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Pompeii‎ > ‎Regio II‎ > ‎Reg II, Ins 4‎ > ‎

House of Julia Felix

Description of the House (Reg II, Ins 4, 3-12)

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After the earthquake of AD62, Julia Felix, must have decided to rent out part of the house along with opening her private baths to the general public. A notice to this effect , found on the front of the property reads:
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To let, for the term of five years, from the thirteenth day of next August to the thirteenth day of the sixth August thereafter, the Venus bath, fitted up for the best people, shops, rooms over shops, and second-story apartments in the property owned by Julia Felix, daughter of Spurius.
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The doorway at No. 3 (pictured upper right) open directly onto a large rectangular atrium (pictured right) with a shallow central impluvium. The atrium (a) is unusual in that no rooms open directly off it although it does give access to other parts of the house by means of corridors and a porticoed ambulatory.
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The walls of the ambulatory are decorated with square red panels bordered in black  alternating with rectangular red panels with a central yellow field all above a lower black frieze (pictured right).
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In the centre of the ambulatory is a summer triclinium (f) (pictured above and right) which is fully open along its eastern side. The couches of the triclinium are veneered with marble as are the three surrounding walls up to the level of the broad dado rail. The nymphaeum on the west wall consists of a marble veneered cascade framed by niches.

At the southern end of the ambulatory a doorway (g) leads to a second atrium (h). This part of the house is a virtually self contained apartment with its own access off the Vicolo de Giulia Felice at Nos. 10 and 11.

The atrium (pictured opposite) has a central, marble lined impluvium and has rooms off all four sides. The decoration, based on the remaining plaster remnants, was in the fourth style and consisted of a red central zone above a lower black frieze.

Two rooms of particular note, both accessed off the east side of the atrium, are the biclinium (i) and the tablinum (j).
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The furnace room or praefurnium (b) has its own access onto the Via dell'Abbondanza at door No. 3. The large area (pictured right) was unroofed and contained the furnaces required for heating the warm and hot rooms of the adjoining private bath suite located on the other side of the south wall.

Access to the baths complex itself is by way of a grand doorway framed by engaged brick half columns topped by a triangular brick pediment (pictured right and below).
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The entrance opens directly onto a square court (k) which is colonnaded on all four sides. The walls of the colonnade are decorated in the fourth style with red panels with decorative borders above a lower black frieze. The upper zone is in white with occasional geometric patterns outlined in red. The columns of the colonnade are of brick, stuccoed and painted red and topped with white capitals. The north east corner of the colonnade was furnished with benches for waiting customers.

The apodyterium (l) opens off the south side of the court. The apodyterium (shown right) is decorated in the fourth style with red panels with decorative borders above a black frieze.
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The remainder of the bath suite, unfortunately, has not survived as well as the apodyterium and is generally in a rather poor state of repair. A doorway in the west side of the apodyterium leads through to the tepidarium (m). This room has lost its floor but the walls are substantially complete with a few remaining plaster remnants.

A small laconicum opens off the north west corner of the tepidarium while access to the caldarium is gained by way of a door in the middle of the west wall. The caldarium (n) (pictured right) is in much the same state as the tepidarium with substantial walls bearing the remnants of plasterwork.
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Completing the baths complex is a large open air pool (p) accessed off the east side of the entrance court. The pool (pictured right) measures about 8.5m by 4.5m and is about 1.5m deep. Immediately south of the pool is the bath complex's latrines (o) (the vaulted building in the right of the picture opposite).
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The remaining buildings belonging to the property comprise a thermopolium (q) with an adjoining caupona. The thermopolium, which opens off the
Via dell'Abbondanza at No. 7 has an 'L' shaped marble topped counter with insets for food. In the north west corner of the bar is a small oven and next to it a window come hatch linking the thermopolium to the entrance court of the baths allowing food to be served to the baths' waiting patrons.

The dining room (r) off the east side of the thermopolium has of a series of masonry benches and tables along the south side of the room (pictured right) with a large masonry triclinium occupying most of the north side. Immediately west of the triclinium is the kitchen area which served both the bar and the caupona.


The remainder of the insula is made up of a large vegetable and fruit garden with outbuildings, possibly for stabling.

The House of Julia Felix is situated on the south side of the Via dell'Abbondanza near its eastern limit, close to the Palaestra and Amphitheatre. First excavated between 1754-57, the house was subsequently re-buried after much damage had been done. It was re-excavated and restored in 1952-53. The house and gardens occupy one of the largest plots in Pompeii, taking up virtually an entire block.

The property had been created out of two complete insulae which had been merged together along with the intervening street. The loss of such an important street leading to the amphitheatre was compensated for by the widening of the next street, the Vicolo dell'Anfiteatro, which gained ground at the expense of Julia's estate. About one third of the area was occupied by the house and associated buildings while the remainder was given over to an extensive vegetable garden.
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The atrium, which has lost much of its fresco decoration, was decorated in reds and yellows with a long horizontal frieze depicting everyday life in the forum (a portion of the frieze is shown left).
(The additional fresco lower left is a further market scene found in the house but no long longer in-site; it can now be seen in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples).

On the east side of the atrium a door leads to the service area (b) for the bath complex. A long service corridor (c) opens off the south west corner of the atrium while a wide opening in the centre of the south wall opens onto the porticoed ambulatory (d) (pictured below) that runs along the west side of a large central garden (e). The garden is framed by elegant stuccoed columns and has a long water feature thought to represent the Canopus canal in Egypt.
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The biclinium (pictured left and below) is decorated in the fourth style with light blue panels framed in red separated by fantastic architecture on a white ground, all above a red lower frieze. The blue panels contain occasional pictures including the scene shown lower left. The room has windows overlooking the formal garden to the north and the vegetable garden to the east.
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The adjoining tablinum is decorated in the fourth style with alternating red and yellow panels with decorative borders separated by architectural themes on a white ground, all above a lower black frieze. The panels contain small landscapes and floating figures. A large part of the fresco decoration on the south wall has been removed (pictured below) and can now be viewed in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.
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The upper zone, visible in the picture above, consists of a series of framed still lifes, details from two of which are pictured opposite. On the east wall is a window which overlooks the vegetable garden to the east.
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Recessed in the middle of the south wall is a cold plunge pool lit by small windows on three sides. The entrance to the pool is framed by an arch (pictured left) which is decorated with stucco while the lower parts of the walls of the pool are painted light blue. The floor of the apodyterium is paved in black and white mosaic incorporating large white circles. The mosaic floor is framed by a broad band of white.
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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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