Herculaneum‎ > ‎Insula V‎ > ‎

House of the Bicentenary

Location of the House (Ins V, 15-16)

..
..
The house was discovered by Amadeo Maiuri, and named after the bicentenial celebrations being held that year to commemorate the beginning of the excavation of Herculaneum.
..
The house, which belonged to Gaius Petronius Stephanus, was one of the finest private houses in Herculaneum. The entrance to the house is on the south side of the Decumanus Maximus, situated between shops as shown in the photographs above and opposite.
..
..
The fauces (pictured above) leads to a large square atrium (pictured right), with a marble lined impluvium and rooms off all four sides. The fourth style frescoes are of architectural and animal motifs on a red ground with an upper zone, separated by a broad light red band, featuring geometric designs in red on white (pictured opposite).
..
..
At the far end of the atrium is the tablinum (f), flanked by lateral alae (d). The tablinum is decorated in the fourth style with three large red panels surmounted by a frieze of tiny cupids on the facing east and west walls. The central panel of each wall contains a mythological scene, one of Daedalus and Pasiphae and the other of Venus and Mars.
..
The tablinum has a fine mosaic floor in opus tesselatum: a geometric pattern in black and white, with a central panel in opus sectile (pictured opposite).
..
To the south of the tablinum is a peristyle (h) (visible in the picture lower right), which is colonnaded on two sides with a central garden (i). A staircase (j) leads from the north west corner of the peristyle to a more modest second floor, which was probably rented out as apartments.
..
A white stucco panel with a cruciform cavity was discovered on the far wall of an one of these upstairs room. Maiuri proposed that it was intended to hold a wooden cross, which would have made it the oldest known Christian symbol. Below it was a low, wooden cupboard, probably used as a lararium. A more recent interpretation suggests that the cavity was simply used to support a wooden tablet.
..
A number of papyrus records were found in the house revealing a lengthy legal battle concerning the claims of a girl, Justa, who had been born within the household. The girl claimed to be a freedwoman, but this was contested by the widow of Stephanus, Calatoria. The claims were made in 75-76 AD and judgement had still not been given by the time of the eruption.
In the London Times article of July 14, 2004, Buried Jewel of Ancient Rome, Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, then Director of the British School at Rome, said, of Herculaneum in general, that '.. the place is in an appalling state. Exquisite buildings are crumbling before our eyes, mosaics are being destroyed by damp and weeds and many of the remains are covered in pigeon droppings'. In particular he said that he had been particularly dismayed by the state of disrepair of two key landmark buildings, one of which was the House of the Bicentenary (the other was the House of the Mosaic Atrium). He continued to say that '.. the House of the Bicentenary has hundreds of tiles missing from its roof. When it rains, water just cascades through it into the entrance hall. It makes me weep... '.

Since the article, the Herculaneum Conservation Project has made substantial progress in the stabilisation of the excavations. The House of the Bicentenary, however, along with its magnificent entrance hall, remains closed to the public for the time being.
...
..
..
..
..
Ranged round the atrium are several cubicula (c), one of which was screened off by a simple wooden partition (pictured left). The atrium also gives direct access off its north east corner to the rear room of shop (e) and off its south east corner to a large triclinium (g).
..
..
..



Home....................<.Previous House .......................Insula V........................Next House.>..................Glossary