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House of the Cyrptoporticus

Description of the House (Reg I, Ins 6, 2, 16)

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The entrance to the house (right of centre in the photo opposite) opens onto a long fauces (a) (pictured below) which has lost most of its plasterwork, the remaining plaster being too faded to allow a description of its decoration.
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The peristyle was colonnaded on two sides with stuccoed brick pillars supporting the inner margins of the roof.
The spaces between the columns were filled by a pluteus approximately 0.75m high. In the centre of the peristyle was a small garden area (f). On the east side of the peristyle were a series of cubicula (g) (pictured right). This part of the house is in a very poor state having been severely damaged by Allied bombing in September 1943.
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One section of decoration that has survived in a relatively unscathed condition is the painted lararium (h) on the wall at the west end of the northern portico (pictured opposite).
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At the western end of the loggia is a summer triclinium (j). The triclinium is in remarkably good condition, still retaining its red painted plaster finish (pictured right). Between the couches is an equally well preserved circular table with a marble top (pictured below).

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The surviving remnants of stucco and fresco work reveal how fine the cryptoporticus must have looked in its prime, with a continuous series of herms and caryatids in yellow marble, like animated pillars of a portico, surmounted by a vault decorated with arches and panels of coloured stucco. A continuous wave of green festoons ran from pillar to pillar along the walls.
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Opening off the east wing of the cryptoporticus is a baths complex entered by way of the apodyterium (m) pictured right, looking west back towards the entrance doorway from the cryptoporticus. On the north wall of the room is an arched doorway (pictured below) which opens onto the frigidarium (n).
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A service corridor runs along the east side of the bath suite. At the southern end of the east wing is a large triclinium (q). This large vaulted room has lost virtually all of its plasterwork.
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At the top of the brightly painted yellow walls, between one catyarid and the next, were a series of painted mock windows which opened onto small pastoral and mythological scenes (shown right and in more detail lower right).
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The triclinium has a mosaic floor (pictured below) composed of marble fragments framed with a single black border. The threshold to the room is composed of panels of geometric shapes alternating with patterned medallions.
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Immediately to the east of the vestibule is a small heated room (t) which is isolated from the rest off the bath suite. The room, which has a shallow recess in its north wall, is decorated in the second style with a dark red middle zone above a low yellow frieze topped with a broad band of light blue/green.
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The House of the Cryptoporticus lies on the south side of the  Via dell'Abbondanza at its junction with the Vicolo di Paquius Proculus. The house, excavated in the period 1911-29, once formed part of a much larger property belonging to the Valerii Rufi family. This house, which must have been one of the largest in Pompeii, was divided in two, probably just after the earthquake of 62AD. In one, the grand cryptoporticus, with its luxurious baths, was reduced to a warehouse; in the other (the House of the Lararium), the elegant 'Room of the Elephants' that once opened onto a broad loggia overlooking a large garden became the rear room of a much smaller house.
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The fauces opens onto a
square atrium (b) (pictured below).
The atrium was tetrastyle with four brick columns sustaining the inner margins of the roof. The central impluvium has a raised masonry surround with a fluted marble puteal on its southern side. The walls of the atrium, like those of the fauces, retain a few plaster remnants but no decorative detail.
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The atrium has rooms on three sides with a flight of stairs (c) (pictured left) in its north east corner. On the south side of the atrium, facing the entrance, is the tablinum (d). The tablinum, which was open to the atrium over its full width, is in a ruinous state with nothing in the way of decoration. In the south wall of the tablinum is a large window which overlooked the small peristyle (e) to the south.
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The decoration of the lararium shows a large serpent raising its head towards a bust of Mercury set in an arched niche above a projecting ledge (pictured left). Under the niche is a second snake coiled round a small altar. In the background are a variety of plants and bird life including a rather splendid peacock. The lararium is framed with a red border and sits above a lower black frieze.

On the south side of the garden area is a short flight of stairs (pictured left) which leads to a loggia (i) overlooking the large garden (k) to the south. Currently in the loggia (shown below) are a series of glass cases containing casts of some of the victims of the eruption found in the house.
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Adjacent to the stairs to the loggia is a second stairway which leads down to the cryptoporticus (l) (to view the layout of the lower rooms mouseover the plan at the top of the page). The cryptoporticus, the north wing of which is shown below, traces a rectangular path round the centre of the garden.
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The frigidarium is vividly decorated in the second style. The fresco decoration on the north wall is based on an elaborate architectural structure with perspective views and additional decorative content (pictured below). The doorway to the tepidarium, in the right of the picture below, is blocked off.
Because of this it is not possible to view either the tepidatium (o) or caldarium (p).
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The decoration of the north wall is echoed in that of the south wall but with different decorative content, although here it is not so well preserved (pictured below). The west wall (shown left) is more plainly decorated with yellow and dark red panels on the lower part of the wall with standing cupids on a dark red ground above. The room has a black and white mosaic floor in a checkerboard pattern with a double black border.
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The only remaining fragment of decoration in the triclinium is next to the entrance (pictured left). The decorative theme of the triclinium is a repeat of that of the cryptoporticus, the herms and caryatids here becoming half busts supporting the fine cornice (no longer interrupted by windows as in the cryptoporticus) which is embellished with corbels in the shape of bulls in relief (in the top of the picture opposite).
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Unlike the east wing, the west wing of the cryptoporticus (pictured lower left, looking south) has no rooms off either side. At the southern end of the west wing is a doorway which opens onto an open area (r) which acts as a vestibule for the secondary entrance (s) to the property at door no. 16 on the Vicolo del Menandro (pictured below).
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The room has a fine polychrome mosaic floor (pictured left) which shows two black figures swimming towards a broken amphora while heraldic dolphins swim on the opposite side of a central rosette.

The south wing of the cryptoporticus is now in ruins. It consisted of a narrow passageway with a series of rooms off its northern side, possibly quarters for the household slaves.
The underground cellars and passages of the house were latterly used for wine storage. When Mount Vesuvius erupted, 18 women and children died taking refuge in the building.
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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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