Asellina's Caupona (updated 3/20/2006 by Richard Campbell)
Caupona Asellinae
The Caupona of Legio XX Valeria Victrix

 News as of June 14,2004! Roman Days 2006!
School Demo at Virginia Run Elementary in Fairfax County, February 8, 2002
Legio XX and the Caupona at the University of Pennsylvania Museum Opening, March 16, 2003
Roman Days, June 12 and 13, 2004
As part of the Roman reenactment group, the Washington, D.C. based Legio XX Valeria Victrix, we have expanded our displays to include the civilian side of Roman culture. We have researched the reconstruction of a 'caupona', or tavern from an actual caupona in Pompeii owned by a woman named Asellina, and we used this and other finds from Pompeii, Herculaneum and Ostia as a starting point. 

There were many types of small taverns, bars, snack shops, and inns, and the distinctions overlap. What we are building is a mobile tavern that can be carried to our events. This 'set' is actually built using theatrical flats, a mockup of which you can see in the photo.

Roman Days, June 12 & 13, 2005. Compare with the image below. Three women of Legio XX staffed the caupona and represented different skills and backgrounds. Note the changes on the wall to the actual Caius Lollius election notice, and some of the actual graffitti from Pompeii. Note also the tripod trivet identical to one at Asellina's, and the iron grill that is typical of Roman cooking. 

Legio XX members with Asellina at Roman DaysJune 9 and 10, 2001 at Marietta Mansion in Maryland. 
(left to right, Ron Kenat, Owen Hutchins, Allison Campbell, Dave Michaels).
In addition to legion members, we thank the following for ideas, information and inspiration: 

  • Peter Connolly, author, "Pompeii"
  • Dr. Simon James, University of Leicester (reconstruction advice)
  • Dan Robinson, curator, Chester Museum (Roman Legion tiles)
  • Dr. James Higginbotham, Bowdoin College
  • Dr. Ardle Mac Mahon, Durham University (papers on caupona in Roman Britain)
  • Dr. John DeFelice, University of Maine (exhaustive survey of every caupona in Pompeii)
  • Lindsey Davis, author (we expect Falco to add graffitti soon, when he finds the right sized brush)
  • Asellina herself, a working woman who died in the eruption of Vesuvius, 79AD
Places to eat in the Roman world  went by various names. Below are some as used in Pompeii and Herculaneum. 
  • taberna, 
  • popina, which covered many types of snack shops
  • caupona, which was a step up from a popina
  • thermopolium, or 
  • ganea 
While no doubt there weren't as many in the frontier, these would be situated next to a Roman fort in the local vicus, or civilian settlement, and would be places for the off-duty soldiers to go. 

The above Latin menu is actually: 
(h)abemus incena pullum piscem (p)ernam pa(v)onem (v)enatores 
"Shoppers, we have in the kitchen chicken, fish, pork and peacocks" 
(Thanks to Prof. Higgenbotham) 

Here is a sample of Pompeii graffitti thanks to Tarantalla (Legio XX's Linda Thompson) 

The following election graffitti, reproduced on the caupona, is from Asellina's tavern as you can see below (though this quote is on the right side of the doorway). The non-Roman punctuation is from the search site. Note that Caius Lollius is in the accusative case, as the "women of Asellina's" are asking you to vote for him. "NEC SINE" means 'but especially'.

C(aium) Lollium / Fuscum IIvir(um) v(iis) a(edibus) s(acris) p(ublicis) p(rocurandis) / Asellinas(!)rogant(!) / nec sine Zmyrina

Consisting so far of ten 3' x 6' 5" panels (but expandable), this caupona has a counter similar to those in Pompeii and Herculaneum, that is, with a dolia or counter top with built-in bowls for wine,  soups, etc. We did not add chairs due to time constraints, but maybe next iteration. 

The only problem foreseen by our Legio XX commander, Quintus, is that now the legionaires will abandon the military event and go hang out at the bar (NB: as you can see in the photo, they actually do hang out there). This only means assigning guard duty etc, so we rotate in and out. Let's just hope the realism does not extend to latrine duty!

Above is the exterior of Asellina's caupona: many thanks to Ron Kenat of Legio XX. 

Contents of Asellina's in Naples Museum:                              1920's photo of Asellina's during excavation, minus counter objects
The idea for the caupona came from my wife Allison, who has been attending Legion events but been frustrated since these are centered around soldiers. With her extensive theater experience, including set construction, she conceived of the idea and thought it would enhance the Legion's efforts. 
Our goals with this project are to be: 
  • As accurate as possible 
  • Practical for repeated movement and display 
  • Flexible and extensible 
  • A good teaching experience 
We hope to make this fun for the Legion's members, and help interest new folks to participate in recreating the Roman world. If you're interested in the project, you can contact me, Richard Campbell, at (Allison really does not like doing web pages) or through our Legio XX commander Matthew Amt at MAMT@LRCM.USUHS.MIL. 
Our display includes excellent reproductions of glass and samian ware (see Univ of Penn event photos).  Each of these will be links to progress on the project, and we hope that folks elsewhere will contribute ideas as we go along.

Links to Roman Sites Links to sites about caupona
Legion XX Valeria Victrix A Pompeiian Caupona
RMRS Civilian Side (click on 'civilian') Aedificia Herculanei
An Index of Roman Culture and Civilization Dining in Pompeii
  Thermopolium of Scintilla