Saturday, October 31, 2009

A depiction of Mt. Vesuvius

This painting (from an home altar) is considered to be the only surviving image depicting Mt. Vesuvius as it was before the eruption of 79 ad.

We also find a Dionysus, snake (a common feature on home altars) and a mini altar.

Friday, October 30, 2009

An ancient riot

A painting from Pompeii depicting a riot at the local amphitheater.

About the same time [59 AD] a trifling beginning led to frightful bloodshed between the inhabitants of Nuceria and Pompeii, at a gladiatorial show exhibited by Livineius Regulus, who had been, as I have related, expelled from the Senate. With the unruly spirit of townsfolk, they began with abusive language of each other; then they took up stones and at last weapons, the advantage resting with the populace of Pompeii, where the show was being exhibited. And so there were brought to Rome a number of the people of Nuceria, with their bodies mutilated by wounds, and many lamented the deaths of children or of parents. The emperor entrusted the trial of the case to the Senate, and the Senate to the consuls, and then again the matter being referred back to the Senators, the inhabitants of Pompeii were forbidden to have any such public gathering for ten years, and all associations they had formed in defiance of the laws were dissolved. Livineius and the others who had excited the disturbance, were punished with exile.

Tac. Ann. XIV.17.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Roman couple

Here we see a couple (presumably middle class, intellectuals?) from the mid first century AD. Found in Pompeii.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hermes with a Phallus

Hermes (the messenger god and the god of merchants and theives) with a huge phallus. You recognize Hermes by the small wings on his feet and the kerykeion (heralds staff).

It is important to remember that erotic/comic paintings were common in the ancient world. I must unfortunately admit that I do not know where this painting originate from (except that it is from the Campanian region, probably Pompeii).

We believe that these images were intended to protect people from the evil eye. The point was to avoid envious looks (sight was perceived as some sort of laser beams that would affect the person who got hit by them) and this was achieved by making people laugh, preferably by exposing them to a picture depicting a huge erected penis.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A roman peacock

Here is a wonderful example on how the 2nd style might look. The scene depicts architectural elements, but there's no real plan and the perspective change from one part of the painting to another. We also have the small decorative elements of a peacock and a theatrical mask. This painting is to be found in the villa Oplontis and is dated to the early 1st century AD.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A painted garden in Casa dei Ceii

Casa dei Ceii is a small upper class house, with a tremendously interesting history, in Pompeii. Here we see the wall placed behind the small garden. The scene (and I tell you, it is huge, probably 5x5 m) was probably meant to make the room look bigger than it really is. Notice how close it is in style to some of the paintings at the Villi Oplontis (compare the small yellow area to the right with this painting from Oplontis).

It is also interesting to notice the small square holes in the wall - these are marks of shelfs being put up on the wall during antiquity. Now, this is one of the largest and most beautiful paintings in Pompeii. Why would anyone ruin it in this manner? We find similar refitting in other houses in Pompeii and there's also other evidence telling us that something wasn't quite right in the city at the time of the eruption. Something was going on during that last years of the city.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A tree from Oplontis

This is a central motif from what I remember as a part of the bathing section at the villa.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Digging in Campania

3rd style painting in Oplontis. The brick wall has been constructed to prevent the volcanic mud wall from collapsing.

I've never been excavating in Campania myself but this picture tells a lot about how it can be. Some areas, like Pompeii, were primarily buried by pumic stones - others by pyroclastic flows or mud.

How an area was buried determine how easy it will be to excavate it. The pumic stones are difficult to dig in as they keep on falling down in the trench again while the volcanic mud harden and turn into a concrete like material.

We also have to consider post-antique and modern constructions on top of the ancient remains. Thus we sometimes find ourself in a situation like this one: one part of the villa at Oplontis have been excavated inch by inch through a solid wall of mud (which preserved the spectacular decorations) until something at the modern ground level made it impossible.

