In 79 AD, the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were famously destroyed by the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius, a volcano found near the Mediterranean coast of modern-day Italy at the Gulf of Naples. At the time of the eruption, the Roman empire was in full flower, bringing with it civil engineering, commerce, law and property markets. Before the volcano buried Pompeii in twenty feet of ash, it was a busy city of stone streets and multi-story buildings, with a population guessed at 16,000.
Studies of ancient Latin graffiti found written on the walls, peristyles and vestibules of the ruined Pompeii include amazing references to every day life and commerce, including among them at least one commercial real estate listing.
Written on the wall of a house identified as “House of Olii, “we find the following commercial property ad, complete with a call to action identifying the property broker:
(House of the Olii; on the Via Consolare); 139: The city block of the Arrii Pollii in the possession of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius is available to rent from July 1st. There are shops on the first floor, upper stories, high-class rooms and a house. A person interested in renting this property should contact Primus, the slave of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius.
The Via Consolare on Google Street View
The Via Consolare is a major throughway on Pompeii’s west side. Thanks to Google Maps and Street View, you can stroll this street in Pompeii today and take in the neighborhood. Click here to take the trip.
And while you do, have a thought for poor Primus. Chances are, he (she?) saw zero commission for any work performed, least of all the showing of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius’s storefronts to a renter.
NOTE: Studies of the ancient graffiti found in Pompeii detail a great deal of non-family-friendly sentiments, which is why I’m not linking directly to the archaeological work. If you’d like to read these, send the kids out of the room and search Google for graffiti from Pompeii with Professor Brian Harvey.