Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pompeii Properties: The Garden House

For this entry, I wanted to share one of the properties I really enjoyed from my Art and Archaeology of Pompeii class this past semester. :)

The House of Loreius Tiburtinus/Octavius Quartio> - Address: II, 2, 2

First thing you should know is that Loreius Tiburtinus is a completely fabricated name. There's nothing about the house that actually indicates it belonged to "Loreius Tiburtinus" or that that person even existed. It also goes by the House of Octavius Quartio, a name discovered in one of the shops along the front. Most of the garden houses are also located near the amphitheater.

The house is located on the Via Dell'Abbundanza, one of the three largest streets at Pompeii. It was excavated between 1916 and 1921. According to my professor, its falling apart from all of the foot traffic and exposure to the elements these past almost 100 years, so if you have to a chance to visit Pompeii, see it sooner rather than later.

In the diagram above, the entrance is #2 (on the top right side). Like houses typical at Pompeii, you enter through the fauces (front entryway) and come in through the atrium.

This is the house's atrium. Like typical Greek/Roman house atriums, there are rooms (usually bedrooms) along the right and left sides of the space and there is an impluvium (a sunken pool in the atrium used to collect rain water). This house has an unusual impluvium that it is both a pool and a planter. There are bases for statuary on 3 sides and another small, elevated pool on the 4th side. There are plants planted around the pool.

The atrium floor used to be tiled with white marble chips, but due to the amount of foot traffic there is only ONE chip left!

What makes this property interesting is that it is 75% (I'm ball parking that) garden, for only 25% house. As you can see in the plan, there are two long, narrow, rectangles that form a t-shape. These are decorative water pools known as euripi (euripus, singular). They are plastered and painted, framed in white marble and are about 5-6 feet deep. There were animal figurines (sphynx, dogs or lions killing other animals) and taller figures of Greek muses on square pillars flanking these pools.

The shorter euripus (upper euripus) runs from a small house chapel to Isis to the biclinium, or two-couch outdoor dining space. This is the only biclinium at Pompeii! Other houses have tricliniums, or three-couch dining spaces. These two couches (made of stone, btw) sit in front of a fountain. The water flows down into a pool and between the couches, creating an interesting space.

Outside, on either side of this fountain, are two paintings. The left painting is of Narcissus, a popular figure in Pompeii. The right is of Pyramus and Thisbe, the original ill-fated lovers found in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Outside of Ovid and a mention in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, this is the only other ancient, original, historical document of this story. What makes it even more important is that the painting is actually signed by its painter, Lucius.

Pyramus and Thisbe were the original Romeo and Juliet. Read the link above for the best description of their story. The painting depicts Thisbe killing herself with Pyramus's sword after she discovers his suicide as he believed a lion to have eaten her. This is also, supposedly, why mulberry berries are red.

This is a view down the lower euripus into the garden. It faces the direction of the amphitheater. Grape trellising flanks the euripus. This view is from a small baldacchino on four columns that was likely another place for statuary. Beneath this structure is a fountain with a mask spout and paintings of the goddess Diana about it.

Amphora (jars) of wine were also found in the garden.

There's a lot more to say about this house, but I'll gonna cap this entry off for now. I'll leave you with a walk-through tour of this house that I found on Youtube!

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