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Pompeii‎ > ‎Regio V‎ > ‎Reg V, Ins 5‎ > ‎

House of the Gladiators

Description of the House (Reg V, Ins 5, 3, a)

The House of the Gladiators lies on the Via di Nola about midway between the Via Stabiana and the Nola Gate. The house was first excavated in 1899 and lies close to the limits of the excavated area. The house was used as a residence beginning in the first century BC. Then, between the reigns of Augustus and Claudius, it was converted to receive the familiae gladiatoriae. It is estimated that between fifteen and twenty men lived in the house at any one time.

Around one hundred different graffiti made by gladiators were found on the columns of the peristyle. The graffiti gives us their designations and the weapons they used: essedarii, Thracians, murmillones, equites and sometimes the names of their masters, their battles and victories. Archaeological and paleographic analyses of the graffiti date them between the Augustan era and AD62.
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The peristyle (pictured right and below) was porticoed on all four sides and had twenty-four columns supporting the inner margins of the roof. The columns were of stuccoed brickwork and were unfluted.
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In the north east corner of the peristyle are the remains of the mythological scene of Europa and the Bull (pictured right). The scene (pictured below) of a wild boar being attacked by four dogs is from the west side of the peristyle.
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The southern part of the room was decorated on a black ground (pictured opposite) while the main part, furthest from the entrance, was, in contrast, decorated on a white ground (pictured below). The decoration consists of standing figures and garlands set in large panels bordered top and bottom by broad bands of colour.
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The upper zone in the main part of the room (pictured below) contains standing figures on a white ground. The room has a fine black and white mosaic floor with a central rosette set in a broad rectangular decorative frame (pictured left).
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The panels (pictured opposite in an early photograph) had internal decorative borders and contained small central medallions portraying human heads. The triclinium was open to the peristyle over virtually its full width.

In addition to the main entrance off the peristyle the triclinium had two additional doors in its south wall connecting to two small cubicula. The narrow doorway in the south west corner (pictured lower right) opened onto cubiculum (f).

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Cubiculum (f) (shown above, again from an early photograph) was decorated with white panels with internal borders separated by red bands above a lower black, decorative frieze. Little of this decoration still remains, however, due to years of neglect and the effects of the elements. Some fresco detail can still be seen in the lower frieze on the north wall (pictured bottom right). The room was lit by a small round window high in its west wall.

Cubiculum (g), accessed off the south east corner of the triclinium, also had its own entrance off the west side of the peristyle. The room was decorated on a black ground and had a fine mosaic floor which appears to have been well preserved when first excavated. Both these decorative elements have since been lost.

Off the north west corner of the peristyle were the stables (h) which had their own access (i) onto the Vicolo dei Gladiatori. The stables together with the northern section of the peristyle were destroyed by bombing in September 1943.
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The gladiators' transfer to the quadriporticus behind the Large Theatre may have been due to damage their residence sustained during the earthquake of AD62 or the fact that the growing number of gladiatorial combats involved in the games during Nero's reign made a larger building necessary.

The fauces (a) opens off the north side of the Via di Nola. A series of steps lead from the raised footpath to open directly onto a large peristyle (b). Both the facade (pictured left) and the fauces retain plaster remnants bearing traces of their original fresco decoration.
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The spaces between the columns were filled by a pluteus approximately 1m high. Both faces of the pluteus were decorated with a series of mythological scenes and scenes from the hunt (pictured opposite and below). Several scenes were lost along with some fabric of the building due to allied bombing in September 1943.
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The hunt scene above is from the north west corner of the peristyle and shows two dogs attacking a wild boar while in the background a third dog chases a deer. Dogs also feature in the scene from the south end of the west side of the peristyle. The scene (pictured left) shows two dogs attacking a lion, one from the front and one from the rear.
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The rooms opening off the east side of the peristyle (pictured left) are generally in a poor condition with only a few plaster remnants on the otherwise bare masonry walls. In room (c) in the centre of the east side is a flight of stairs to the upper floor.
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The triclinium (d) off the north east corner of the peristyle has survived in much better condition. Much of the decoration has been lost since the house was first excavated, but the east wall remains virtually intact.
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Opening off the west side of the peristyle is a large summer triclinium (e). The decoration of the room has deteriorated considerably since it was first excavated. The triclinium (pictured left) was decorated with red and yellow panels above a lower black frieze.
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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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