Blogging from A to Z: D is for Dogs

Vestibule of the House of the Tragic Poet, showing “Cave Canem” mosaic

Hi, everyone. Today’s entry in my series of facts about Pompeii concerns dogs. In ancient times, as now, people kept dogs as pets. There were many mosaics around the ruins showing dogs. One of the most famous is in the vestibule of the House of the Tragic Poet, which shows a domestic dog with collar and leash and is labeled “Cave canem,” Latin for “beware of the dog.”

There are feral dogs in Pompeii today. They are friendly, cared for by veterinarians, and available for adoption. There was, at one point, a foundation that managed all of this called “Ave Canem” (“Welcome, dog”). Unfortunately, the man put in charge of the

“My” Buon Cane, resting on the stones behind me in the Gran Teatro di Pompeii.

foundation absconded with the funds and is now in jail on corruption charges. The dogs are managed by volunteers now, and it is still possible to adopt them. I met one of the splendid Pompeii dogs on my first night in town, and encountered him several times during our visit. It was almost as though this Buon Cane (Italian for “good dog”) had adopted me.

(Photos by the author)

Blogging from A to Z: C is for Circumvesuviana

The ruins of Pompeii have seen a modern town, Pompei, grow up around them. Pompei largely depends on tourism for its existence. So, there are numerous hotels and restaurants. There is also a train system.

Circumvesuviana_mapsThe local stop for the Circumvesuviana (“around Vesuvius) train, which connects Naples to Sorrento and has numerous lines in between, was a stone’s throw away from our hotel. We were on the Poggiomarino line and used it to get to Herculaneum and Naples. We would have gone to Sorrento had I not been completely exhausted by dealing with a medical emergency on the part of one member of our party. I just needed some sleep!

What I didn’t realize until yesterday is that I had taken no photos of the train or the train station! So, I found a video on-line that shows both trains and stations along the line. While the trains are not much to look at, they’re remarkably efficient, and the riders are very polite. Enjoy!


Blogging from A to Z: B is for Bathhouse

Hi, everyone, and welcome to my second entry in my series of facts about Pompeii. Today, I’m going to talk about the bathhouse.

For ancient Romans, visiting the bathhouse was a daily occurrence. The wealthy people visited in the morning, and the poor people visited later in the day (the water wasn’t always changed, by the way). Anyway, everyone bathed … but not in the way we think of now. The Romans hadn’t learned how to saponify oils to make soap, so they would apply scented oil directly to their skin and scrape it off with a curved metal tool called a strigil. Oil will remove dirt,

Marble fountain in the men’s caldarium at Pompeii, inscribed with the names of the two men who paid for it and how much it cost.

so they cleaned themselves and practiced exfoliation at the same time.

Shelves for clothes and belongings in the men’s bath at Pompeii. The spaces were delineated by statues.

The bathhouse had two sides, for men and women. On the men’s side there were three rooms; there were two on the women’s. The first room, the tepidarium, was a warm room where you could leave your clothes on shelves (a slave was there to guard against theft) and get used to the temperature. The next room, the caldarium, was the hot room, with the bath tub and steam. The men’s third room, the frigidarium, was a cold plunge. Women didn’t

Tub in the men’s caldarium at Pompeii.

take the cold plunge because it was believed to damage fertility

Brazier in the men’s tepidarium at Pompeii. The man who donated it was named Vacula, which means “cow.” Hence, the cow motif on the front was his signature.






The bathhouse also had a paelestra, or “training field” nearby, so people could take exercise if they so desired, either tossing medicine balls back and forth or just walking around it.

Finally, the bathhouse was where a lot of business was conducted. People would take meetings there to discuss politics, trade, and more.

(All photos by the author)

Frequently Asked Question: How Are Things in Your World?

insecure2bwriters2bsupport2bgroup2bbadgeIt’s the first Wednesday of the month, so it must be time for a question from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The complete question is:

The IWSG’s focus is on our writers. Each month, from all over the globe, we are a united group sharing our insecurities, our troubles, and our pain. So, in this time when our world is in crisis with the covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: how are things in your world?

Well, I’ll tell you. Seeing the announcement yesterday that the shelter-in-place has been extended through the end of April for my region and my company was hard. I’m an introvert, to be sure, but this is starting to wear on me. I am accustomed to deciding how much time I spend at home. I like going to see friends, sharing a meal, and hearing live music. It’s tough to do these things via Zoom or Skype, although it helps a little. Working at home means there’s no real delineation between home stuff and office stuff.

I’m grateful to have a job that allows me to work remotely. I’m keenly aware that the shelter-in-place is the right thing to do. However, I’m having to work awfully hard to find things that make me smile.

So now you know.

Blogging from A to Z: A is for Aedile

On the left side of the photograph is a political graffito asking people to vote for one Helvius Sabinus, who was running for aedile. Photo by the author.

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the first entry in my 2020 blogging challenge. As you might recall, I’m sharing facts about Pompeii. My current work in progress is set there, so I thought it would be fun to share some of my research with you! Wherever possible, I will use photographs from my visit to the ruins earlier this year.

Our first entry is aedile. An aedile was the most junior elected office in ancient Roman times. The aedile was a magistrate, responsible for management of public roads and public buildings. He, and they were always male, had to be at least 37 years old to run for office. For much of antiquity, two pairs of aediles were elected each year, one pair from the plebeian class (the common folk) and one pair from the patrician class (the upper classes). The main difference between the two pairs had to do with managing public festivals. Some festivals were solely for the patricians, others solely for the plebeians. Regardless of which class the aedile belonged to, he would have to be wealthy. Aediles were expected to spend lavishly from their own purses on these events.

Julius Caesar added the requirement for two more aediles to be elected each year, to be specifically in charge of the food supply. However, those duties were eventually assigned to men holding the praetorship, a higher level magistracy.