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House of C. Julius Polybius

Description of the House (Reg IX, Ins 13, 3)

The house, excavated in 1913 and again between 1966 and 1978, dates from the 2nd century BC. Situated on the north side of the Via dell'Abbondanza, the house has two entrances (a and b on the plan), leading to two separate vestibules (c and d) which, in turn, give access to two distinct parts of the house.
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The rooms off this atrium had once been lavishly decorated, mainly in the first and second styles but those on the east side appear to have been covered over with coarse white plaster and used for storage.
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Cubiculum (f) off the south west corner of the atrium is decorated in the second style (pictured above)  with purple and yellow blocks below a notched cornice, all above a lower frieze of imitation marble. The neighbouring room, cubiculum (g) (pictured opposite), is decorated in the fourth style with yellow panels with ornamental borders above a lower purple frieze all below an upper red zone decorated with garlands.
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In the east portico can be seen reproductions of a pair of wooden cupboards based on remains of similar cupboards found in the house (pictured below and in greater detail opposite).
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The cubiculum (l) off the south west corner of the peristyle is decorated in the third style (pictured right) with white central panels containing mythological scenes flanked by yellow side panels separated by architectural themes on a black ground above a black lower frieze. The upper zone (pictured below) has architectural motifs and figures on a white ground.
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The entire house seems to have been in a state of flux in the years after the earthquake of AD62 and the triclinium reflects this with the condition of its decoration and the mixture of finds in the room. (The finds included a fine bronze statue of Apollo, the remains of three bronze lamps, and at least fifteen bronze vessels, mainly large containers and pouring vessels and an assortment of tableware).

Off the south east corner of the triclinium is a suite of two rooms (n), an outer reception room and an inner cubiculum which have all the appearance of a 'master suite'. The location of a 'master suite' off a main reception room can be seen in several other houses in Pompeii (eg the House of the Vettii). These rooms would allow the patron of the house a more intimate area to receive his close friends and associates. The outer room, which also opens directly off the peristyle, is fairly plain, decorated in the third style with garlands on a white ground above a lower black frieze. The rear wall of the inner cubiculum has the same basic theme, but the white central area is more elaborately decorated with the inclusion of small landscapes. The side walls of this room outwith the area of the bed recess are decorated with large yellow panels above a lower black frieze.

The oecus (o) is decorated in the fourth style with white panels containing mythological scenes and still lifes below an upper frieze of architectural elements (pictured right and below). The vaulted ceiling is also decorated on a white ground with still lifes and landscapes.
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The oecus (p) (pictured opposite) in the north east corner of the peristyle is virtually a negative image of oecus (o), and is decorated in the third style with black panels below a frieze of architectural motifs. The vaulted ceiling is decorated on a black ground with an intricate geometric design with garlands and figures. The decoration of both walls and ceiling suggests that there was an antechamber at the southern end of the room. Remains of beds were found along the north and west walls of the room. The skeletons of at least six people were found on or near these beds.
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Opening off the west side of the court is a rather cramped kitchen (pictured right and lower right). The room is lit by a small round window in its eastern wall.  The kitchen, along with much of the house, has recently been renovated and has been kitted out with appropriate kitchenware.

Adjacent to the entrance to the kitchen is a large painted lararium
(in the left of the picture opposite and shown enlarged below). A graffito was found in front of this lararium giving greetings to a certain C. Julius Philippus.
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The west side of the house, off vestibule (d), probably contained the servants quarters. It only has a few rooms on the ground floor but does have access to the upper storey. Unlike the east side, however, it does not have direct access to the peristyle (j) at the rear of the property.

Fauces (a) is decorated in a mix of styles - the upper part is decorated in the first style with red and yellow blocks capped with a white cornice above a lower fourth style frieze of imitation marble panels.

The decoration of vestibule (c) (pictured left looking north towards the atrium) echoes that of the fauces. The upper decoration is predominantly in the first style with ashlar blocks capped with a notched cornice above plain plaster, all over a lower black decorated frieze. There is a false door to the left of the raised entrance to the atrium, presumably to visually balance the real door to the right.

The atrium (e), which has a central impluvium, has rooms off all four sides. In the atrium there are the remains of a cornice (pictured left and below), but in the main the walls are simply dressed in coarse white plaster.

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The central room (h) on the west side of the atrium is decorated in the fourth style with white and yellow panels with ornamental borders above a lower black frieze (pictured left). The wall between this room and the adjoining room (i) is rather flimsy as it was built of opus craticium - this wall has only been partially rebuilt to show the nature of this construction method.

A short corridor off the north side of the atrium leads through to the peristyle. The corridor has a flight of stairs on its right side leading to the upper floor.
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The peristyle (pictured left) is porticoed on three sides with a central garden (j). The ambulatories are decorated in the third style with white panels containing small pictures of landscapes, birds, animals and fruits above a lower black frieze.
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The cubiculum (k) on the south side of the peristyle is decorated in the fourth style with black panels containing medallions and floating figures above a lower black frieze.
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The triclinium (m) off the north west corner of the peristyle is decorated in the third style with alternating panels of red and black above a lower decorative black frieze (pictured lower left after its recent renovation). The central panel on the east wall consists of a large painting of the Punishment of Dirce (pictured below), but the rest of the walls appear to be unfinished.
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In the west side of the house, vestibule (d) is undecorated, the walls being coated with a layer of coarse white plaster. On the west wall are two small windows, each with an iron grill, that overlook the lane to the west. A third window on this wall belongs to an upper storey room which also overlooked the lane. This upper floor was accessed by way of a flight of stairs immediately to the east of fauces (b).

On the north side of vestibule (d) (pictured upper left) room (q), which was probably originally intended to be the tablinum, is decorated in the fourth style with red panels ornamented by borders above a lower black frieze. The central panels are decorated with still lifes while the side panels contain small medallions. The north wall of the room has a window overlooking the small kitchen court (r) to the north (pictured left).

The kitchen court (r), which has a central impluvium with a travertine puteal, is plainly decorated with white walls above a lower red frieze. In the north west corner of the court a flight of stairs leads to the upper floor which has a balcony (pictured lower left) overlooking the court below.
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The only other room to open off the kitchen court lies on the north side. The room (s) is decorated in the fourth style with white panels bordered in red above a lower red frieze. Most of its southern wall is occupied by a window overlooking the court.
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A connecting corridor off the east side of the court connects this part of the house with the main atrium (e).



A video reconstruction of the house is available (click the 'View' button). To view the film full screen right click on the video and select 'Zoom', then 'Full Screen'. (Note: the video requires Microsoft Media Player).



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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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