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Pompeii‎ > ‎Regio VI‎ > ‎Reg VI, Ins 16‎ > ‎

House of the Ara Maxima

Description of the House (Reg VI, Ins 16, 15-17)

The House of the Ara Maxima (Great Altar) is a small but elegantly decorated house situated on the Via del Vesuvio (pictured below). Also known as the House of Pinarius and the House of Narcissus, it was originally excavated between 1903 and 1904.

The house has an irregular layout consisting of a series of rooms arranged round a central atrium. A two storey house, sections of the upper floor also still survive.
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On the north wall of the atrium, set between two doors, is a painted lararium consisting of two coiled snakes, one either side of a central altar (pictured below).
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The panels are separated by vertical bands of fantastic architecture. In the centre of the yellow panels is a mythological scene; on the west wall the scene is of
Selene and Endymion (pictured upper right) while on the east wall the scene depicts Adriane Sleeping (pictured above and right). The red panels contain medallions featuring still lifes, one example of which is pictured below.
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The main entrance (a) opens off the west side of the
Via del Vesuvio leading directly to the atrium (b) which has a central impluvium. The atrium is decorated on the east and south walls with a red lower frieze topped with coarse white plaster above. The northwest corner is similarly decorated but with a black, rather than red, lower frieze. The upper west wall (pictured left) is decorated in the fourth style with a yellow-framed central panel flanked by figures either side.
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The large niche (g) below is decorated with white panels framed in red above a lower decorative frieze. The main panel on the back wall contains a mythological scene of Narcissus (pictured above). On each of the white panels on the side walls is a small picture of a fantastic creature (pictured below).
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In the south east corner of the atrium is a cubiculum (c) decorated in the fourth style with alternating panels of red and yellow separated by black vertical bands above a lower black frieze (pictured opposite). In the centre of the panels are small studies of birdlife.
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Adjoining this room in the centre of the south wall is a relatively large room identified as the tablinum (d) (pictured below). The south wall of the room has lost almost all of its fresco decoration, but the decoration on the east and west walls remains sharp and vibrant. The fourth style decoration consists of a yellow central panel with red panels either side, all above a lower decorated black frieze.
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Off the southwest corner of the atrium is the triclinium. The triclinium is decorated in the fourth style with yellow panels separated by fantastic architecture above a lower dark red decorative frieze (pictured left and lower left). The central panels on each wall contain a mythological scene; Mars and Venus on the north wall (lower left), Heracles, Ariadne and Dionysus on the east wall (pictured below), and Selene and Endymion on the west wall.
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The large room (h) in the north west corner is plainly decorated in red and white while next to it is the kitchen area (i), a shop (k) and a room (j) that had been used for storage.




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