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Samnite House

Description of the House (Ins V, 1-2)

The Samnite House, which dates from the 2nd century BC, is one of the oldest buildings so far discovered in Herculaneum. The house originally occupied all of the southern part of Insula V and included a three sided peristyle, perhaps with a hortus, which once stood on the site of the later House of the Great Portal.
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The short entrance fauces (a) is decorated with frescoes in the first style imitating polychrome marble (shown above and below) while the surrounding portal has tufa columns with Corinthian capitals both internally and externally (pictured opposite and upper right). The fauces has a fine dark red and white mosaic floor in a geometric pattern.
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The fauces opens onto an impressive atrium (b) (pictured right) which is decorated in the fourth style, with a central marble impluvium. The atrium has a gallery with Ionic columns closed off with a stucco lined tracery screen on three sides while it is left open to the east. When the house was sub-divided, the tracery screen (pictured right and below) was partially filled in so that the upper level could be partitioned off as a separate apartment.
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In the middle of the north side of the atrium a doorway (left of centre in the picture opposite) opens onto a small room (f) which gave access to the service area and to the upper floor by way of  a steep staircase.
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At the rear off the atrium, the tablinum (pictured above and right) is, like the atrium, decorated in the fourth style. The floor of the tablinum is decorated in black and white mosaic with a rosette of diamond shapes around a round copper tile (pictured below).
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During the course of the first century AD the house was sub-divided, the upper floor being rented out with its own entrance at door No.2 (i).
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It also appears that the eastern section of the property, including the area around the peristyle, was sold off, possibly for financial reasons. This re-arrangement allowed a separate residential property, the House of the Great Portal, to be built on the site of the original peristyle court. However, it left the remainder of the house with a huge atrium with only a few small rooms ranged round it (pictured left in section).
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It should be noted that much of the gallery was reconstructed by Amedeo Maiuri which, while the reconstruction is not actually wrong, gives an impression of authenticity that is largely spurious. 

To the right of the entrance is a cubiculum (c) (pictured below) with a green monochrome fresco, decorated with architectural motifs, hangings and, in the centre, a small panel illustrating the Rape of Europa.
The room has a red and white mosaic floor and is lit by a small window in its south wall.
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The large oecus (d) on the north side of the entrance has lost most of its decoration with the exception of a patch of red on its east wall. The room, which has a mosaic floor with a black and white geometric pattern, is lit by a small window in its west wall.

The adjoining cubiculum (e) has similarly lost most of its fresco decoration. In the north west corner of the room the wall has been recessed to accommodate a bed.
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The oecus (g) off the north east corner of the atrium is decorated in the fourth style with large blue/black panels featuring a central aedicula above a lower red frieze (pictured upper left). The decoration of the upper zone consists of architectural themes on a white ground. The room receives its light by way of a large window in the dividing wall between the oecus and the adjoining tablinum (h).

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A corridor on the south side of the tablinum once led to the peristyle area at the back of the house, which consisted of a colonnade and inner court.

The elegant decoration of the ground floor is in stark contrast to that found on the upper floor which is entered at door No.2. Several objects which came to light during the excavations are on display, including parts of a statuette of Venus and some dog-shaped table legs.

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