Upscale 'Snack Bar' Found in Pompeii

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April 8, 2019

Archaeologists have uncovered a snack bar at Pompeii.

The thermopolium, its proper Greek name (meaning "a place where something hot is sold"), was a staple around the Roman world, with several already discovered at Pompeii and elsewhere. Customers could get a drink or a bite of hot food, just like at today's snack bars. Such places were popular, especially with the poor, who usually could not afford a private kitchen; as well, people who didn't have time to cook at home would frequent a thermopolium.

Pompeii snack bar wall

On one wall behind this latest discovery is a painting of a Nereid, a mythical sea nymph, holding a lyre and riding a horse with a sea dragon-like tail. She is flanked by dolphins in the marine scene.

An ancestor of today's restaurant, the thermopolium was usually a small room with an L-shaped masonry counter, inside which were dolia, or earthenware jars, that stored dried food. More upscale thermopolia would have had frescoes on the wall.

Pompeii snack bar wall

Decorating another wall is a painting of a thermopolium, almost as if it were an advertisement for what's inside the shop. Shown in the ad-like painting are amphorae, and archaeologists found remains of some that matched the painting.

Archaeologists found the thermopolium at the intersection of the Alley of Balconies and the Silver Wedding Alley, in an area that has been excavated only recently.

Nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79, burying the town of Pompeii, along with neighboring Herculaneum, under loads of lava and ash. The devastation also created a moment-in-time by preserving the two towns, leading to many discoveries by archaeologists through the years.

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Social Studies for Kids
copyright 2002–2021
David White

Social Studies for Kids
copyright 2002–2021
David White