The economy of Pompeii and Herculaneum was primarily agricultural with a smaller number of trade and crafts practiced. Pompeii has been perceived as a bustling commercial centre, a vestibule of a house reading, “Profit is joy. ” The bigger wheel ruts seen in the streets of Pompeii compared to Herculaneum also suggest a busier economy with epigraphic evidence suggestive of trades and guilds around the walls of the town. Herculaneum was a quieter fishing village, not as much evidence has been uncovered as Pompeii as it was covered by 20m of volcanic residue; for example, the Forum has not been excavated yet.
The main industry was fishing, with fish hooks, fish skeletons, nets, a boat and boat sheds discovered. The wood architecture of vaulted chambers also suggests the capacity for boat storage. Majority of people from Pompeii and Herculaneum relied strongly on the production of wine and olive oil as their main sources of income. Grape vines grew plentifully in the rich soil on the slopes of Vesuvius. From grapes, wine was produced and sold locally, the demand for wine was great in Pompeii, as there were over 130 bars and taverns in the city.
Taverns themselves did not produce the wine, but relied on the big farm cellars outside the walls of Pompeii. Wheat was farmed to be crushed by volcanic stone for the bread industry; a thriving trade in both towns with around 30 bakeries being excavated in Pompeii. Brick ovens and lava stone mills were turned by donkies, their skeletons being found in the mills of Herculaneum. The Villa Regina at Boscoreale was excavated with cultivated land from 1977, there, 18 storage jars, a storage capacity of 10 000L, a grape press, signs of 195 stakes and 300 vine cavities were discovered.
The production of olive oil was also essential to the economy. Oil was produced in the same places as the wine; Boscoreale had enough storage jars to contain 5910 litres. Olive oil was produced in large presses made from volcanic rock, and most of the farms in Pompeii and Stabiae had their own presses and equipment. Oil was then bought by shops in the town and used for cooking, lighting, bathing and also used in some perfumes. The production of wheat that grew in the extremely fertile soil, rich is phosphorus and potash, was a vital element of the economy, providing many occupations.
Bread was additionally produced from the wheat crops in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Around thirty pistrina (bakeries) were found in Pompeii with brick ovens and lava stone mills which were turned by donkies. The donkies skeletons being found in the mills of Herculaneum. These millstones consisted of a hollow stone placed on top of a second stone that was secured on masonry base. The grain was ground finely between the two stones and came out the bottom as flour. Then the flour was mixed with water and other ingredients to form dough, which was then made into bread.
The baker would then sell the bread directly from his shop. Fishing was the primary source of income for Herculaneum, it also remained a fundamental source of income for Pompeii. The Macellum was a market located north of the Forum, where fruit, vegetables and fish were sold. The remains of fish scales were found, and a wall painting inside a house in Herculaneum depicts fishermen carrying products onto boats. The infamous fish sauce, garum, was also produced in Pompeii, and was made out of the entrails of fish such as roe and sardines.
Garum became so popular that its creator, Marcus Umbricius Scaurus, statue is displayed in the Forum. A large volume of fishing nets, bronze hooks, sinkers and fish skeletons have also been discovered at Herculaneum. Many bodies were found trapped in the boat sheds of Herculaneum as they hid there for refuge. The Fullery of Stephanus was a private house which was turned into a bleaching and dying establishment. Tanks, basins and troughs were used for washing and dying. Clothes were trodden and stomped by workers treading through an alkaline solution of stale urine.
The famous Fullery of Stephanus in Pompeii was a laundry installed in a dwelling on the Via dell’ Abbondanza. At the entrance was a machine for pressing tunics. The basin in the atrium was used for washing the fabrics. At the rear of the building, what had been the peristyle, or courtyard, now contained basins for urine and other liquids used in the dying process. In the smaller basins to the left, slaves pressed the cloth with their feet. For urine collection, pots were placed outside the fullery and on street corners for passers-by to use.