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Pompeii‎ > ‎Regio V‎ > ‎Reg V, Ins 1‎ > ‎

House of Bronze Bull

Description of the House (Reg V, Ins 1, 7, 9)

The House of Bronze Bull lies on the north side of the Via di Nola immediately west of its junction with the Vicolo di Cecilio Giocondo. It is named after a small fountain statuette found on the edge of the impluvium in the atrium. It is also sometimes referred to as the House of L. Pontius Successus after a seal stamp found near the main entrance. The house is now in a poor condition having been neglected and left to the ravages of the elements since it was initially excavated in 1836. The monumental entrance (pictured below) on the Via di Nola, built of regular blocks of tufa, was crowned by figured capitals, of which the eastern one was found in situ (now in the Forum Granary Market (Reg VII, Ins 7, 29).
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When first excavated the walls of the atrium were found to be decorated with frescoes in the second style. Unfortunately little trace of this decoration remains today. The floor of the atrium is composed of lime mortar decorated with small black and occasional coloured stone chips. The same pavement continues into the alae (e, g) and the tablinum (f).

The thresholds to the rooms opening off the atrium are of travertine, while in the much larger openings to the alae and tablinum strips of white tesserae set in geometric patterns had been used to mark the room boundaries.

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The room has a doorway in its north wall which opens onto the adjoining ala (e). A second doorway in its west wall at one time connected to the atrium of the unnamed house (Reg V, Ins 1, 3) but this had been blocked up sometime before the eruption (pictured right). Like the adjoining cubiculum (c) the room has no windows and obtained all its light from the the doorways to the atrium and ala.
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Above large white panels framed in red the decoration consists of painted plaster imitating blocks of polychrome marble (this room is very similar in decorative detail to cubiculum (c) in the House of the Four Styles). The room has a small window in the centre of its east wall.

Immediately to the south of this room is the cubiculum (i). The south wall of the cubiculum is in opus incertum and is clearly a later division of a much larger room since it is built on top of the floor, which continues into the adjacent room (j), and abuts against earlier decorations on the west and east walls.
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High up on the east wall a window opens onto the Vicolo di Cecilio Giocondo; a second window in the northern part of the same wall was blocked up at sometime, probably in connection with the roofing of the vault since its outer edge runs over the former window. The cement floor consists of white lime cement with coloured limestone inserts.
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The walls of the portico are now bare, with only a few plaster remnants that are far to weathered to retain any decorative detail. On the east wall are the remains of two small arched niches. In the middle of the peristyle was a small garden with a large marble fountain.
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The 'L' shaped passageway (p) which opens off the west side of the peristyle leads to the kitchen area and private bath suite. The kitchen (s) has a masonry hearth against its west wall while on its north wall (pictured right) is a small furnace for heating the adjoining caldarium. Like the rest of the rooms on the west side of the house the only source of light was from the open doorway.
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The bath suite was accessed off the northern end of the corridor (p). The apodyterium come tepidarium (t) (shown above and right) was entered by way of an narrow arched doorway (in the left of the picture opposite). The room was decorated with large white panels on a red ground above a lower red frieze. A doorway in the south west corner of the room (in the left of the picture above) gave access to the caldarium (u).
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The caldarium (shown above, right and below) had a double wall lined with terracotta tiles to allow for the circulation of warm air. The decoration in the caldarium is less well preserved than the preceding apodyterium with much of the colour washed out.
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On the east wall of the entrance a doorway was opened up in a later building phase, leading to a smaller side entry which may have been used before or after the normal reception hours and for less important visitors.

The entrance doorways opens onto the fauces which, when first excavated
, contained a few remnants of first style frescoes, but was mainly decorated in the third style. Today, virtually none of this decoration remains. The fauces has a lime-cement floor into which small pieces of lava and fragments of coloured limestones and marble were inserted.
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The fauces opens onto a rectangular atrium which has a very symmetrical appearance.
The monumental doorways to the rooms opening off the atrium are mirrored on opposite sides and in the case where no real doorway existed fake doors were inserted into the walls in order to preserve the symmetry (e.g. in the left of the photograph opposite).

