National Geographic : 1946 Nov
In a Pompeian Tavern AMONG the most frequent and frequented business estab lishments opening on the sidewalks of Pompeii were wineshops. The counters held the wine jars erect in circular holes cut in the counter top, and customers could purchase wine directly at the "bar," even if they hardly lounged and sipped there in modern fashion. To serve a client, the attendant lifted a jar out of its rack and tilted it over a pouring block. A Pompeian wall painting gives warrant for showing in the illustration a mule team bringing up a wagon loaded with skins full of wine. Doubtless jars of reserve stock were stored in an inner room or cellar. Wineshops were patronized mainly by the lower classes and by people of doubtful occupation. Drinking and gaming and ready argument only too often led to open brawls. Two rude paintings preserved from Pompeii record such scenes. In one, two men are seated with some sort of checker board balanced on their laps between them. Disagreement has already set in. "I'm out!" shouts one. "No," cries the other, "not three! It's a two!" In the other picture two standing disputants are already pushing each other about and pulling hair, while the tavern keeper tries desperately to expel them from his premises, crying, "Out of doors with your brawling!" The tavern keepers themselves were not in too good repute. Many must have acted as intermediaries for shady patrons, such as footpads off the highways and robbers from the hills. Pimps and panders, fencesand stools, vagabonds and beg gars made up a thoroughlydubious company. Wine of many kinds wastobehad atvarying prices. The grapes thriving in the volcanic soilofVesuvius yielded a good but fiery brand. Themore northern regions ofCam pania produced the famous Falernian and theCaecuban which Horace praised as superior toallothers. If there was imported wine tobehad here, itprobably came by ship from Greeceand had seawater orresin in it to preserve it on the journey. Travelers intheinterior of Greece today have to acquire ataste forresined wine, often with no greater success than theRoman poet Martial, who thought very little ofsuch resinata vina. In Rome wine was to behad from allover theEmpire "Moselle" from the Rhineland; "sherry" from Spain; good Gallic wines from France, and Chian, Lesbian, and Rhodian from the Greek Aegean isles. There was even abrand from the Nile Delta. Drinking cups were usually ofbaked clay, glazed toavoid porosity; whereas the exposed wine jars, like thewater jugs, were unglazed, since evaporation kept them cool. When the last customer departedatnight, wooden shutters were fitted into the slots on each side ofthewide entrance and the light in the hanging lantern was extinguished. From across the street the private dwelling turns ablank and probably disapprovingstare onthewineshop with its noisy crew. Its streetdoor istightly shut, and allits windows, however small, are fitted with iron gratings as defense against tramps and burglars.