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Inscriptions from the Caupona of Salvius, CIL 4.3494

The caupona or tavern of Salvius is located in Pompeii, Regio VI, insula 14 (street map), doorways 35 and 36 (absent other evidence, building addresses in Pompeii were created by modern excavators). It was situated on a busy corner where customers would pass along two fairly major streets (Mercurio & Vettii). Its actual owner’s name is unknown; the shop was named from the election notice for Salvius painted on its outer wall. The two “cartoons” below survived Vesuvius’ eruption to give us a rare glimpse into the language and life of Pompeii’s lower classes (see the outside wall of Asellina's caupona). The frescoes testify to the presence of lower-class women in taverns as barmaids and preserve the kind of exchanges one would expect in a bar. These paintings must have served as signs for the illiterate, informing them of what the shop could offer its customers: drinks and perhaps hired rooms and prostitutes. The images seems to have been painted quickly by an artist of no great talent, perhaps bartered for goods, as happens today; they are in vivid contrast to the elegant frescoes found in Pompeii’s wealthy villas.

[poculum mihi est]!
Mia est!
Qui vol,
veni! bibe!
cum Myrtale
[hoc facere]!

Click on the underlined words for translation aids and commentary, which will appear in a small window. Close the small window after each use.

Submitted by Barbara F. McManus, College of New Rochelle
Ann R. Raia and Judith Lynn Sebesta
Return to the The World of Work
September 2006