|The House of
the Surgeon, or Casa del Chirurgo, is situated on the east side of the
Via Consolare about 50 metres inside the Herculaneum Gate. The house,
which is named after the wide range of surgical instruments found in one
of the rooms, dates from the Samnite
period and retains many of the features of a typical Italic house, free
from the Hellenistic features that became fashionable in the 2nd
The facade and the walls of the atrium
are built of large hewn blocks of Sarno limestone (visible in the photo
below) while the other interior walls are of limestone framework.
The fauces (A) leads directly from the street into the Tuscan atrium (B) (pictured right) at the sides of which are cubicula (C) and two alae (E). At the rear of the atrium facing the entrance is the tablinum
(F) which leads through to a colonnade (I) opening onto the a small
garden (J). At one time the garden had a greater length; the room (L) at
its southern end is a later addition, as is the small room (K) to the
north west. The roof of the colonnade was carried by square limestone
pillars, one of which has been preserved in its original form.
rectangular room (H) to the right of the tablinum was originally square
like its counterpart (G) but was at some time extended to the south
(area hatched yellow and green on the plan) to create a large winter
triclinium. Room (G), with open access to the colonnade, was probably
the summer triclinium.
The room (D) at the left of the entrance
was a shop, at least in later times. The corresponding room (C') on the
other side was retained for domestic use.
The surgical instruments found in the house formed part
of a toolkit (pictured left) which was incredibly similar to that still
during the late nineteenth century. Roman surgical instruments included forceps, scalpels, catheters and even arrow extractors. The fresco (lower left) shows the Iapyx removing an arrow head from the thigh of Aeneas (from the House of Siricus (Reg VII, Ins I, 25, 47).
The plan of the house conforms to the simple Italic style, before the addition of the peristyle. The measurements of the rooms are according to the Oscan
standard, the atrium being about 30 by 35 Oscan feet. (The measurements
of buildings in the Roman period conform to the scale of the Roman foot,
while the dimensions of structures preceeding the Roman colony in most
cases reduce to the scale of the Oscan or old Italic foot. The Roman
foot measured 296mm while the Oscan foot was considerably shorter at
Sometime in the 2nd century BC, the atrium, which up till then had no opening in the roof, was modified to provide more light to the interior, by adding a compluvium and accompanying impluvium. The remainder of the house, however, was left more or less as it was,
making the house the earliest example of an Italic style dwelling found
so far in Campania.
shop (M) and back room (N) as well as the kitchen (O) and adjoining
rooms at the rear were a later addition (coloured green on the plan).
Over these rooms was a second storey reached by stairs (Q) leading from
Sometime in the 1st century AD the
house was redecorated in the fourth style, but little of this
decoration remains today. The best of the decoration can be found in the
garden room (L) (pictured left and below). The decoration consists of red and yellow panels above
a lower red frieze with small central scenes on three walls. The best
preserved of these is of a young woman painting a herm
of Dionysus (pictured left), now in the Naples Museum.