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Pompeii‎ > ‎Regio I‎ > ‎Reg I, Ins 10‎ > ‎

House of Menander

Description of the House (Reg I, Ins 10, 4, 14-16)

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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.
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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.
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In the north west corner of the atrium is a temple style lararium
(pictured 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 before or during the eruption.

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Immediately 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 north wall.

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 black ground.

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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).
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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.
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The 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.
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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 house.

Along 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 a lararium consisting of a masonry altar with an apsed niche in the west wall (shown below).
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The central 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.
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The 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 serpents.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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The atrium 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.
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To 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.
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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 coloured stones.

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.

Opening 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.

On 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).
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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).
The tablinum 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.
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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.

On the north side of the peristyle the tablinum 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.
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The 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).

The oecus (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).

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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).
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The panels are separated by architectural elements on a black ground. The lower frieze is painted black and decorated with compartments, garlands, and 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.
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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).
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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.
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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.
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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.
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To 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.
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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 than grapes.
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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.



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Images ©Jackie and Bob Dunn are reproduced by permission from their website at www.pompeiiinpictures.com
(Su concessione del Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali: Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei)





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