Herculaneum was located at the foot of Vesuvius on a flat plane running all the way to the sea and bordered by two swift streams. In the years before the eruption, the four thousand inhabitants were mostly occupied with fishing. In Herculaneum, however there were also some small business and few modest speculators in leases and small loans.
According to myth, Hercules founded Herculaneum while he was accomplishing the tenth of his twelve labors that should have made him immortal. Ancient literature tells us, instead, that Herculaneum was at the beginning a town dominated by the Osci and after that passed under the control of the Etruscans and the Sanniti. In the 3rd century BC it became part of the “nucerina” confederation, but in 89BC the city lost its independence and became a Roman municipality.