Prof. John J. Dobbins

70_dobbinsDr. Dobbins is a Professor of Classical Art and Archaeology at the University of Virginia (retired 2019).  He has excavated in Spain, Greece, Syria and Italy.  He has been the Director of the Pompeii Forum Project for twenty years and has collaborated with Malcolm Bell in preparing the final publication of the Hellenistic theater at Morgantina, Sicily.  He has published on Pompeii, Roman sculpture, lamps, a Roman villa in Tuscany, the Athenian Acropolis, and houses and mosaics at Antioch.  His professional awards and service include Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia, a three-year NEH grant, co-director of the Summer Program in Archaeology at the American Academy in Rome, member and chair of the Advisory Board of the Etruscan Foundation, a Mead Honored Faculty Member at the University of Virginia, an All-University Teaching Award, an NEH Distinguished Teaching Professorship, membership in the University of Virginia Academy of Teaching, President of the Charlottesville Society of the Archaeological Institute of America and traveling lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America.

Public Space and via dell'Abbondanza (page 3 of 5)

The prevalence of shops in the analysis of zone 1 leads us to an important juncture in our discussion of via dell’Abbondanza.  Shops (retail, workshop and hospitality units) constitute the most prominent architectural type employed not only in zone 1, but also in zone 2 of this section of via dell’Abbondanza.  In zone 1 there are three atrium-house portals, one bath entrance, and twenty-four shops.  In zone 2 there are four atrium-house portals on the south side, and on the north three large complexes of atrium-house scale and one complex property that is smaller than the previous three complexes.  There are thirty-four shops in toto.  In terms of numbers, fifty-eight shops dominate the street frontages of zones 1 and 2 of via dell’Abbondanza.  While not discounting the impact of the atrium-house façades, the shops must be accommodated in an urban assessment of the street.  Some statistics emphasize the prominence of the shops:

Zone                             Public Buildings            “Atrium Houses”            Shops

Zone 1 - N                               1                                       0                              11
Zone 1 - S                               0                                       3                              13
   Total                                     1                                       3                              24

Zone 2 – N                              0                                       4                              18
Zone 2 – S                              0                                       5                              16
   Total                                     0                                       9                              34

Zone 3 – N                              1                                       0                                0
Zone 3 – S                              1                                       2                                6
   Total                                     2                                       2                                6

Total – All Zones                   3                                      14                               64

Within the total length there are 64 shops (29 on the north side of the street and 35 on the south).  The data emphasizes that there are few atrium houses in this section of via dell’Abbondanza.   Also, shops outnumber “atrium houses”, and they are especially prevalent in zones 1 and 2 of the street.  Quotation marks are used in the table caption because the four “atrium houses” on the north side of the street and one on the south side are not conventional elite atrium houses.  Rather, they are atrium houses in scale, but the internal division of their spaces suggests that they served other uses.  They are discussed with the zone 2 properties.

The length of the section of via dell’Abbondanza under investigation is about a quarter of a kilometer (253 m) [1].  Two separate presentations of the lengths of property frontages are revealing for the statistics they present in documenting the prominence of shops in zones 1 and 2 of via dell’Abbondanza.  The following presents the total frontage (north, south, north/south combined) of the overall section of the street broken down into shops and non-shops:

Zones 1, 2 & 3                Length (m)                  Shops (m)                  Non-shops (m)

North Frontage                    240.1                       137.6 (57%)                   102.5 (43%)
South Frontage                   243.3                        179.9 (74%)                     63.4 (26%)
Combined Frontage            483.4                        317.5 (66%)                   165.9 (34%)

Non-shops are the public buildings, the “atrium houses,” a corridor to a stairway and the proper atrium houses.  Shops are prominent, above 50% for each side of the street and 66% for the north and south sides combined, but statistics can be deceptive.  In this case the deception resides in the fact that the upper section of the street, zone 3, is such a special case that it skews the statistics when it is factored into the whole street.  In other words, the character of zones 1 and 2 is fundamentally different from that of the upper zone 3:

Zones 1 & 2 Only            Length (m)                 Shops (m)                  Non-shops (m)

North Frontage                    170.5                       137.6 (81%)                    32.9 (19%)
South Frontage                   181.0                        147.5 (81%)                    33.5 (19%)
Combined Frontage            351.5                        285.1 (81%)                   66.4 (19%)

One sees this on site; the statistics are not necessary.  But a comparison of the two sets of data demonstrates why zones 1 and 2 of via dell’Abbondanza feel so different from zone 3 - they are dominated by shops.  Approximately 81% of the street frontage in zones 1 and 2 are shops.  This section of the street was not only a thoroughfare, but also a public space primarily devoted to commerce.

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[1] This dimension and those in the charts below derive from the AutoCAD plan provided by the Soprintendenza.  While the plan is not completely accurate, it is sufficient for the comparisons made here.