In the centre of the atrium is a marble lined impluvium (pictured left). The impluvium, made of large slabs of white marble, was equipped with three sets of fountains. The first, placed on a pedestal on the northern rim had the afore-mentioned statuette of a bronze bull as fountain figure; the second was a waterspout fountain in the centre of the impluvium while the third one consisted of four small jets emerging from the frame of the basin. The aqueduct water feeding these fountains came through a now lost lead pipe from the rear of the house.
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Opening off the south west corner of the atrium is a small room with a flight of masonry stairs to the upper floor. To the north of this room is a cubiculum (c) (pictured opposite) which retains some of its second style fresco decoration. The decoration appears to have consisted of large red panels above a lower black frieze, but all the finer decorative detail has been lost. The room's only source of light was by way of the doorway onto the atrium.
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In the middle of the west side of the atrium is the oecus (d). The walls of the oecus retain large areas of plasterwork but the surviving decoration is badly weathered with very little detail remaining (pictured left and below).
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Facing the oecus on the opposite side of the atrium is a similarly shaped room (h). It too has a second doorway which opens onto the ala (g) but the walls of this room retain relatively well preserved remains of its first style decoration (pictured opposite and below).
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The walls of the cubiculum are decorated in the third style with bold yellow and red geometric shapes on a white ground. The room had a split ceiling with a vault in the northern part of the room and a flat ceiling in the southern part.
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The small 'room' (k) on the east side of the fauces contains the larger of two lararia found in the house. The altar (pictured left), in the form of a half column, is built against the south wall. There are faint remains of decoration on the wall which consisted in part of a painted snake on either side of the altar. In addition, there are some remains of first style decoration on the upper part of this wall.

The tablinum (f) is open to the atrium over its full width (pictured left looking back from the peristyle towards the fauces). Both east and west walls retain some areas of plasterwork but all decorative detail has been lost. The floor of the tablinum is composed of lime mortar decorated with small black and occasional coloured stone chips in a similar manner to the floor of the atrium. The tablinum has a wide opening in its north wall which gives access to the peristyle (l) by way of two low steps.

The peristyle (pictured lower left and below) is porticoed on three sides and had a mixture of Ionic columns and rectangular pillars to support the inner margins of the roof. The columns and pillars are of tufa or brick stuccoed to resemble veined marble.
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The main feature of the peristyle, however, is the rear (north) wall which consists of a large facade nymphaeum (m) (pictured left and lower left). The nymphaeum was probably added when piped water was introduced to the house sometime early in the first century AD.
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Piped water was used extensively throughout the house with five separate junction boxes in five different rooms to ensure that the water was distributed and used in a controllable manner. The junction box found in the peristyle is pictured below.
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Situated immediately west of the tablinum is the triclinium (n) (pictured left) which is open to the south side of the peristyle over virtually its full width. There are large areas of plasterwork on the south wall of the triclinium but little in the way of decoration has survived the passage of time. The triclinium has a fine white mosaic floor with a double black border. The threshold to the room is composed of black and white tesserae in a Greek key pattern (shown below).
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The oecus (o) opens off the south west corner of the peristyle. The walls of the room retain a few weathered patches of plasterwork but no decoration. The oecus has lost its flooring thus exposing the cellar beneath (pictured opposite and coloured pink in the floor plan) which was accessed by way of a ramp from the small room to the west.
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The large room (q) which opens off the north west corner of the peristyle is in a semi-ruinous condition with little or no remaining plasterwork. Opening off the opposite, north east corner of the peristyle is a short passageway (r) (shown left looking west) which leads to a secondary entrance at doorway No. 9 on the Vicolo di Cecilio Giocondo.
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At the northern end of the east wall is a large arched recess (shown above). There are remnants of plasterwork in the recess but but nothing in the way of decorative detail.
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The masonry bath is set against the south wall close to the furnace in the adjacent kitchen. The bath is not in the middle of the wall but is offset to the west (pictured left) and has a single step on its long northern side to assist entry.




* 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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