Description of the House (Reg I, Ins 10, 4, 14-16)
The entrance (pictured right) opens off the south side of the Vicolo del
Menandro flanked by masonry seating, possibly intended for waiting
clients. The rather austere facade has some remaining areas of painted
plasterwork, especially on the west side of the entrance. The fauces (a)
(pictured below) is decorated in the fourth style with large black
panels above a lower black decorative frieze. The black panels contain small pictures of animals and bird life. The upper zone is painted white with decorative borders.
The east ala (f) (pictured above) is particularly well preserved with panels containing scenes from the Illiad, including the Death
of Laocoon (pictured opposite). Other scenes depict Ajax dragging Cassandra from Palladium before the eyes of Priam (pictured below) from the north wall and Cassandra and the Wooden Horse (pictured lower right) from the east wall.
In the north west corner of the atrium is a temple style lararium
below and lower right) which was decorated in the fourth style with
a single imitation marble column. In its upper section the excavators
reconstructed in plaster a wooden lattice decorated with at least 102
bronze bosses. As no statuettes of lares or other divinities were found
in the lararium it would appear that they had been removed at some time
during the eruption.
east of the fauces is a small room (d) entered by way of a narrow
doorway in its south wall. The room, plainly decorated with a layer of
coarse plaster, is of indeterminate use, perhaps a small cubiculum but
more likely a storeroom. The room was lit by a narrow window high on its
The adjoining room (e) opened off the east side of
the atrium. The room is decorated in fourth style with black panels with
internal ornamental borders separated by red bands above a lower black
frieze. The upper zone contains pavilions and decorative elements on a
The walls of the ambulatories were painted in the fourth style
with red panels with ornamental borders above a lower black frieze. The
upper zone was painted white. The pluteus was also painted
in the fourth style with a black background and panels of animals and
birds (pictured below).
The lower frieze is painted red while the upper zone is
composed of architectural elements on a green ground. The room has a
black and white mosaic floor with a central Nilotic
scene (pictured right). The room's only source of light was from the open doorway...
red upper zone is decorated with ornamental bands and architectural
motifs. The room has a fine black and white mosaic floor in a lattice
pattern with a broad white border. The room also has a second doorway at
the west end of its south wall. Save from the light from the doorways
the room was unlit.
The room has a second doorway at the west end of its north wall linking it to room (m). Three skeletons, two male and one female, were found in the room. The room houses a
glass case containing the bodies of these and one other victim found in the
the southern side of the peristyle
is a series of rectangular and semi-circular niches (pictured opposite).
The most westerly niche is decorated in the second style with columns entwined with ivy separated by garden views. The
ceiling is painted in the fourth style on a red ground and has
globes, candelabra, and pergolae with animals. The niche contains
consisting of a masonry altar with an apsed niche in the west wall (shown below).
niche (o) contains the painting of Menander (pictured opposite) after
which the house was named. The walls are decorated in the fourth style
with large yellow panels with internal decorative borders above a lower
dark red frieze. The painting of Menander is on the west wall.
west side of the peristyle
gives a private bath suite (p) which is centred
round a small eight columned atrium
(pictured below - the columns are a modern reconstruction). The black
mosaic floor is decorated with small white tesserae enhanced with large
pieces of polychrome marble. Around the border of
the impluvium are white panels decorated with floral motifs and sea
The tepidarium gives access to the caldarium by
way of a narrow doorway at the east end of its south wall. The mosaic
threshold to the caldarium is shown opposite.The caldarium,
pictured below, has a vaulted ceiling and is generally decorated in the fourth
style with green panels framed in red containing figures of athletes and cupids above a lower black frieze.
The mosaic flooring of the caldarium
is particularly detailed with a centre piece (pictured below) in black, white, and polychrome marble tesserae depicting
an ithypallic nubian swimming while a second hunts a sea monster. The central medallion contains a colourful vegetal motif.
|The House of Menander lies on the south side of the Vicolo del
Menandro spanning the insula from north to south and east to west. A ring seal found in the servant’s quarters suggest that the property was owned by Quintus Poppaeus, possibly a relative of Poppea Sabina, the second wife of the Emperor Nero. The house is
so called after a painting of the Greek playwright Menander
found in a niche (o) at the back of the peristyle.
The house, excavated between 1926 and 1932, was built in the 3rd century BC and was considerably added to and
altered many times over its history...
The fauces opens onto a tall, rectangular atrium (b) (pictured below and lower left). The atrium,
which has a central, marble lined impluvium,
has rooms located off all four sides. ..
is richly decorated in the fourth
style, with large red panels with internal ornamental borders on a yellow ground above a lower black decorative
frieze. The panels contain small central scenes and medallions. The upper zone contains Nilotic and marine landscapes.
the right of the lararium
is a small room (c) (pictured below) mainly
occupied by a flight of masonry stairs to the upper floor. The walls
were coated with a layer of coarse white plaster. Judging by the three
locks and the quantity of crockery found beneath the stairs it would
appear that the room was used for storage.
At the west end of the south wall is a second doorway opening onto the ala (f). The cement floor consists of white lime
cement with black and white tesserae and chips of
An unusual feature of the room is the low masonry structure (pictured opposite) set against the south wall. Maiuri
thought that it was a rustic stove that had been used in the restoration work carried out in the
house after the earthquake of AD62. This theory, however, has not met
with total agreement with others suggesting that it may simply have been
used for heating. Whatever its purpose, its rustic character
suggests a downgrading in the use of the
room after its fourth style redecoration.
off the centre of the west side of the atrium is the cubiculum (h). The
room is decorated in the fourth style with white panels separated by
bands of geometric motifs above a lower black frieze (shown opposite).
