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Thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus

Description of the Building (Reg I, Ins 8, 8-9)

The thermopolium and house of Vetutius Placidus are closely linked and are examined here as a single entity. The bar area (a), which served both food and drink, opens directly onto the south side of the Via dell'Abbondanza. The marble counter (pictured below) has jars inset into the worktop which were  used to hold food - during excavation work one of these dolia was found to hold a large quantity of coins to the value of about 585 sesterces, perhaps stashed for safe keeping until the eruption subsided. A stove, positioned on the counter facing  the eastern wall, was intended for heating food.
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To the right of the entrance is the base of a flight of stairs. On the rear (south) wall of the bar, between the two doorways, is a painted lararium which is embellished with some fine stucco work (pictured right). In the scene the central figure (the Genius of the household) is performing a sacrifice over a small folding altar. On the far left side is Mercury, the god of commerce, while on the far right stands Bacchus, the god of wine.
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The fauces (pictured opposite) opens off the west side of the narrow unnamed street which runs down the east side of the property. The walls of the fauces have lost most of their plaster coating, and the remaining plaster is too weathered to allow a description of its fresco decoration.
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Opening off the centre of the eastern side of the atrium is a cubiculum (f) (pictured above) which is decorated in the third style with large white panels with fine internal borders framed in red above a lower white frieze. The central panels on each wall contain a small framed scene of bird life (pictured upper right) while the side panels are ornamented with simple garlands tied with ribbons. On the west wall of the cubiculum is an arched niche (pictured opposite). The cubiculum has a dark gray floor with white marble insets forming a diamond pattern.
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In the centre of the floor of the tablinum is a decorative panel which was composed of marble fragments set in a rectangular frame. The tablinum is open to the atrium over its full width and has a large opening in its southern wall (pictured right) giving access to a broad portico (j) which overlooks the small garden area (k) to the south.

The portico (pictured below looking west) is accessed by way of the tablinum or by the andron (h) to its east. The columns supporting the inner margin of the portico's roof are of stuccoed tufa painted white in the lower part and red above. The main part of the end walls of the portico appear to have been plainly decorated in white capped by a broad red and blue/green painted cornice.
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Below this decorative central zone is a plain black frieze. The north end of both the east and west walls have a recess to accommodate dining couches. The central panel on each wall contained a mythological scene set in an architectural frame.
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The decoration of the upper zone consists of perspective architectural views with buildings festooned with drapes set against red panels with internal decorative borders. Offset to the north of the centre point of the floor is a decorative panel incorporating coloured marbles in a rectangular frame.

The portico overlooks a small garden area to the south. The walls enclosing the garden retain some areas of plasterwork  but no decoration. In the south east corner of the garden is a summer triclinium (pictured right and below) constructed from small masonry blocks. The triclinium was shaded by a pergola sustained by two columns.
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The eastern door on the south wall leads to a rear room (b) (pictured left and lower left) decorated with large red panels over a lower black frieze. The central panel on each wall contains a scene from mythology set in an architectural frame. Unfortunately, It would need a sharp eye and a vivid imagination to identify any one of them (the scene from the south wall is pictured below).
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The red theme continues into the upper zone which is separated from the main decoration by a painted cornice. In the centre of the floor is a decorative panel composed of fragments of coloured marbles. A doorway at the south end of the west wall opens onto the
oecus (c) which is also accessible by way of the west door in the bar's south wall.

The walls of the oecus (pictured left) have lost virtually all of their plasterwork and there is no surviving decoration. In the centre of the floor is a square panel composed of various coloured marbles framed with a narrow red border. On the south side of the oecus is a wide opening which gives access to the atrium (e) which was also be reached directly from the street by the fauces (d).

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The fauces opens onto the north east corner of the atrium which has a central impluvium with a small marble podium on its southern side. The walls of the atrium (pictured left) retrain some large areas of plasterwork but, like the remnants in the fauces, they are too faded to form the basis of a description of the room's decoration. The atrium has rooms off all but its western side.
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The tablinum (g) (pictured opposite) lies on the south side of the atrium. The room has lost most of its plasterwork but a few areas, especially in the south east corner still bear traces of fresco decoration which appears to have been in the third style with red panels above a lower black frieze.
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The decoration of the upper zone (pictured below) consists of a geometric framework laid out in red/brown ornamented with plant life and garlands.
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The triclinium (i) is entered off the north east corner of the portico. The third style fresco decoration (pictured below) consists of red panels separated by perspective views on a white ground together with broad black bands ornamented with candelabra.
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The mythological scene that adorned the west wall has sadly been lost, but that from the north wall was removed shortly after the room was excavated and is now  in storage. The scene, pictured left, depicts Bellerophon harnessing Pegasus in the presence of Athena
. The scene from the east wall, which remains in situ, is of Europa and the Bull (pictured below).
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The pergola was reconstructed during recent renovation works. The supporting brickwork columns are coated with a layer of stucco and painted red. The garden featured beds for growing herbs, probably used in the kitchen.




Detail of Painted Lararium





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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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