This is simply how far we can get, even as we know for a fact that there are absolutely stunning finds just centimeters into the wall.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Architectural design in 3rd style paintings

Notice how the motif in this 3rd style painting (from the House of the Garden of Hercules) is constructed by tiny architectural elements.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A painting from the House of the Garden of Hercules

Yet another beautiful piece, here on a white background (in combination with red, black and yellow, which pretty much sums up the most common background colors)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another central motif from Casa della Venere in Conchiglia

Another central motif from Casa della Venere in Conchiglia. Here we see almost the same picture as yesterday, but the background color is now yellow, another very popular choice.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Central motif from Casa della Venere in Conchiglia

Central motif from Casa della Venere in Conchiglia. There are two things to notice about this picture; first of all that this kind of central motif is found in the so called 3rd style. Here we find a fantasy villa in miniature but animals are also common. Secondly, the colors - this beautiful red is found all over Pompeii and was obviously popular.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A painting from the Palatine

A painting from the Palatine. I'm not quite sure on what style is should be counted (3rd or 4th) to (a common dilemma) but it resembles the grotesque paintings of Neros golden house.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Moving on from Gardens to Paintings

I believe that it is time to move on from the gardens to wall painting and this one feels like the perfect picture for that.

This is a small part of one painting found at the villa of Livia (the first roman "emperess") near Rome.

A garden altar

A garden altar in the House of the Garden of Hercules. Notice that it is looking treacherously similar to the fountains previously posted.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Garden triclinia in the house of the Garden of Hercules

Here is another great example of a garden triclinia (Pompeii, Reg II ins 8.6). You can compare it to this one.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Garden, Casa dei Cervi

The garden of Casa dei Cervi (house of the stags) in Herculaneum. This is a villa right in between the Atrium house and Peristyle house type. Notice the triclinia in the background.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

House of the small fountain

I suppose that you've already figured, but it's worth saying it again - fountains of this type is very common in Pompeii (and was probably common at least all over the central empire). Compare with the one posted a few days ago. This one is from House of the small fountain (Reg VI Ins 8.23).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Central Euripi element

This is a central decorative element in the Euripi posted yesterday.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

An Euripi

This is a so called Euripi (From Pompeii, House of Loreius Tiburtinus/House of D. Octavius Quartio, II.2.2), a long basin constructed to imitate some famous canals in the ancient world.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Garden of Villa di Diomede

The peristyle garden of Villa di Diomede. Notice the columns, how they are smooth and painted red at the bottom while the upper part is painted white, fluted. This is a Greek concept from the beginning, the smoothing of the lower part was due to the flutes being struck of by mistake when people walked into the columns. Making the lower part smooth was a practical solution.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Water decorations in Casa del Meleagro

A small pond in Casa del Meleagro. This was placed in view of the diners in the triclinium.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Garden of Casa della Venere in Conchiglia

This is the garden of the Casa della Venere in Conchiglia (House of Venus in the sea shell). Now, the garden is, of course, a modern reconstruction (and I don't know if it's based on finds or not) and the painting is a copy (I am quite sure that the original is at a museum). The point however, is to show how a garden might look with plants.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


It is time to turn to the different types of garden decorations you might find in an atrium house.

Here is a fountain from Casa Dell'efebo. Notice that you can see it in context here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fauces mosaic, Casa di Paquio Proculo

Casa di Paquio Proculo, Pompeii.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fauces mosaic, Casa di M. Caesius Blandus

Casa di M. Caesius Blandus, Pompeii

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fauces mosaic, Casa del Poeta Tragico

The fauces mosiac from Casa del Poeta Tragico (house of the tragic poet), Pompeii. It is unfortunately, as you may see, in terrible shape, even as it is well protected today.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fauces mosaic, Casa dell’Ancora

The fauces mosiac from Casa dell’Ancora (house of the anchor), Pompeii.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Unknown fauces mosaic

Many mosaics from Pompeii are not only unknown and difficult to find but also in terrible shape. This is one of these.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Casa del Cinghiale I

A fauces mosaic from Casa del Cinghiale I (House of the boar I) in Pompeii depicting a haunting scene.