The panels are ornamented with garlands and architectural elements. The
upper zone continues the general theme on a white ground. The room's only source of light was by way of the doorway onto the atrium.
the south side of the atrium
facing the entrance is the tablinum
(g) (shown lower left). The tablinum is open to the atrium over its
full width and likewise to the peristyle to the south. It is decorated
in the fourth
style in a similar manner to the atrium,
but the colours are reversed, with yellow panels with internal ornamental borders framed in red separated by white
architectural openings above a
black frieze decorated with ornamental bands, plants, and medallions (pictured below).
The upper zone was predominantly white while the floor was composed of lime mortar decorated with small white chips. Finds in the room included the remains of two bronze and silver decorated couches (a reconstruction of one is pictured left).
leads directly onto a large peristyle
(i) (pictured opposite).
The peristyle (pictured left and below) is porticoed on all four sides with twenty three Ionic columns supporting the inner margins of the roof. A small wall (pluteus) connects the bases of the columns
to enclose the garden.
The columns of the peristyle are of tufa with fluted tops over circular stuccoed bases. The
upper fluted shafts were painted white, while the lower parts were
black on the garden side, corresponding to the pluteus, and
alternating red and yellow on the ambulatory side. In the middle of the peristyle is a garden with a rectangular pool with a fountain.
the north side of the peristyle
is flanked by two oeci
(j) and (k), the room on the west (j) side being in the better state of
preservation. Known as the 'Green Room', it is decorated in the fourth
style with green panels topped by a band of red and separated by
bands of blue all ornamented with cupids and garlands (pictured left).
The green panels contain small Dionysiac scenes.
room (k) to the east of the tablinum was possibly a triclinium. The
room is decorated in the fourth style with red and yellow panels
ornamented with internal borders and separated by black bands with
twisted candelabra above a lower black frieze (shown opposite). The upper zone was mainly black. The room, which was
open to the peristyle over most of its width, also had a narrow
doorway at the south end of its west wall opening onto the east andron (in the left of the picture).
(l) on the east side of the peristyle
has retained much of its fourth
style decoration. The decoration (pictured left) consists of red panels
separated by architectural themes above a lower black frieze. The central
panels on each wall contain mythological scenes including those of Andromeda and
Perseus and the Punishment of Dirce (shown below).
The central room on the east side
of the peristyle
is the large triclinium
(m) (shown left) which is decorated with alternating panels of red and
yellow ornamented with decorative bands and small pictures of marine
life and floating
figures (a detail from one of the still lifes of fish from the north
wall is shown below).
The panels are separated by architectural elements on a
black ground. The lower frieze is painted black and decorated with compartments,
ornamental bands. The substructure of this room
has been exposed
as shown in the picture opposite. The room is connected to the corridor
to the north and room (n) to the south by means of narrow doorways at
the west end of the shared walls.
On the south side of the atrium there is a small room that acted as an apodyterium come tepidarium. The room is decorated in the second style and has a fine white mosaic floor with a
black and red border and at its centre an ornamental design in polychrome tesserae surrounded by a meander pattern in black and white.
. The oecus (n) opening off the south east corner of the peristyle
is decorated in the fourth style with architectural themes and panels containing mythological scenes on a
yellow ground above a red decorative frieze (pictured left). The scene on the south wall
depicts a satyr playing the flute to a maenad (pictured below). ..
The exception to this decoration is the apse on the west
side which is decorated in the second style with panels of aquatic
landscapes in the lower part
with two friezes of female figures above.
The caldarium appears to be reasonably complete, but the lack of a bath suggests that it could not have been in operation at the time of the eruption.
the north of the baths was the kitchen (q) which is now in a ruinous
condition. On the south side of the corridor leading to the kitchen are
some steps which lead down to the garden (r) and a series of cellars
lying directly underneath the baths. In
one of these cellars a chest was found containing a
bone-decorated casket with gold jewellery together with
a number of gold and silver coins. Beneath these were found over 100
pieces of silver, including a group of silver
pouring and drinking vessels wrapped in heavy cloth, silver utensils, 2
silver mirrors and the remains of a portable
silvered table. Some of the silverware found is pictured opposite. The
collection can be viewed in the Naples Archaeological Museum.
The service area was accessed by way of a ramp near the south eastern corner
of the peristyle. Here are to be found the stables (s),
store-rooms, a latrine and, on an upper floor, accommodation for the
household slaves. On display in the stables is a
reproduction of a cart found there complete with original bronze and
iron fittings. This section of the house had its own access at door No.
14 opening of the Vicolo di Paquius Proculus. The
store rooms (u) and (v) each contained a large quantity of amphorae
(pictured opposite), many still bearing indications of their contents
and place of origin. There were some local products as you would expect,
but also olive oil from Spain, others from Crete and at least one amphora
from Rhodes containing passum, a sweet wine made from raisins rather
Two further entrances to the property are to be found at door Nos. 15 and 16 on the Vicolo di
Paquius Proculus. At No.16 the fauces (x)
opens onto a rectangular atrium with a small impluvium decorated with
coloured stones. The walls of the atrium were coated with a layer of
white plaster. The doorway in the centre of the west wall (pictured
left) led to a courtyard (z). This section of the house was quite
conceivably the quarters of the procurator or
house manager. His body, together with that of a young girl,
was found in the cubiculum (y). Next to him was a leather purse
containing a silver bracelet and over ninety silver and two gold coins.
* Images ©Jackie and Bob Dunn are
reproduced by permission from their website at
(Su concessione del Ministero per
i Beni e le Attività Culturali:
Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di
Napoli e Pompei)