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House of Epidius Sabinus

Description of the House (Reg IX, Ins 1, 22, 29)

The House of Epidius Sabinus lies on the north side of the Via dell'Abbondanza between the Via Stabiana and the Vicolo di Tesmo. The house was first excavated in 1858 and again in 1866. Set between two small shops, the rather anonymous main entrance (pictured below) gives little idea of the large and once elegant house that lies beyond.
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The long fauces (a) leads to a rectangular atrium (b) which has a central impluvium. The atrium (pictured below) has rooms ranged round three sides and was decorated with large red panels with decorative internal borders separated by broad bands above a lower black frieze.
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The tablinum (pictured above) on the north side of the atrium has fared marginally better. The tablinum (d) was decorated in blue and yellow above a lower dark red frieze. In the centre of the east and west walls was a large mythological scene.
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In the centre of the peristyle is a small sunken garden. The garden contained two ponds, the larger of the two at the west end (shown opposite) being decorated on its inner walls with fish painted on a blue background (long since lost).
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At the west end of the north portico (pictured opposite) a wide room acts as a linking passageway to the second peristyle (k). The room (pictured below) retains some large areas of plaster on its east and west walls, but the paintwork is too faded to allow a clear description of the original fresco decoration.
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Opening off the north east corner of the peristyle is an oecus (n) (shown right of centre in the picture above). The oceus is decorated with large red, yellow and blue panels with internal decorative borders above a raised dado (pictured below).
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The house has a second entrance opening off the
Vicolo di Tesmo at door No. 29 (pictured opposite). The short fauces (p) opens onto a rectangular atrium (q) which has a central, tufa lined impluvium (pictured below).
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The fauces (a), which opens off the north side of the Via dell'Abbondanza is decorated with large red panels separated by broad white bands above a lower black frieze (pictured opposite). The plasterwork, sadly, is now too weathered to allow a better description of the original fresco decoration.
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In the south east corner of the atrium is a temple style lararium (c) (pictured above).
The lower part of the shrine consisted of a podium decorated along its upper edge with a double band of painted stucco relief. On top of the podium a single Doric column together with two side pilasters supported the entablature and a roof with two pediments. The cornices which edged the pediments were decorated with bands of red and blue stucco relief. The single column was also stuccoed and painted to imitate red and yellow marble.
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The rooms along the east and south sides of the atrium are in a poor state of repair with only a few badly weathered plaster remnants to bear witness to the original vivid fresco decoration.
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The scene from the east wall is sadly lost but that from the west wall (pictured above) was removed and can now be seen in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. The scene (pictured left) is of Hermaphrodite and Silenus. On the right of the group stands a maenad with a thyrsus in her left hand.
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The tablinum has a black mosaic floor with a diamond pattern etched out in white. The room is almost fully open to the atrium on its south side while on the north side two wide marble steps lead up to the first of two peristyles (e). In the north east corner a single marble step leads to the oecus (f).
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The oecus (pictured left) is decorated in the fourth style with large black panels on a black ground above a lower decorative frieze consisting of geometric shapes in yellow and red. In the centre of each wall was a square mythological scene but these scenes have largely disappeared due to their exposure to the elements. The scene on the north wall (shown left) was possibly that of Thetis and Hephaestus, the lame son of Zeus and Hera.
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The first peristyle was accessed by way of the tablinum and by a passageway leading from the narrow doorway in the north east corner of the atrium. The peristyle (pictured lower left) is porticoed on three sides and had nine
Ionic columns supporting the inner margins of the roof. The columns, which are fluted, are of stuccoed brickwork. The walls of the portico were painted in red and black but all the decorative detail has been lost.
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The rooms opening off the first peristyle are generally in a poor condition with only a few plaster remnants to hint at their once vibrant decoration. Perhaps the best preserved fresco detail can be found in the large oecus (h) on the north side of the peristyle. Although the room is in a ruinous state, the north and west walls retain some large areas of faded decoration.
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On the north wall the decoration incorporates the mythological scene of Heracles, Orpheus and the Muses (pictured left) while on the west wall is a small scene, possibly of Dionysus and Ariadne (pictured above).

A passageway leads off the north east corner of the peristyle to the service area consisting of a kitchen (i) and latrine. In the kitchen is a large masonry work bench against the east wall which is pierced by a series of small windows. The walls retain some faded plaster remnants.
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The room is entered from the south by way of a wide portal and is open over its full width on its north side. A narrow doorway at the north end of the west wall gives access to a small cubiculum (l) which also has direct access to the second peristyle.

The second peristyle (pictured lower left) is porticoed on three sides with a small central garden (m). The nine free standing fluted columns which support the inner margins of the roof are of stuccoed tufa. The walls of the portico were decorated in the first style (pictured below) but any associated colouring has long since been washed out.
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Separating the central zone from the upper zone is a broad cornice decorated with red, yellow and blue rectangles. The room has no windows but is open to the peristyle over virtually its full width. There is a doorway in the south end of the west wall which links the room with the adjoining exedra (o).
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On the west side of the impluvium is a marble pillar, possibly the stand for a small table. The walls of the atrium retain some large areas of plasterwork, but, like much of the rest of the house, neglect and the elements have taken their toll and virtually all decorative detail has been lost. The atrium has two small cubicula on its eastern side, one either side of the fauces, while on its western side a large portal opens onto the second peristyle (k).
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A narrow doorway in the north east corner of the atrium leads to the house's private bakery (r) (pictured opposite). Against the east wall of the bakery is a masonry work bench while occupying most of the north wall is a large brick and masonry oven. The remains of a catullus (the rotating upper part of a millstone) can be seen in an adjoining room.




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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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