|In 1959 during road construction in the Agro Murcine workmen unearthed the remains of a villa about 600m south of Pompeii's Stabia Gate near the ancient mouth of the River Sarno. Under pressure from the
road contractors archaeologists could only excavate a small part of
the building in what proved to be a badly waterlogged site. What they found were five elegantly decorated triclinia
opening onto a small garden peristyle (pictured opposite).
more recent excavations have uncovered a large kitchen off the north
west corner of the peristyle and a separate bathing complex which appears to extend down towards the mouth of the Sarno River.
Furthermore archaeological explorations to
the south of the building have found no architecture there. The
therefore has been made that the central space bordered on the river and
that is was not enclosed, but open towards the water. The latest
interpretation of the complex is that it was a hospitium, welcoming
travellers coming up the
river with bathing and dining facilities.
The central figure on the west wall is Calliope, the Muse of Epic
Poetry (pictured above). The figure to the left of Calliope is
unfortunately lost, while that on the right is Erato, the Muse of Lyric
Poetry (pictured below).
The third triclinium which opens off the north east corner of the peristyle
is decorated in the fourth style on a red ground (pictured right). The
central panel on the north wall depicts a reclining river god holding a
cornucopia flanked by a hunter and a young girl (pictured below).
The vessels were of
varying shapes and sizes and included two cathari or
drinking cups from late Hellenistic times which were probably made in
Alexandria, Egypt. They commemorate the historic Treaty of Brundisium
(40 BC) between Mark Anthony and Octavian four years after the
assassination of Julius Caesar.
The skeletons of three young men, a boy, and a young woman were found
inside the baths. Footprints of five different individuals were also
found in the
hardened ash in the vicinity of the baths. Because the ash hardened fairly
quickly, excavators presume that people visited the inn (possibly to
loot it) shortly after the eruption.
This arrangement of multiple
triclinia opening onto a peristyle is highly unusual; the southern end
of the peristyle
was not excavated in 1959 but it was originally thought that it could
have been symmetrical and that the line of rooms was mirrored on the
side. A building with such a layout can be found opening off the south
side of the Decumanus Maximus
in Ostia, namely the Building of the Triclinia (I, 12, 1), a plan of
which is pictured left. Inscriptions found
there make it almost certain that it was a collegium building and on
that basis it was hypothesized that the Mucecine
structure too was a collegium.
The inn's five dining rooms were identically shaped, each
containing three painted walls and closed off with a sliding
latticework screen. The triclinium which opens off the north west corner of the peristyle is decorated in the fourth style on a red ground (pictured above). The
decoration consists of a series of figures relating to
the cycle of the Muses. The central figures are floating while the side
figures are depicted standing on pedestals. In the centre of the back
(north) wall is Apollo playing a lyre (pictured below). The panel to the
left of Apollo contains Clio, the Muse of History while to the right is
Euterpe, the Muse of Music.
On the east wall the
central floating figure is Thalia, the Muse of Comedy. To the left of
Thalia stands Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy while to the right stands
Urania, the Muse of Astronomy.
The central triclinium on the north side of the peristyle is decorated in the fourth style on a black ground (pictured above, with a detail from the fresco decoration shown left). Only partially excavated in 1959, the room appears to have been latterly used for storage. Among the items found was a wicker basket containing a large collection of writing
tablets. Wood is not usually preserved in Pompeii, but the tablets
together with the wicker basket and the latticework sliding doors of
the triclinia survived due to the relatively wet soil conditions.
The wooden tablets
(similar to those pictured lower left from the Naples Archaeological
Museum) started to deteriorate once they were exposed to the air.
Although archaeologists tried to preserve the tablets, their attempt to
seal a number of them in a paraffin
and paraloid coating turned out to be disastrous; the tablets, still
containing some moisture, 'sweated' and their wax covering flaked off,
utterly destroying the writing. Unable to stabilize the condition of the
tablets, the archaeologists photographed them and these
photographs now form the basis of our knowledge of the tablets content.
The collection as we now have it consists of 127 documents, although
many are incomplete and some show no more than a name or a few words.
They record various business transactions and as such they formed part
of an archive apparently belonging to the banking house of the Sulpicii.
Although the building was buried along with
the eruption of AD79, the documents turned out not to date from
that time, but date from
between AD26 to AD61. They mainly
refer to transactions that took place in Puteoli, on the other side of
the Bay of Naples. By AD79 probably all had lost their value as evidence
for concluded transactions. This, coupled with them being
found in a general storage area together with assorted building
that the banking venture had ceased to operate by the time Pompeii was
Also depicted are a winged victory (pictured above) and a second victory carrying a golden tripod (pictured left). Tiny water spouts projected
at intervals from the marble tops of the dining room's couches; guests could recline on cushions, eat, then rinse their hands
under the spigots.
In the north west corner of the building is a large kitchen
with a 3.75m long counter for food preparation. Stacked in a corner of the room
were more than 100 rectangular slabs of white Carrara marble.
Archaeologists believe the marble was intended to pave the inn's
unfinished bath complex.
excavation of the aforementioned bath complex a number of silver vessels was
found, now collectively known as the Moregine Silver Treasure.