark off entire blocks of houses (insulae). The urban centre, with the exception of the Forum area, which lies on a flat piece of land, is characterized by a remarkable difference in level caused by the lava terracing which spread across the lower slopes of the mountain. The layout of the city is rectangular in form. Around it runs the elliptical perimeter of the walls which extend for about 3 km along the edge of the basaltic terracing: several stretches date back to the Samnite era, others to the expansion which took place in the Roman age. Various gates open into the defensive boundary wall: their names are Marina, Ercolano, Vesuvio, Nocera, Capua and Sarno.
The most ancient centre in Pompeii is the part massed around the Triangular Forum. The new Forum, on the other hand, was built in the vicinity of Porta Marina out of the centre, when the city, which by now had increased remarkably, felt the need for a larger space. The Theatre, the Amphitheatre and the Gymnasium were built in the peripheral area. Thermal Baths were set up in several parts of the city so that they might answer more adequately the needs of the citizens by serving the various urban areas. Outside each gate a large burial ground with sepulchral monuments grew up. As evidence of the city's enormous urbanistic expansion, a vast urbanized peripheral area was discovered outside Porta di Ercolano: it contains houses, workshops and superb villas such as that of Diomedes and the Villa of the Mysteries.
Another of the suburban villas which characterized the period of maximum expansion of Pompeii is the one located in the vicinity of Porta Marina, known as the suburban villa of Porta Marina. The houses can be dated back to various historical periods: those belonging to the pre-Samnite period are simpler in their layout and almost always made of tuff; those of the Samnite period are more elaborate; without doubt those from the Roman age show the greatest degree of perfection. The temples in Pompeii are concentrated in the area of the large Forum and the Triangular Forum and reproduce traditional Greek designs.
Plentiful examples of workshops can be found throughout the city: there are numerous fullonicae (places for the treatment of cloth), a fundamental sector in Pompeii's economy, to the extent that the Dyers' Guild had its own building in the Forum (the so-called Building of Eumachia) containing shops and warehouses for the storage of goods. There are a good many "thermopolia", that is refreshment rooms (the equivalent of modern-day bars), intended for the serving of drinks and recognizable from the counters with holes in them used to hold amphorae. In addition we find bakeries and mills, often attached to warehouses for storing grain. In general all the workshops are adjacent to the house of their owner, thus making it more convenient for him to do his job and allowing him to involve his entire family and servants in the enterprise as well. Pompeii had a supply of hotels and rooms to let: several buildings bear inscriptions which are advertisements for leases. Private baths were also frequently let out. Furthermore there were plenty of gambling dens and houses of pleasure (lupanari). Among the curiosities worthy of note are the pedestrian crossings located at the road junctions: these consist of very large stones placed crosswise along the streets: people were able to walk on them and so avoid getting their feet wet in case of rain. Attention is due to the signs on the shops, often in the form of painted pictures and depicting the activity carried out there and the name of the owner.
The walls of the houses are dotted with inscriptions: these are public announcements of performances or advertisements for rooms to let, as well as electoral propaganda messages and words of a lewd nature referring to various people or situations.