Thursday, September 11, 2008

You can travel back 2000 years in time.

Indonesians at an outdoor eating place.

Today you can experience what life was like 2000 years ago.

In her book 'Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town' (2008), Mary Beard, professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, describes what life was like in Pompeii in 79 AD.

It is not much different from life in a Javanese town today.

1. In Pompeii in 79 AD you would find the lavatory was in the kitchen.

It is the same today in the typical Indonesian kampung house. A kampung is a settlement lived in by the ordinary Indonesians.

You walk into the Indonesian house, which is a bit like a rather dark garage, and at the back you see a cooking stove and pots and pans, and next to that there is a hole in the ground which is the lavatory. The lavatory is separated from the cooking area by a piece of canvas sacking.

2. In Pompeii there were a number of public bathing places. Some of the Romans had no bathrooms. The water in the public bathing places was not chlorinated and was likely to spread infections such as typhoid.

In Indonesia today, very many people have no bathroom. People go to the river or canal or public fountain to wash themselves. In the biggest Moslem country in the world, it is not uncommon to see naked people washing in public. Rivers and canals are also used as toilets. Typhoid is very common.

3. In Pompeii there were very few public drains to take away sewage. The streets were often filled with human waste. This explains why there had to be lots of stepping stones.

In some Indonesian kampungs, there seems to be a total absence of public drains.


4. In Pompeii over half of the children were dead by the age of ten, as the result of various illnesses. The very poor tended to starve to death.

In Indonesia today it is quite common to find families who have lost half their children due to such diseases as TB and typhoid. Medical treatment is not free in Indonesia and many families cannot afford the antibiotics needed to cure serious ailments. Today in Indonesia it is not uncommon to read stories in the Jakarta Post of children killed by malnutrition.

5. Pompeii had its sex workers. For the rich, sex was provided by slaves. For the rich and poor there were bars and brothels.

In Indonesia there appear to be brothels everywhere. Outside many a small cafe there will be a number of white faced girls dressed in short skirts. Surabaya was reputed to have South East Asia's largest brothel.


6. In Pompeii, there were a very large number of open-air eating places selling cheap food to the poor.

It is the same in Indonesia today, where many of the poorer people have little in the way of facilities for cooking and storing food. The typical Indonesian kampung will be full of cheap little open-air restaurants called warungs.

7. The people of Pompeii ate little red meat. But they had beans, eggs and vegetables among their staples.

The poorer Indonesians, who sometimes only eat one meal a day, consume a mainly vegetarian diet.


8. The people of Pompeii enjoyed festivals in which they celebrated various gods. They loved to party.

The Indonesians get days off to celebrate the festivals of more than one religion. Most Moslems, Christians and Buddhists, believe it or not, will happily celebrate together. They love to party.

9. Not everyone in Pompeii was poor. One house at least was the size of a King's palace.

Indonesia has a growing number of billionaires and many a general and civil servant will own five palatial houses.


The September 2008 issue of the BBC History Magazine has an item on Pompeii. BBC History Magazine


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