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House of the Garden of Hercules

Description of the House (Reg II, Ins 8, 6)

The House of the Garden of Hercules, also known as the House of the Perfumer, lies on the Via Nocera on the south side of its junction with the Via della Palaestra. The house was initially excavated in 1953 and again in 1971 and 1987. Some restoration work was carried out the following year in 1988.
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The layout of the house is fairly typical of the rows of houses in the surrounding insulae. The fauces (a) opens off the east side of the Via Nocera (pictured above, looking south). The fauces, which has no surviving plasterwork, opens onto a rectangular courtyard (b) (pictured right) which acted as an atrium. The courtyard, like the fauces, is totally devoid of any decoration as are the two cubicula (c), on either side of the entrance.

Opening off the centre of the east wall of the courtyard is a corridor (pictured upper and lower right, viewed from opposite ends) which leads to the small garden (h) at the east side of the property. On the south side of the corridor is a large room (d) (pictured below) which is fully open to the corridor over its entire width.
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On the north side of the corridor are two rooms (e and f) which have retained much of their original decoration. Room (e) (pictured right) is decorated in the fourth style with large red and yellow panels with broad internal decorative borders on a black ground above a lower red decorated frieze.
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Room (f) is simply decorated with alternating white and yellow panels on a black ground above a lower red frieze (pictured below and right). The panels have no added decoration. The upper zone is composed of white rectangles framed in red on a white ground.
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Facing room (f) is a slightly larger room with a garden view (pictured right). The room (g) is in a rather distressed condition with only a few plaster remnants showing on the otherwise bare walls.
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In the north west corner of the garden are the remains of a water feature (j) (pictured opposite). The water feature is set in an area of hard landscaping. The enclosing corner walls retain some large areas of plasterwork painted white above a lower dark red frieze.
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A paper by Elizabeth Macaulay Lewis on the role of ollae perforatae in our understanding of horticulture in the Roman world is included here as Appendix E of the Bibliography.

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The room has a three sided water channel running round the floor fed from the well in the south west corner of the room. The walls of the room retain some plasterwork but little in the way of decoration. In the centre of the south wall is a doorway which opens onto the large garden (i) to the south.
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The red central panel on each wall (pictured left) contains a small square picture, but the subject matter is faded and hard to determine; the scenes appear to be of figures set in architectural surroundings. The yellow side panels contain images of birds, including the pheasant (pictured below) from the north panel on the east wall. The upper zone is plainly decorated with red rectangles on a white ground.
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The large garden (i) was laid out in the middle of the 1st century BC, and replaced as many as 5 of the surrounding properties. Analysis has shown that the land was primarily used to grow essences suitable for making fragrances, making it likely that the owner was connected to the perfume trade. Scented species such as roses, lilies and violets were cultivated.
The importance of perfumes in daily life is evidenced by the fresco of cupids as perfumiers in a series of scenes from the House of the Vettii.

The olives also grown in the garden formed the oil base in which the essences were macerated. To prepare the base, olives were picked and pressed when they were still green. The essences that were ground in oil were sometimes added to imported spices from the east.
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In the middle of the east side of the garden is an outdoor triclinium (k) (pictured below). Next to it on the adjacent wall were found an altar and an aedicula (l) (pictured opposite) dedicated to Hercules, of whom a marble statue was found, giving the house its name.
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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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