Pompeiian Houses


Features of Roman Houses

Clientela & Salutatio - Waiting rooms for clients and customers

Communia Cum Extraneis - The public area of the house, for visitors and clients

Pro-pria loca patribus familiarum - The private area of the house for family and slaves. Typically less grand and showy than the Communia Cum Extraneis.

Atrium - The main public area of the house, surrounding the impluvium, with entrance from the fauces.

Peristylium - A garden, usually colonnaded, in the private section of the house.

Fauces - The hall area situated just behind the vestibule.

Impluvium - A shallow pool in the middle of the atrium floor to collect rainwater.

Compluvium - A hole in the atrium roof which lets in natural light, and occasionally rainwater. Situated directly above the impluvium.

Ala - Small rooms surrounding the atrium of unknown function

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Features of Roman Houses 2

Triclinium - A dining room. Some houses had several.

Tablinum - A large reception room, between the atrium and peristylium, typically without walls. The master of the house would receive his guests and clients in here to do business.

Exhedra - A large, communal dining room or lounge.

Tabernum - A shop attached to the outside of the house, generally with no access to the rest of the house, but with an entrance from the street outside.

Cubiculum - Bedroom

Posticum - Servants' entrance, usually at the side of the house.

Domus - Traditional atrium house with inward-facing rooms

Insula - The plot of land on which the house was built, generally square. 

Lararium - Shrine to the house Gods, usually in the atrium

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Features of Roman Houses 3

Lares - Household Gods or house spirits

Opus sectile - Large tiles used to make mosaics

Tessare - Smaller tiles for making mosaics

1st style - Painted plaster imitating the coloured blocks of marble in temple architecture

2nd style - Followed on from the 1st style, abandoning the moulded plaster and instead represented realistic architectural designs with columns, doors, pediments, and perspective to create an illusion of depth

3rd style - Abandoned perspective and realism, with architectural details becoming more flimsy and serving as frames for panels containing central paintings depicting mythological scenes

4th style - A combination of 2nd and 3rd styles where architectural features were more realistic than the 3rd style, but not as realistic as the 2nd. The central paintings were contained within the frames were more overtly architectural frameworks. Around 80% of all Pompeiian wall paintings are of this style.

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The House of Menander

The house is in Region I. The main entrance is not very grand. The doorway is framed by Corinthian pilasters, and there are very small, slit windows in the walls. There is a small, stone bench outside the door for freedmen to sit on in the morning, hoping for their patron to call them in and offer them a paid job for the day or a meal.

The building has a Tuscan atrium, meaning that there are no columns supporting the roof, only wooden beams across the ceiling. The atrium roof has been reconstructed and is not original. The atrium walls are painted.

There is a lararium inside the atrium. Between the fauces and the lararium there is a door opening onto a staircase leading upstairs.

The peristylium is surrounded by Doric columns. There are several apses surrounding the peristylium, at least one of which may have been a religious shrine.

There is a miniature atrium with its own impluvium and compluvium in the servants' area, which shows the owner was rich enough to afford such luxuries for his servants. The steward of the house, Quintus Poppaeus Eros, believed to have lived there at the time of the eruption, would have been housed in there with up to thirty other people.

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The House of Menander 2

The quality of paintings in the House of Menander mark it out as being particularly luxurious. There is a painting of the seated poet Menander in one of the exhedra, with his name written beneath the picture. This was a way of the owner showing that he was cultured and educated (although Menander is wearing a Roman rather than a Greek toga). 

A painting of a pair of dramatic masks is on the wall opposite to the painting of Menander. Further paintings of masks and of the tragedian Euripides are unfortunately badly damaged.

There is a painting depicting the scene at Troy in Book II of the Aeneid. Laocoon has thrown a spear into the belly of the wooden horse and is being killed together with his two sons.

A large horde of beautiful silverware was found in boxes in the basement of the house, which points to the fact that the house was most likely being redecorated when the eruption occurred.

The house had its own bath complex, which shows the wealth of the owner, but the area underneath the rooms which should have been used to heat the baths had been walled off, which suggests it was no longer in use.

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The House of Octavius Quartio

This house is situated in Region II, and is a very rich house, close to the large palaestra and amphitheatre. It is also a particularly large house and takes up most of the insula.

The walls of the atrium were awaiting decoration when the eruption occurred. There is no roof left on the atrium, but it was a Tuscan atrium. There is a view straight from the atrium to the garden, which is the main feature of the property.

The tablinum was originally in this doorway but was later removed, with the outline still visible, having been filled in.

The house was flanked by two taberna.

The peristylium was colonnaded, and was more in the style of a country villa than a townhouse. There is a view from the tablinum of the garden.

The garden has a T-shaped euripus (canal). A tetrastyle temple stands over a nymphaeum which is dedicated to Diana and Actaeon.

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The House of Octavius Quartio 2

There is a biclinium at one end of the euripus, containing two of the paintings which have been allowed to remain in the house and not taken to museums. The first is of Pyramus and Thisbe, and is signed 'Lucius pinxit'. It is the only painting so signed in Pompeii. 

The second painting in the biclinium is of Narcissus gazing adoringly at his reflection in a pool. Both paintings have the theme of death through love. 

The euripus is surrounded by a pergola, which has been reconstructed. At the end of the garden there is a gate leading onto the street, near to the palaestra.

The whole house was converted by Quartio for the worship of the Goddess Isis, and he may even have been a Priest of her cult. The so-called Room of Isis overlooking the Western end of the canal, is decorated in the 4th style, with one wall depicting a priest of Isis who may have been the house's owner. The house has white painting, which was an unusual colour in Italy, but not in Egypt.

There are paintings of the Iliad, the labours of Hercules, Actaeon seeing Diana bathing, and Actaeon being torn apart by dogs, elsewhere in the house. There is also a temple on the canal called an aedicule, which has raised steps in an Egyptian style. The canal is almost certainly representative of the River Nile.

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The House of Aulus Umbricius Scaurus

This house is in Region VII, and is the largest house in Pompeii. It is next to the suburban baths and overlooks the sea. Scaurus and his son of the same name were very successful businessmen in the 60s and 70s AD who made garum, a fish sauce which was very popular throughout the Empire. Scaurus' urcei (jars) of fish sauce have been found as far afield as Southern Gaul.

Scaurus appears to have owned six workshops in Pompeii. The Umbricii were established at Pompeii by the early first century BC. 

Scaurus' son became one of Pompeii's duoviri, but died shortly afterwards. His tomb is outside Pompeii's Herculaneum Gate, and indicates that the council awarded the family a grant of 2000 sesterces to pay for his funeral, and voted for an equestrian statue of him to be erected in the forum, which has not been found, and was probably recovered after the eruption by surviving family members or salvagers. Scaurus Senior erected the tomb and its commemorative inscription.

The house may have had separate entrances for family and for the public (and salespeople). 

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The House of Aulus Umbricius Scaurus 2

The house has three atria and more than one peristylium. In the main atrium, there are mosaics of his urcei adorned with his name at the corners of his impluvium. 

The word scarus means wrasse, a kind of fish, which the Romans cultivated and caught in huge quantities off Italy. The name may have been given to him in early life because of his trade, or may have been inherited from some ancestor who started off the business.

Scaurus may also be the man of the same name who appears as a character in Petronius' Satyricon.

The labels of Scaurus' urcei were adorned with marketing slogans, such as liquaminis flos (best fish sauce), liquaminis floris flos (absolutely the best fish sauce) and liquaminis flos optimus (premium best fish sauce).

Pliny himself endorsed Scaurus' fish sauce, calling it the 'fruit of the sea'.

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