The purpose of these commonly seen circular receptacles is often mistaken for a function we associated with toilet paper. Not so. They once held containers of wine (called dolia) or hot meals in the ancient Roman's version of fast food outlets or pubs: the thermopolium or capona. The number of holes correspond to the varieties of wine and food that were available for purchase. You could buy your wine hot or cold, chug it down it at the counter or at tables in an attached room if your pub/cafe was on the biggish side. Some of them even had our equivalent of banquet halls for rent.
Just as we do now, the citizens of Pompeii headed for neighborhood taverns to play games, talk business, argue politics or just hang out. Only the largest homes had kitchens so thermopolia fed Pompeians with no formal cooking facilities and travelers passing through. It's also believed that the noon meal was customarily eaten away from home so these would probably have been busy lunch counters - and pretty ones too if inlaid with colored scraps of marble (see 2nd photo).
That function involving toilet paper? The average citizen used public latrines connected to primitive septic systems. Larger villas had private privies located in or near the kitchen for easy access to running water and other means of disposing waste material. Ewww...
See the attached web page for more info on Roman pubs.
The Thermopolium di Vetutius Placidus (in English, Thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus) were something like the current snack-bar where people used drinks and eat warm food.
Its typical structure is very simple: an open place on the road, with counter of mescita in masonry, often decorated, in which the jars are boxed.
This thermopolium has got a temple dedicated to the Lares (protector of the house) and to Mercury (god of the commerce) and Dionysus (the wine's god).
In front of the Casa di Paquio Proculo you can see the Thermopolium di Asellina (in English, Asellina's Thermopolium). Here the archaeologists have found the whole bronze furnishing used for the mescita of cold and warm drinks. On the external wall you can see names of women (Asellina, Aegle, Maria and Smyrna) that make to think that the place owed above all its notoriety to the complaisance of the same.
Close to the Thermopolium you can see some incriptions showing electoral propagandas for the imminent election of the duumviris of the town.
On the crossroad among Via Mercurio and Vicolo Mercurio you can see the caupona (in English, inn) with benches, deposit for the tableware and the kitchen for the foods. Inside it you can see some frescos showing the life of the inn: a wagon with wine's leather bags, players, drinkers and table companion.
Being a much larger city, there are numerous more humble buildings to be seen at Pompeii than Herculaneum, and it would be a shame to focus only on the major public ones and richly-decorated homes of the rich. They include many small shops and businesses such as the thermapolia, a sort of snack bar or even, you might say, a fast food joint! The one in my photo is the Thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus, on the main Via del’ Abbondanza in the central part of the city. It caught my eye because of the well-preserved decorations.
In the foreground of my photo is the counter with its holes in which the jars of food would be sunk to keep them cool. Beyond it you can see the laraium or shrine, with a picture depicting the master's Genius in the centre, with on either side of it the Lares (protectors of the house), as well as Mercury (god of trade) and Dionysus (god of wine).
This Termopoli (serving place that we might compare to our Bar's or pubs) takes it's name from the fine Lararium ( a sort of miniture temple with small columns with Corinthian capitals, placed in a rather small room behind the serving area; inside there were two divinities protecting the commercial activities carried on here)
The premises was furnished with a triple sales counter where the days takings were found still intact in the till ( a jar inset into one of the counters) amounting to 683 sesterces.
The Thermopolium on via dell'Abbondanza is like todays fast-food restaurants. There were warmed cooked foods stored in masonry counters where people would come right in from the street and eat it right on the spot. The owner?s residence was behind the shop ,where the owner reached it through an independent entrance door, which opened onto a narrow side street.
These were kind of "snack-bars" - well widespread in the city - which served drinks and hot food to be consumed at the counter - the remains of a "fast food" shop in Pompeii.
These public establishments featured a counter in masonry, set into which were terracotta urns and jars ( dolia ) containing the fare.
Well I guess this was an ancient way of relaxing as this was an ancient bar. I really liked the colourful frescoes here as well. hmmm don't think they have beer here anymore Richie ;-) the holes are for where the pots were warmed.
This house can be seen on via dell'Abbondanza on the way toewards the ampitheatre on the right hand side.
The thermopoleum is a restaurant or shop where food is kept in huge jars , ready to be served to customers. The counter faces the street where the customers would wait to be served.
her's a complete one with a Sacellum didicated to Mercury and Dionysus and a small shrine for the tutelary deities of the household
Her you can see what is under the marble Counter On Via dell' abbondanza where they put the food ready to eat