A new discovery at Pompeii is the Room of the Slaves at Civita Giuliana in the suburban villa. Linked to the earlier discovery of the ceremonial chariot and stable, it gives context to the servant’s quarters.
The exceptionally well-preserved room forms part of the villa. It offers an insight into a side of ancient Roman society that is largely in the dark.
The daily reality of slaves is now open to further interpretation, thanks to the exceptional state of the room. Further, there is the possibility of creating plaster casts of beds and other objects in perishable materials.
Close to ceremonial chariot
In January 2021, a ceremonial charity was found in a portico not far from the slave room. This room served as the lodgings of staff who carried out everyday work, including the maintenance of the chariot.
Within the room, where three wooden beds have been found, a wooden chest was discovered containing metal and fabric objects. These objects appear to be parts of the horse harnesses.
The beds are made of several roughly worked wooden planks which could be. Two of them are about 1.7 metres long; one bed measures just 1.4 metres, so may have belonged to a young man or child.
Several personal objects were found under the beds. They included amphorae positioned to store private possessions, ceramic jugs and a ‘chamber pot’.
Window into the life of ancient Roman slaves
The Director General of Pompeii is thrilled by the discovery and the insight it offers into the life of slaves.
“This is a window into the precarious reality of people who seldom appear in historical sources that were written almost exclusively by men belonging to the elite, and who as a result risk remaining invisible in the great historical accounts,” – declared Director General Gabriel Zuchtriegel.
“It is a case in which archaeology helps us to discover a part of the ancient world which we would otherwise know little about, but which is nonetheless extremely important. What is most striking is the cramped and precarious nature of this room, which was something between a dormitory and a storage room of just 16 sqm, which we can now reconstruct thanks to the exceptional state of preservation created by the eruption of AD 79. It is certainly one of the most exciting discoveries during my life as an archaeologist, even without the presence of great ‘treasures’ – the true treasure here is the human experience, in this case of the most vulnerable members of ancient society, to which this room is a unique testimony.
“The study of this room, which will be enriched by the results of ongoing analyses, will allow us to uncover new and interesting information on the living conditions and lives of slaves at Pompeii and in the Roman world”.