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House of the Dionysian Reliefs

Description of the House

The House of the Dionysian Reliefs is located in the Northwest Insula immediately south of the Baths Complex. Discovered in the 1990s it has only been partially excavated due to the limitations of the site. Because of this it is difficult to establish the interrelationship between the excavated rooms and the house as a whole.
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The recent discovery has allowed the technique used for embedding the relief in the wall to be recorded in detail: a recess about 5cm deep was formed in the face of the wall and the relief placed in this niche without mortar. To hold the relief in place the builders used iron cramps, two on the long sides (1.08 m) and one on each of the short sides (0.66m) where there was no frame. Once painted plaster was added the edges were totally covered.
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The kantharos was a drinking cup, said to be invented by Dionysius himself. Unlike the skyphos, which was round, with small handles, the kantharos had a high base and projecting handles that stretched from the rim to the foot of the cup. Dionysius' own kantharos was always full, and could never be drained - even by Hercules himself.
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Perhaps the best preserved of the rooms so far uncovered is the large room (a) which was decorated in the fourth style on a red ground (pictured left and below).
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A striking feature of the room were the reliefs found on the south and east walls. The first of the two marble reliefs, which both show Dionysiac scenes, was discovered in 1997 on the south wall (pictured above on the right of the picture).

The scene (pictured left) shows three figures. On the left is a naked satyr shown in profile, sitting on a rock drinking from a cup. Opposite him is a female figure, with her left foot raised resting on a rock. She collects water from a lion headed spout in a rhyton, held in her left hand. The girl is naked with only her legs covered with a slight mantle. To the right is a small satyr, in left profile, shown standing while pouring wine from an oinochoe vase into a skyphos which he holds in his left hand.

The second relief was discovered in early 2009
inserted into the painted wall plaster of the east wall of the room about 2m above floor level. Inserting marble reliefs into fresco decoration was particularly fashionable in the Roman world from the first century BC onwards although few have been found in Herculaneum or Pompeii.
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The scene (pictured left with enlarged details below and bottom left) shows four figures. On the right-hand side of the relief are a dancing Maenad with a bearded divinity, probably Dionysius while on the left are two figures of indeterminate gender standing in front of a free standing archaistic sculpture of Dionysius holding a kantharos.
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The scene
clearly depicts a ritual or celebration or some sort, but the identity of the two figures on the left are unknown. It
is also unclear if there is a narrative connection between the two separate reliefs.




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