Pompeii Snack Bar to Reopen Nearly Two Centuries Later

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August 15, 2021

Coming soon to a Roman ruin near Mount Vesuvius: a new snack bar.

Officials at Pompeii, one of the cities pummeled by the eruption of the nearby volcano in 79, have announced that they are repurposing a thermopolium ("a place where something hot is sold") and opening in its location a snack bar, to feed tourists visiting the ruins. Archaeologists announced the discovery in 2019. It was one of several already discovered at Pompeii and elsewhere.

Pompeii snack bar wall

The thermopolium 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. 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.

The one recently unearthed was noted for its wall paintings, including that of a Nereid, a mythical sea nymph, holding a lyre and riding a horse with a sea dragon-like tail.

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. The site is popular with tourists. In 2019 (the last year of reliable data before the COVID-19 pandemic), more than 2.8 people visited the ruins at Pompeii.

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