chapter  8
20 Pages


The blocks of houses or insulae in Pompeii evolved over a period of more than three centuries into their nal format as preserved by the eruption of ad 79 (Jones and Robinson 2004; Berry 1998; Fulford and Wallace-Hadrill 1999). There would seem to have been considerable variation to the format of the insula block across the city (Figure 8.1). We have seen in Chapters 6 and 7 that one of the factors that determined the use of the frontage of insulae was the position each block had with respect to the grid of streets and the ow of traf c through the city. This chapter moves the analysis a step forward towards a conception of the dynamics of urban land rent or variation in the value of property across the city. A key factor for understanding the city has been a recognition of the close proximity of those utilising a domus for urban living and their poorer neighbours using tabernae or workshops for their own economic survival (Wallace-Hadrill 1994). Parkins (1997) developed the thesis that the two were linked in a form of economic relationship between the major houses and the smaller properties that connected to them. However, in her work there is an implicit assumption that the inhabitant of the domus was its owner deriving rental income from the smaller properties rented to persons of lower status. There is an unspoken Anglophone assumption in the study of Pompeii that the atrium houses were owner occupied and the smaller units were rented out – even though our two pieces of evidence for rental at Pompeii refer to the rental of complete insulae. This chapter takes the opposite view: that insulae in Pompeii were created for the maximisation of rental income, by persons not necessarily living within the property themselves. The intention of this diagnostic assumption is to reverse the owner-occupied preference in the interpretation of Pompeian real estate. Behind this is not just an attempt to buck a trend in Pompeian studies. Parkins (1997) demonstrated that most property changed hands via inheritance and as dowry, rather than buying and selling. Properties forming part of a dowry often were not places of residence, but were investments to provide funds for children produced in marriage (Parkins 1997: 101). Property passing to those under twenty- ve without a living father and into guardianship tended to be preserved or remain mothballed until the person came of age

(Saller 1994: 181-203). The same may have been true of a number of women in guardianship. These features of property holding would have impacted on the way in which property was held, rented or subdivided.