Pompeii’s Ancient Roads Had Raised Crosswalks for People to Safely Avoid the Muddy Streets

Roads in Pompeii

Photo: Ratikova/Depositphotos

Prior to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE, and consequently being buried under volcanic ash, the ancient Roman city of Pompeii was a thriving place. The vibrant settlement played a critical role in trade; thus, its 15,000 inhabitants lived in impressively modern conditions for the era. When tourists visit the site today, they are able to see the preserved ruins of a well-planned city that accounted for its citizens' needs.

This ancient innovation is particularly evident when looking at how roads were built in Pompeii. One of the most noticeable features on the streets is the series of large raised stones placed in strategic locations. These prominent stepping stones acted as ancient crosswalks. Not only did they allow people to cross the street without touching the water and mud sitting on ground level, but they were also spaced wide enough so that carriage wheels could pass through without issue.

Natural reflectors were also incorporated into some of the roads in the form of small white stones. These paler rocks were set among the larger slabs to help people find their way at night. The moon would reflect on the stones, creating enough light for people to be able to see.

Drainage was also particularly important since most homes in Pompeii had no direct sewer connection. Refuse was washed into the street, making these stepping stones critical. Raised sidewalks with drainage also allowed people to move freely without putting their feet in sewage.

Innovations like these make Pompeii a fascinating place to visit and a wonderful example of ancient Roman urban planning.

Related Articles:

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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